Traumatic bonding in intimate partner violence: A Relational Family Therapy approach


Intimate partner violence is defined as a form of violence where, in an intimate relationship, physical or psychological acts of violence are committed by a partner or spouse against the other partner or spouse. All of these actions are accompanied by extremely emotional dynamics, which is paradoxical, as we would expect that with the gravity of abusive and violent acts the victims will understand the need for self-protection and appropriate measures. There is a strong emotional bond between the victim and the abuser, which authors call traumatic bonding. It is an emotional dependence between two people in a relationship that is characterized by the feelings of intense attachment, cognitive distortion and behavioural strategies of both individuals that paradoxically strengthen and maintain the bond, which is reflected in a vicious cycle of violence. The termination of such a relationship or the departure from it, from the point of view of attachment which is activated in this situation, seems risky, since the victim seeks refuge in the state of perceived danger, but experiences that - after the outbreak of violence calms down - the refuge is paradoxically offered by the bully. Here we can recognize a pattern of dysfunctional affect regulation that falsely calms difficult (basic) affects and maintains a violent relationship. From the viewpoint of Relational Family Therapy, it is therefore necessary for victims that after breaking off a violent relationship or leaving it they face their painful basic affects and develop proper regulation of these, otherwise they will remain committed to this kind of relationship. Using the case study method, the paper describes the case of a client after she left a violent intimate relationship, with an emphasis on the demonstration of traumatic bonding dynamics and the resolution of their consequences in Relational Family Therapy.

[1] The authors acknowledges partial financial support from the Slovenian Research Agency (project No. J5-9349).

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Opublikowane : 2020-02-27

Simonič, B., & Osewska, E. (2020). Traumatic bonding in intimate partner violence: A Relational Family Therapy approach. Family Forum, 9, 71-90.

Barbara Simonič
PhD, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Theology, University of Ljubljana  Słowenia
Elzbieta Osewska 
Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Zawodowa w Tarnowie  Polska

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