You’ve finally found “the one.” Your relationship seems somehow otherworldly, and your emotional high is so high it feels as if you’ve taken a potent, euphoria-inducing drug. You believe you’ve found your soulmate and can’t believe your good fortune. Unfortunately, you may actually be in the first phase of an emotionally abusive relationship.
Love bombing is an all-encompassing, exhaustive campaign of flattery that “bombs” the target with non-stop positive reinforcement. Typically, the love-bomber showers his or her mark with compliments, praise and appreciation, declarations of undying love early on, promises of a future together, frequent contact by calls, texts and emails, gift-giving, great sex, and a lot of time spent with each other. It’s extreme and over-the-top.
It can (and does) happen online as well, sometimes without ever having met in person.
Some experts believe that not all behavior in the beginning with a psychopathic or narcissistic personality type is grooming, although grooming (which is intentionally manipulative) will be part of it. According to Dr. Rhonda Freeman, clinical neuropsychologist, “the emotional high they demonstrate is quite likely genuine. Many are significantly stimulated and intrigued by their new partner. However, in addition to this ‘high’ there also tends to be manipulation… In his or her “game” the psychopathic or narcissistic individual has the advantage. There will be pain for the unsuspecting trusting target… This is the nature of these disorders. No one is bonded to, appreciated or valued.”
Freeman goes on to say, “Unlike the excitement they have for their new target, the grooming component of their relationships is intentional. It is tailored to set the victim up for future use.” She adds that “grooming is purposeful manipulation with an end goal of taking advantage of the target,” and that grooming “facilitates an impression that the psychopathic individual is safe, generous and trustworthy.”
In other words, they are not really safe, generous or trustworthy, even though they may be genuinely interested in you. You can read more here: Grooming
What greater flattery could there possibly be than having someone who believes you’re the most wonderful person they’ve ever known, someone who truly appreciates you and believes you are worthy of their time, attention, admiration, energy and love? The victim is swept off their feet, oblivious to the truth.
Love bombing reinforces powerful beliefs about ideal love; fosters trust, loyalty, relationship investment and a positive image of the abuser; creates deep bonding and emotional dependence; and sets the stage for disbelief of the manipulator’s misdeeds when they eventually and inevitably come.
The love bomber presents him or herself as your ideal partner, one who is generous, loving, caring and empathetic, and who shares your interests, values, goals and dreams. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Finding out the truth, which happens eventually, is a shocking, heartbreaking experience. The betrayal is deep, and it is hard to overcome.
“Love loves to love love.”
~ James Joyce
I hear from many readers who wonder how they could have fallen for love bombing because they’re smart, educated and savvy. Maria Konnikova, PhD, author of The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It … Every Time, says “I think that anyone, if you press that person’s buttons in the right way, will end up being emotionally involved and stop thinking rationally… Once you’re hot, once you’re in that emotional mode of thinking, it doesn’t matter who you are.”
“I met him in an art gallery… Over the following month he love-bombed outrageously, torrents of words, floods of compliments and promises of “Us” and “We” and “Together” and “Always”. He had done his research well. He hit all the sensitive buttons, and I eventually succumbed to his seductive words and his considerable physical charms. I knew a level of joy and delight unequaled in my life to that point. All my fantasies and longings were met, and I had found completion.” ~A Reader
How can we tell when we’re being conned? According to Konnikova,”This advice is easier said than done. When things are going wrong, we’re skeptical already. When things are going beautifully and we’re really happy, that’s when we have to start questioning and saying, ‘Okay, why is this happening?’ It may not be a con, but it might be.” She says,”Our unshakable belief that we can spot a huckster a mile away is the very thing that keeps us off guard.”
Clues that you’re being manipulated with love bombing are the intensity and the rapid pace set by the manipulator. It leaves you without time to come up for air and think clearly and carefully about who this person really is and what their motivations are. When someone declares undying love for you before they really know you, chances are good that something is wrong.
“When she was married to her first husband she initiated contact with me (I was the friend of a friend), confided how she had been abused, and said she really connected with me. I was her soul-mate, her savior. I swore I never would be involved with a married woman, but she made me believe we were meant to be together. She said so many things that left me in shock, like I was a character in a movie where my deepest fantasies of finding my true love were unfolding. I was absolutely convinced.” ~A Reader
“The confidence game — the con — is an exercise in soft skills. Trust, sympathy, persuasion. The true con artist doesn’t force us to do anything; he makes us complicit in our own undoing.”
~ Maria Konnikova, PhD, author of The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It … Every Time
In the quote above, the word “complicit” doesn’t seem quite right to me. It’s more like they left us feeling we were complicit, but actually being complicit involves knowledge of what you’re involved in. Psychopaths always want us to take the blame, but we were fed misinformation, and because of that we couldn’t make a decision in our own best interest. Had we known the the truth–that the person was a manipulator and was incapable of the feelings they were claiming to have–I doubt many of us would have agreed to go ahead with them anyway.
Dr. Freeman, an expert in psychopathy and narcissism, says that in order to heal, survivors must learn the facts and gain an understanding of what happened to them so they don’t have to suffer “unnecessary blame and confusion over why they are in such intense pain.” She writes that the pain will last much longer if victims don’t know the facts: “You have to know what you’re dealing with in order to take steps to move forward.” (HEALING AND RECOVERY: MOVING ON AFTER ABUSE)
Your best defense is to slow the pace of any relationship that begins with such idealization and intensity. Easier said than done if you believe you’ve met your ‘soul mate.’ It takes time to get to know someone’s true character. Some people are very different than what they first appear to be. We all believe we’re good judges of character, but in truth we’re not. There is no shortcut; it takes time and observation. Maintain your goals, boundaries, activities, interests and relationships. If the person really loves you, they won’t go anywhere.
Please see the page on this site, Red Flags, to learn more about how to protect yourself. Scroll down to the section headed with “Here are some ideas that may help you avoid involvement with a psychopath.”
“We met in a bar… He was cute in a nerdy way. He was playing the trivia game. We were flirting across the bar… We discussed everything. And the fact that we were so compatible. Soul mates. The first night we met! Ridiculous now that I think back on it. He declared me the coolest chick he had ever met. It was a romantic, heady night, like in all of those damn romantic movies… I was smitten. After that night, we spent every day together. He moved in after two months.” ~A Reader
“Many spiritual traditions recognize that when the dark one appears he is most beautiful, most wonderful and most engaging. The truth only comes out later.”
“The confidence people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence but of the coherence of the story that the mind has managed to construct. Quite often you can construct very good stories out of very little evidence. . . . People tend to have great belief, great faith in the stories that are based on very little evidence.”
~ Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, How Our Minds Mislead Us
Romantic love is intense and unstable. Ideally, over time it progresses to long-term attachment, which is characterised by feelings of calm, security and emotional union. This can’t and won’t happen if you’re involved with a disordered “partner” who is devoid of empathy, morals and a conscience. The relationship will never be more than intensity masquerading as intimacy, which results in emotional turmoil and isolation.
“He and I met on a website designed for affairs (please no judging) … clearly there were problems in our marriages, but that website, at least for me, was the only way I knew how to step out of the reality which was my crumbling marriage. When the psychopath and I first met (we lived about 3 hours away from one another), it was a lot of emails, texts, phone calls, video chats, etc. In fact, we didn’t even get to meet face-to-face until almost talking for 3 weeks. But by this point, he had already send me two flower arrangements to my job; dedicated a bunch of love songs to me; and even told me he was in love with me. Yes, you read that right, he told me he was in love with me, without having spent time with me, face-to-face…
The day came when we finally met and it was surreal – I couldn’t believe the person I had been talking to for so long was standing right in front of me. In truth, something seemed a little off, and I thought about walking away… It would be another week before I would see him again. The next time I saw him, not only did we make (what I thought) was love for the first time, but he even had a ring with him – yes, a ring! He proposed to me and asked me to marry him. He told me he was leaving his wife and that he wanted me to leave my husband. He told me he was going to transfer jobs to my city and that the 3 hour commute to see his girls wouldn’t bother him. The only thing he wanted was a future with me.” ~A Reader
P and I became “followers” of each other on a popular online writing site… At the time I was afraid, lonely, naïve and grieving. P messaged me in a desperate plea saying he wanted to know everything about me, my phone number, my address, my real name, my favourite food, my favourite songs. He presented as very intense, quite vulnerable… P spent hours of his time talking to me, cultivating trust and caring. I had never felt so special to someone.
Some people would define this as grooming. We think of grooming only in regards to children and young people. It is done to grown adults as well.
From all of this attention I found myself becoming conditioned to the positive feelings he generated in me, as if my brain was being wired to need him. Our interactions gave me bursts of what felt like great joy. Certainly I became used to his daily companionship as I was in a tough period of my life. I was in fact becoming used to the dopamine and endorphin bursts that his attention and flattery produced in me. I mistook these sensations for love.
Every morning he sent me a message that said: hello beautiful, day after day after day he told me he loved me. His attention brought out feelings in me that I had never felt before. As the days went on I bonded with him deeply. I thought I could trust him.” ~A Reader
Claudia Moscovici of PsychopathyAwareness writes, “With a psychopath the reflection tends to be instant and total. It’s a simulated bonding that’s way too fast, too soon and too good to be true. This happens before any real emotional connection can take place. It occurs before the partners have gotten to know each other well, over time and in different circumstances. Instant bonding is usually a symptom of shallowness of emotions rather than of miraculous compatibility. It means that the psychopath will detach from you and latch on to another target as easily as he initially attached to you. Yet through their conversational glibness and innate charm, as well as through their extraordinary capacity to identify and reflect your deepest desires, psychopaths can initially make you feel like they’re your dream come true. They present themselves as the only partners who could possibly fulfill whatever’s been missing from your life.”
It’s a simulated bonding that’s way too fast, too soon and too good to be true. This happens before any real emotional connection can take place.
If you are suffering from trauma after being involved with an abuser, take action toward self care and put your yourself and your recovery first. Healing takes time, and requires patience and self-compassion. It is a challenge, one that requires your effort, but you owe it to yourself to find the information and support you need to recover fully.
A Poem by Linda, Reader and Resident Poet
THE NAME OF FIRE
Into my frozen state
You brought a little game
Designed to replicate
The heat that lovers claim.
While singing primal songs
You built from fragile ice
A magic that belongs
To tender artifice.
Your pretty spell was cast
My tender dreams bloomed bright
But magic cannot last
Without illusion’s light.
I fed upon your flame
Reflecting your desire
But knowing fire’s name
Is not the same as knowing fire.
© Linda September 2015
♥ Love bomb yourself
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“This is a short, easy to understand textbook on manipulation tactics. I highly recommend it to anyone; people who don’t yet realize what’s happening to them, seekers of understanding and peace, loved ones of persons being manipulated, healthcare providers, criminal justice, and seasoned survivors trying to stay on top of their manipulation detection game. Don’t let the modest price tag on this fool you –- the information inside is worth far more.”