My ex-husband, Micah, was a first-rate expert love-bomber. On our first date at a pool hall, within minutes of meeting me, he lit up a cigarette and hit me with this sentence.
“I really don’t smoke that much. I’d quit for you though.”
Here was this man who knew virtually nothing about me ready to give up his smoking habit just for me. Instead of realizing how weird that was for him to say, his compliment pierced my broken heart and my belief that no other man wanted me after my divorce. My self-esteem was non-existent, but Micah made me feel important and special, the kind of woman that made men give up their vices on the spot.
As we were leaving, Micah spun me around in front of the streetlight to look at me. He told me I was much prettier than in my picture on the dating website. He was a gentleman, and we hugged rather than having a first kiss.
When I arrived home, there were already five messages from him on my voicemail. Each one told me what a great time he had and how he thought I was pretty. After basically being told I was worthless by my ex-husband, Micah’s words were like salve on an open wound. I found myself coming back to life again, and I felt happier with every phone call.
That night was followed by no fewer than ten phone calls from Micah every day. He didn’t really have much to say except to tell me what he was doing and how he couldn’t wait to see me again. It seemed like he called me with every new thought in his head, but I wasn’t complaining. When I went to his place for dinner, he cooked a special three-course meal and lovingly sat and watched me eat every bite. He was love-bombing me, although I didn’t know it at the time. What came after that was much more sinister.
It started when Micah ran his hands through my hair and found a few grays. He suddenly backed away in disgust.
“I’m way too young to be with somebody with gray hair,” he announced. “Maybe you should think about coloring it.”
Micah got all excited about turning me into a blonde. My original hair was dark brown, but the way he talked about how much better I’d look with blonde hair made me feel excited about it, too. He wanted to be the one to color it and promised me a professional dye job. Instead, he got drunk and hardly paid attention as he slopped on the bleach. My hair was basically two colors afterward, blonde and brown, but he couldn’t stop talking about how beautiful I looked and what a great job he’d done. I wasn’t so sure, but the way Micah went on about it made me believe him.
Already under his spell, I pushed away the mean words that he interspersed with compliments. There weren’t a lot at first, but the day would come when everything Micah said to me was cruel. I’d shown him how much he could get away with, and he pushed that boundary every single day. He’d flood me with attention and then not call me for a week. He made plans with me only to cancel them later. Not knowing what I did wrong, I twisted myself into a pretzel trying to please him.
I believe that love-bombers pick their victims very carefully. They find someone who they consider “broken,” somebody who has no self-esteem and who feels lonely or abandoned. They are the easiest to sway because they’re already desperate. I made the mistake of telling Micah early on that I got alimony from my former husband, and pretty soon he was crossing financial boundaries. I bought him a new wall-unit air conditioner. I took him on a cruise where he paid for nothing. After that, with a baby on the way, I paid for our entire wedding in Las Vegas including Micah’s tuxedo.
After we were married, my money began to run out fast. Micah cost me a thousand dollars by using the data on my cell phone all the time. Still, I paid the bill and brushed it off by telling myself it really wasn’t his fault. He needed to use my phone when he went to work because he didn’t have his own. It wasn’t too long before I found out he was using it to call other women. Instead of cutting him off, I swore to try harder to get his attention. The last thing I wanted was another failed marriage to make me feel like a loser again. I just couldn’t go back to that.
“Glenna will do anything I want her to do,” he bragged to his friends. The sad part was that it was true. As time went by, he had more influence over my life than ever. Micah cost me my friends and my family, who refused to stand by and watch me put up with him.
“He’s a deadbeat,” they all said.
Instead of realizing that my loved ones were right, I felt sorry for Micah and defended him. Poor guy, he never gets a break with everyone always judging him. It never occurred to me that they were right on the nose until I finally got out of the relationship eight years later. This was after multiple attempts at trying to leave him and going back because he made me feel guilty. Micah could be cold and cruel and abusive, but he made it seem like I was the one who had done him wrong. It worked for a long time until I was gone and able to look at the situation more objectively. It’s a miracle that I got out alive.
Who among us doesn’t feel great when somebody gives us a compliment? I sure did, but I learned there is a big difference between a kind word and a love-bomber. When someone seems to want to move at lightening speed in a new relationship, it’s a definite red flag. Micah told me he loved me way before either of us had any business saying it. My mistake was saying it right back. We didn’t even know each other that well, and if not for our daughter I would have likely never married him. Part of me knew he was bad news, but I became addicted to the nice things he said before he used his words to abuse me.
Relationships should move at the speed that both people are comfortable with. There might be an ulterior motive if somebody is rushing. Unfortunately, I never set any boundaries with Micah, so by the time I tried, it was too late. It’s good to know what you are and aren’t okay with and stick to that as if your life depended on it. In some cases, it actually does.