A TAR Tale by Carl


Once, I believed cheating was one of the few acts which were never justifiable under any circumstances.

Life challenged that belief (and many others) during my divorce: my ex-wife had not limited herself to only one man for over ten years, whereas — thanks to my single-minded focus upon my marriage over the seventeen years that it lasted — when it ended, I found myself with few friends and even fewer potential romantic partners.

In my naivete & blind devotion, I discovered an important truth: bestowing undeserved loyalty upon another is the same as betraying yourself.

Amid the enforced social isolation of 2020, before I had even heard of the concept of a “trauma bond,” I suffered through its invisible riptides pulling me further away from shore. Before I understood the neurophysiology behind the addiction to toxic love, I shamed & scolded myself for being weak-willed & spineless: why could I not break my thoughts free from their orbit around the ever-engulfing sinkhole of her inverted existence? After nearly three years of wasted effort, I had established unequivocally that everything I poured into that void inevitably vanished as if it never existed.

Yet, my money, energy, & time flowed down the drain with maddening predictability each time her tendrils brushed against the edges of my awareness. So many nights wasted in unnecessary self-loathing, so many days lost to the unsolvable labyrinth of circular, pointless debates, the universe expanding & contracting around conversations that somehow left the cosmos with less substance than it had before these words were added to the ether, chained together in sentences that clung to each other as they drowned in an ocean of incomprehensibility, each one giving rise to the next before it slipped away, spawning like litters of blind, tailless agouti mice doomed to propagate a flawed reality… it all could have been avoided if I had simply known & accepted the facts.

The best way to break a trauma bond is by establishing a bond with another; in fact, I would daresay that until one finds an alternate source of connection, it’s almost as impossible to maintain No Contact with one’s abuser as it is for a widowed spouse not to grieve for their lost love. Humans are undeniably wired to be social animals: oxytocin — the hormone released during moments of bonding & intimate connection — is a required building block for our brains to form serotonin, which is best understood as the brain’s “resilience” hormone: serotonin is what gives us the ability to persevere through difficult times while maintaining our faith, optimism, & hope. If we are disconnected from a tribe, our survival instincts will compel us to return to any relationship — even an unhealthy, disordered, & harmful one — rather than risk the dangers of solitude.

Ten thousand years of evolution cannot be resisted: no organism can be expected to act in a manner contrary to its survival consistently. Our ancestors lived to pass down their genes because they chose the tribe over the individual; when winter comes, the loners & outcasts are the ones most likely to perish.

Dopamine is the hormone behind motivation, purpose, passion, drive, and reward. When love loses its luster and sweetness turns sour, we must find something new worth living & striving for to fill our sails through the turbulent voyage. When past idols are revealed to be false, it is more important than ever to find something to take their place, lest we fall victim to hopelessness & despair. What better thrill could we ask for than the succulent temptation of once-forbidden desire?

I do not doubt there will be many that will find my message disgusting or immoral. Most likely, the majority who do will be those who are fortunate to have never known the unique agony of a traumatic bonding to a toxic relationship. The stoic souls who dare to endorse its wisdom with a clap or two have likely had their vanities & illusions stripped away by their own experience with the hell of which I speak.

To those who will hear, I do not hesitate to speak with clarity & conviction. Go forth and actively seek a new fountain; do not be too quick to build a new home around it, but do not let shame, guilt, or social mores entrap you in a place where your soul cannot thrive. Find a new lover, I say, and use the headiness of that illicit love as a springboard from which to launch a new and better future.

You deserve to be happy, and your abuser doesn’t deserve your loyalty.

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