When you start to see the subtle signs of abuse, it’s time to get out
One of my very best friends is ending her relationship.
There were signs in the beginning that she ignored, but now those signs are becoming more blatant. First, they were so subtle and presented as acts of kindness towards her; She wasn’t able to see anything underhanded. Instead, she felt loved and cherished.
She was in love. She found the man of her dreams.
It’s difficult to see red flags at the beginning of a relationship when you’ve been swept away on a cloud of passion, great sex, and adoration from your new partner.
My friend is a giving, kind, compassionate woman. She dedicates her life to helping others in her career, and maintaining loving relationships with her family and friends.
Unfortunately, these traits are the perfect target for an abusive partner. She spent over 25 years with an emotionally abusive husband and safely left that situation. Now, here she was, again working to carefully end this emotionally manipulative relationship.
This time she has to be more careful.
Why? Why must she be MORE careful? Because she doesn’t know this man well enough like she knew her husband. She can’t necessarily predict how he will act when she gives him the news that they won’t be together anymore.
Fortunately, my friend doesn’t keep things to herself. She’d been updating her friends on the relationship as it progressed. We saw the red flags before she did. It was a group effort to help her through the process of looking at specific actions as controlling and inappropriate, rather than loving kismet and finding her soul mate.
The Beginning: Love Bombing
Like many people dating today (32% to be more exact), she met her beau online. He was separated and going through a divorce. He’s good looking, warm, appreciative, and was demonstrative of his affection towards her.
He was a little too demonstrative.
He moved quickly, showering her with attention. His actions, to an emotionally healthy person, would seem suspicious. However, when you’re craving love and connection, and you get it from one person in spades, the overkill love bombing feels great.
It’s not great. It’s emotionally abusive and one of the first steps to damaging the victim in the relationship.
As this man was showering my friend with “love,” her friends saw him controlling all of her time. He started pulling her away from her other relationships, impacting her new job (because she was up all hours ‘making love’ and therefore not getting sleep) and closing down contact with her family.
He became a fixture in her home within days of their meeting. He brought his clothes and personal items. Little by little, he moved into her home. She knew he was leaving his things at her place, but she hadn’t realized he’d taken over a large portion of her closet.
The Middle: Recognizing the manipulation
She started to feel overwhelmed by his constant presence. She wasn’t able to focus at work, nor did she have spare time for her loved ones. She was exhausted.
When she asked him to stay home for a couple of days during the week because she needed some downtime, he’d still call and text her. One call he made to her, he was crying into the phone. She became distraught and wanted to know what happened, believing the worst. Then he told her that he missed her, and started laughing.
When she told him she needed a weekend to get some personal time and catch up with family. He told her he was going to spy on her.
After six weeks of this, and with her friends’ help, she decided it was time to break up with him even though she loved the unconditional adoration, and especially the mind-blowing sex.
It took her a lot of processing through these extremely subtle signs of manipulation embedded into the love bombing. Looking beyond our powerful emotions to find the truth takes a lot of mental strength! She had to override her strong feelings of ‘connection with him’ to do the right thing, which was to break it off with him.
The End: Leaving the Love Bomber
Leaving someone who is love bombing you can be tricky. First of all, This is a potential partner who’s been nothing but loving and kind. Any emotional manipulation is so subtle you may not understand why you feel uneasiness as time goes on. It takes someone from the outside — like a close and trusted friend — to help you see what’s happening.
My friend was lucky because she has many good friends and family who witnessed his actions and let her know this guy seemed sketchy.
We saw that he acted utterly stand-offish in our presence, even contemptuous. Her daughter felt awkward with him around. The more we got to know this guy, the more we realized he was playing a game with our friend.
It took days — DAYS — of us talking with her to help her understand that this man was manipulative and attempting to make her dependent on him. His love-bombing was the first stage of emotional abuse. Unbeknownst to our friend, he put her into a position where he had personal power over her.
Power is the goal of an abuser.
She decided to stop seeing him and asked about the best way to efficiently make a clean break with a man who had permeated her life.
A friend in our group is a retired police officer and works as a consultant with companies about personal safety. He suggested our friend not break up with him in person because of his manipulation and emotional control over her. He told her to mail his things back to him with a letter about why she would not see him again. He recommended the message have three parts:
- Start the letter with something positive, such as how she was happy to have met him and enjoyed their time together.
- Follow it up with three reasons why she didn’t feel comfortable with him (his previous restraining order, mention of spying on her, and telling her that he wouldn’t make leaving him easy for her).
- The last part of the letter was to clarify that she did not want to see him again and to not contact her.
She wanted the break-off to be kinder than a letter since, in her mind, she hadn’t seen that he’d done anything wrong to her. She didn’t want to seem cold.
Against our plea for her to not meet him again in person, she decided to do so. Instead, there would be no letter to him. She agreed to meet him in person.
Our friend met him in a restaurant and gave back his items. She told him she couldn’t see him anymore. They both cried. He told her she was the love of his life, and they parted ways.
She’d succeeded in exiting the relationship. Or so she believed.
However, he was a love bomber and emotionally manipulative. We knew he’d be back.
Because they always come back.
Starting all over again
Our friend did not take stick to her boundaries she set with him. She let him back in by replying to his ongoing texts and calls. At last writing, she was starting to agree to spend his upcoming birthday with him.
She hasn’t yet seen past the charm and the overreaching acts of ‘love’ this man uses to keep her dependent on him.
She is still trying to get rid of him, but she’s hooked into his game. We continue to support her, but it’s up to her to decide when she will be ready to leave.
If you’re in a new relationship and the man is giving you overwhelming attention, telling you that you’re the love of his life and that he starts ostracizing you from your loved ones, he’s working on dismantling your life. One of the most important and difficult things you can do is look past all the warm and lusty feelings and see the manipulation underneath. It’s crucial to establish healthy boundaries and be firm with your decisions. If you are unsure of what your new relationship looks like from the outside, start by talking with a close, TRUSTED friend or family member. They may be the key to you breaking through a love bombing relationship and sidestepping a potentially abusive relationship.
FYI: My friend has given me carte blanche to write about this topic and her recent experiences with her love bomber. She wants other women to know that this is something so sneaky, it’s easy to fall for the manipulation. I have written her story for you.