February 10, 2021

Trauma Bonding: 5 Signs it’s Stockholm Syndrome & Not Love.


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For as long as I can remember, I have always been obsessed with The Joker.

Ironically, my favorite “superhero” is a supervillain. Naturally, the hopeless romantic in me was attracted to what I considered then the love story of the century—his whatever-you-call-it with Harley Quinn.

Everyone had Superman and Lois Lane; I had The Joker and Harley.

Needless to say, my obsession with a destructive, fictional relationship was nothing but a mirror to the dysfunctional relationships, friendships, and even affairs, that my own brokenness kept attracting.

One day, I had enough. I decided it was time to face my demons—one after the other. It was the only way if I wanted to have anything remotely healthy and real. I realized that, just like Harley, I was never in love.

What I had was nothing but a side effect of codependency and trauma bonding: Stockholm Syndrome.

Dr. Harley Quinn was depicted as a smart therapist whose sole mission was to treat The Joker and write a book about it without falling under his spell. (We all know how that ended.)

Not only did he seduce her and escape the asylum, but he also managed to turn her into a version of him—a madly-in-love, reckless villain. A fictional toxic relationship might be harmless (and pretty entertaining), but a real one is as scary as a real psycho clown.

Recovering and healing does not happen overnight, but it certainly requires to stop being in denial—to face some difficult-to-accept, hard facts. 

These five signs help determine if our so-adored object of affection is actually a “kidnapper” and if the passion we feel could be considered Stockholm Syndrome due to trauma bonding:

1. Feeling anxious, insecure, unworthy, and on edge.

Healthy relationships of any kind make us feel better. They are probably the only good thing in a world full of hardships. We can count on our loved ones to help us preserve our joy and inner peace.

Unfortunately, it is not the case when we are attracted to a narcissist. Trust me when I say that those aren’t butterflies in your stomach—more likely knots from being anxious, tiptoeing, and walking on eggshells to avoid disturbing his or her highness.

God forbid you say the wrong words or do something they do not approve of. Although, of course, it is totally allowed for them to utter words that make you feel worthless and feed on your insecurities.

It’s not love; it’s a ticking time bomb. Period.

2. The whole thing looks like a one-sided relationship.

To those who do not know the relationship’s details, it will appear as if it is one-sided even if you are married to them. They make sure to show the world how detached they are.

You fell madly in love with their irresistible charm, and they had absolutely nothing to do with it. They do not feel the same, but out of pity, being semi-gods and all, they keep letting you love them.

People meet halfway in any kind of human relationship, except when the interaction is with a narcissist. You do all the work, go the extra mile, and give your all only to be gaslighted into believing that you chose to.

3. Dying to please the other, although you’re not a people pleaser.

I’ve seen the most independent men and women—who wouldn’t normally lift a finger to please another human being—do backflips to please someone they thought was a “soulmate.” Their “one true love.”

Well, I’ve got news for you (and me): your one true love would be pleased regardless. They’d love you unconditionally, for who you are, not for what or who they want you to be.

And when they are truly unhappy with something, they love you enough to communicate gently, clearly, and patiently.

4. Feeling controlled (i.e., manipulation and gaslighting). 

If there’s one thing I learned about being attracted to men who exhibit unwanted behavior, it would be to never underestimate how intelligent they are.

They would never, under any circumstance, control you plainly and openly. Instead, they would gaslight the sh*t out of you until you are absolutely certain that it is all your fault.

One sick clown messing up the psyche, reputation, and life of one brilliant doctor. Need I say more?

5. Being emotionally and mentally abused. 

Whether by being ghosted or emotionally and mentally tortured by mind games, you end up feeling drained.

None of us need someone whose feelings run hot and cold—someone who is loving one day, apathetic another, and abhorring the next.

We all know that abuse takes on many forms—the silent treatment, manipulative behavior, and so on.

Today, I know I am not yet there, but I am wide awake. I am no longer a Harley Quinn—ride-or-die girl.

I am a woman whose mental and physical health, spiritual well-being, and heart are of utmost priority.

My future partner is not some charming villain but a kind, grounded, and wise man. A superhero in my eyes simply because he’d cherish my priorities as much as his. 

In a nutshell, a healthy, full-of-loving-kindness relationship is the only valid romance of the century.

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