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The T-Shirt Bond

Let’s keep it short and sweet!

Have you ever been so attached to something that it was hard to let go? I remember my first Star Trek uniform shirt at age six. It was a blue multi-material, probably polyester mixed with other fabrics, a t-shirt. Embossed on the front lapel sat a raised stitch insignia of the starship Enterprise. Today, in my ageless fifties, I finally discarded that shirt a few years ago.

I had such an attachment to that shirt that I allowed it to escape one of my strict cardinal wardrobe rules. "When something new is purchased, something old is discarded". This rule keeps my wardrobe manageable, plus it’s a reward to the clothing budget. Nevertheless, I had a strong attachment or bond to that shirt. I would never return to my boyish weight, size, and small girth. The t-shirt hung tattered, worn, and threadbare in my closet. Avail to no significant usefulness except an oil rag, but a galvanized nostalgia made it challenging to let go.

Now, move this concept into our world of childhood sexual abuse. The t-shirt represents betrayal for us. A breach of trust. What we thought was true—that a particular person, family member, teacher, or caregiver, who loved us had our back or best interest. They perpetrated against us. Smoke and mirrors, lies, hurt, and deceit plague our lives today as we work through the CPTSD. We unknowingly and knowingly keep the shirt of betrayal for eons, protecting the betrayal trauma bond.

Like the t-shirt, we see the signs that break our cardinal rules.


  • We continue to cover up, defend, or explain away a toxic relationship with our perpetrator(s).

  • We accept constant patterns of nonperformance, not changing or believing in false promises.

  • Continue repeated, disarming, destructive arguments that nobody wins.

  • Others are horrified when learning how we are treated, yet we are not.

  • We obsess about showing someone they are wrong about us, the relationship, or their treatment of us.

  • We are stuck. We know the other person is harmful but believe we are powerless to change the situation.

  • If we only could convert or change them to not be verbal abusers, emotional neglecters, grudge holders, judgmental moralizers, scapegoat pointers...

  • We feel a sense of loyalty even though we secretly hate their guts... (oh, was that too strong or negative)

  • We overlook their betrayal because we admire their talent, charisma, place, or role in the family or our lives and accomplishments. We disregard the destruction they continually cause in our life.

  • We find ourselves pinning, longing, and yearning for a relationship, even when it’s almost destroying us and our life.

  • We realize our relationship background is based on transactions, promises, and contracts that have been broken. Yet we overlook it without the slightest acknowledgment.

Welcome to the world of wearing the t-shirt called “the betrayal trauma bond.”

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