Untangle Bonded Relationships © Martyn Carruthers

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It’s a sad fact that many adults still suffer from childhood trauma.
Do you suffer from your parents’ drama?
Do you want to untangle yourself?

I developed systemic solutions to help people define and achieve relationship goals. Relationship goals can be a desire for friendship, partnership or parenthood, etc, or can be the shared goals of partners, families and teams. As relationships can be strongly influenced by other people … I often refer to those influences as entanglements, post-hypnotic suggestions and relationship bonds.

Relationship bonds (relational bonds, fixations, emotional bonds, fixed ideas and psychological bonds) refer to obsessions and compulsions motivated by relationship events. Bonded behavior can be on a spectrum from ambivalent commitment to total obedience. Toxic relationship bonds can motivate compliance, addictions, compulsive behaviors and limiting beliefs.

Even after I had left home for eight years, I wasn’t living my own life. It was like I was living my older brother’s goals. For example, I tried to copy his career and I was only attracted to women who looked like his wife. You helped me clean up this mess. I stopped being a cheap copy. Now I live my own life. Toronto, Canada

Relationship bonds are not limited to people. I formulated a hierarchy of bond types:

  • Bonds to possessions, things, places, buildings, parts of town
  • Bonds to activities, games, ritual movements, cultural activities
  • Bonds to to schools, colleges and professional organizations
  • Bonds to beliefs – fixed ideas about people or things – “All men are xxx
  • Bonds to values – fixations – “my values are better than your values
  • Bonds to identity – fixed ideas about the nature of self – “I am X
  • Bonds to the world/universe/cosmos – “The world is Y

We coach motivated adults to evaluate and change bonded beliefs and behaviors. We coach people to explore what prevents or support success, and to change unwanted influences on their thoughts, emotions and behavior. These influences often show up as fixations, obsessions and compulsions.

Who is Conscious of Relationship Bonds?

Few people seem to be aware of who really influences their behavior, although some people recognize the influence of figures such as a parent, boss, president or religious leader. I designate bonds as conscious, knowable and taboo. I coach people to evaluate and change unwanted bonds to people in families, schools and religions, etc, and to reject unwanted marketing and other manipulative influences.

Children bond to people who meet their needs. Bonding is likely by six months; and almost certain by one year, unless the relationship system is severely disturbed. Trauma results if a bonded relationship is threatened or severed.

As family members seem to be the most influential people in our early lives, I coach people to discover if they have accepted limiting beliefs as truth. I also coach people to discover who they have accepted as substitutes for parents, siblings, partners and children etc.

Assess Relationship Bonds

  • Observe relationship behavior
  • Observe nonverbal signals
  • Evaluate body sensations
  • Evaluate emotional reality
  • Evaluate metaphoric reality
  • Explore relationship history
  • Explore the origin of limiting beliefs
  • Explore blocks to goals and plans
  • Explore psychosomatic symptoms
  • Explore obsessions or compulsions

Information from these sources can be correlated and integrated to evaluate the cause and consequences of relationship connections, bonds, transferences, entanglements and attachments.

In practice, I often focus on relationships that the client wants to improve or end, an on relationships that somehow prevent or delay a person achieving a chosen goal. (Bonded relationships need not be current, nor with living people – often, people want and need to clarify relationships with past partners and relationships with people who have died.)

1. Observe external behavior:

People who are pleasantly bonded to other people usually appear relaxed, happy, and enthusiastic while with those people. People who are unpleasantly bonded may express verbal and nonverbal tension and depression when together. You can observe human bonding behavior:

Observe Bonded Behavior

  • Time and place together
  • Behavior when together
  • Reciprocal attachment
  • Excuses, blame, complaints
  • Inclusion into systems
  • Nonverbal signals


By nonverbal signals I refer to unconscious body movements and vocal changes. Common nonverbal indicators are that the voice becomes quieter and the tonality becomes childish. I note a person’s gestures when talking about the relationship – gestures often indicate body locations affected by bonds.

Behavior such as forced laughing and limited responses are more likely in conflicted relationships. You can observe people’s ability to recognize and respond to each others’ non-verbal cues (e.g., eye contact, smiling, touching, voice tonality etc.).

  • How and how often do the people touch?
  • Do they seek comfort and guidance from each other?
  • Do they make eye contact and smile at each other?
  • How do they respond to each other’s signs of hunger, thirst, or tiredness?

You can assess how a relationship is perceived by a human system such as a community (school, work, friends, neighbors or extended family). This can include:

  • Does a person identify self as a member of the system?
  • Do other system members consider a person to be a member?
  • Does a person rely upon and trust the system while in their care?
  • Is a person accepted as a system member by the larger community?
2. Explore Relationship History

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Relationship history provides important information when assessing bonds. As I explore relationship history, I make a relationship timeline of pregnancies, births, parental conflicts, partnerships, parenthood and deaths, etc.

3. Evaluate Descriptions of Subjective Experience

The closest relationships in a person’s life are likely with the parents, siblings, intimate partners and children, and with people who are perceived as substitutes for these relationships. My systemic diagnosis helps us assess the closeness and type of relationships.

Bonding can be conceptualized as reciprocal attachment, which people want and expect to continue, and which, if interrupted or terminated, may affect the behavior of both people.

Examples of Subjective Descriptions of Relationship Bonds

Known bonds (e.g. I feel connected to my ex-partner) are often easily visualized as colored, dark or gray connections to another person. Some New Age ‘therapists’ recommend cutting these connections – and I absolutely don’t. At risk is your ability to bond to people at all.

A NLP trainer suggested that we cut bonds with every person every day. I started doing this and it felt good at first … I have since divorced and find I am not motivated to visit my family or my children … and that trainer had an ugly divorce after many sexual affairs with his students. Honolulu, Hawaii

If you have done something like this, imagine how your “feelings of connection” would feel and look!

We joined Amway and tried to recruit our family and friends. After a year we had no friends, only business associates, and our family were cautious about us. I can’t blame them; we had become evangelical. After we quit, it took us about two years to create a new circle of friends, who we now treasure. That ‘business opportunity’ now feels like a ton of black weight on our shoulders! Phoenix, Arizona

Taboo bonds are usually perceived as dark or grey shapes, within or close to the body. They are sometimes described as esoteric entities, as they may be spontaneously visualized as geometric shapes, clouds, weapons, instruments of torture or (often unpleasant) living things. Some may be called evidence of black magic or even demons.


Incompetent therapists who try to make bonds go away, may succeed in dissociating or fragmenting the bonds. A common consequence is that the associated emotions and beliefs become diffuse – and more difficult to identify and resolve. We often help people recover from ineffective techniques.

Continued in Assess Relationship Bonds Part 2



Loyalty and commitment to products, people or political agendas; and to obsessions, compulsions and limiting beliefs, are examples of relationship bonds that can be changed. We help motivated adults understand and change unwanted motivations or obsessions.


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