Editor’s note: Joyce M. Short is the author of a soon to be released book, “Carnal Abusive Deceit When a Predator’s Lies Become Rape.” The book chronicles her life with a predator, the subsequent aftermath and her road to recovery. It also provides advice for victims and their supporters, and discusses the issues surrounding criminalization of rape-by-fraud. Joyce lives in New York City, where she’s a real estate broker, professional tennis instructor and a strong advocate for her community.
The Betrayal Bond — an oxytocin craving
By Joyce M. Short
We often see stories in the news about people who meet tragic ends by remaining in a relationship with someone whose behavior should have signaled a disturbance. Having been “one of those women,” and having had the ability to figure out why I remained, I feel it imperative to shed light on this issue.
Romantic love is not simply an emotion. For most of humanity, our fully developed brain contains the neurologic and chemical components to form loving bonds. Neuroscientists have recently uncovered the functions of our brain that, together with electronic stimuli, chemicals called endorphins, and neurotransmitters, all work simultaneously to cleave us to our love interests.
Lesser beings in the animal kingdom have less developed intimate relationships. Human brains are ingeniously planned to function as social beings. While some animals lead singular lives, the chemical and electronic functioning of homo sapiens is designed to bond us to a mate and sustain the relationship at least for the duration of our offspring’s growth, providing them with shelter and aiding in their development to mature, complex, adult beings.
Paul Zak’s book, The Moral Molecule, the source of love and prosperity, recently contributed to our body of knowledge pertaining to oxytocin, the neurotransmitter that provides us with feelings of trust, warmth and connection toward another. Scientific American referred to oxytocin as “love glue.” Much as oxytocin supports our feelings of connection, it is thought that high levels of testosterone inhibit oxytocin production and may explain why psychopaths, who show elevated levels of testosterone, may not be able to deeply feel the connection of a relationship.
Whether a predator will consciously “love bomb,” or whether they unknowingly engender high levels of oxytocin through their testosterone-driven behavior, their victim will experience elevated levels of hormone production that will cleave them to their love interest in a form of addiction. Just as an alcoholic craves the chemical high that alcohol produces, romantic mates are biologically drawn together by the production of brain chemistry. When we experience separation from a mate, even for a short business trip, we will interpret this chemical cleaving as longing.
The abrupt shock of betrayal, and the cessation or threat of cessation of oxytocin production, can establish the toxic glue “craving” that keeps victims in relationships when they should be running for the hills. This emotionally shocked reaction is a “betrayal bond,” which is an unconscious desire to continue receiving the chemicals that make us feel loved.
A bystander to betrayal can easily witness cruel emotional behavior toward another without the impact of brain chemicals interfering with their opinions. For the person who experienced the betrayal, however, such objective reasoning becomes encumbered. We often hear a bewildered “what were they thinking?” expressed in reaction to the inability of betrayal victims to free themselves from toxic relationships. The common metaphor, “love is blind,” is often used to excuse an inability to see through treachery. When looking back with the objectivity of retrospect, after the brain’s neurologic responses subside, even the recovering victims can be totally bewildered at the abuses they tolerated.
The Betrayal Bond, Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships, by Patrick J. Carnes, PhD., can give you far more extensive awareness of the problem than what I can convey here. Through my up-coming book, Carnal Abusive Deceit, When a Predator’s Lies Become Rape, I hope to provide a greater awareness of a betrayal bond’s real life effects, and establish a pathway others can embark on toward recovery.