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Relationships

I Was A Victim Of 'Love Bombing.' Never Again.

What makes this particular behavior difficult to identify, initially, is that all new romance is exciting — full of butterflies and potential.

“Finding you is like finding a needle in a stack of needles,” Scott had said, adding that he’d waited his whole life for me. Apparently the adage of a needle in a haystack would have made us too ordinary. We were soul mates, he would often say, who thought alike and just “got” each other.

I’d met Scott on an online dating site where I’d posted a profile. (That profile had been created with copious amounts of laughter and a bottle of Chianti, a dare and a promise with a best girlfriend … a process I highly recommend!) However, I was headed back to Italy, where I lived part time, and so after my two-week period was over, I was giving up — save for two gentlemen I’d given my personal email to. One was Scott, who quickly followed up with questions about my being a writer and how it was I lived in Italy.

He immediately ordered and read my memoir, and our emails flew back and forth across the ocean daily. I could tell he was intelligent from his writing — lengthy letters filled with information and stories about his life, and questions about mine. When could we begin to talk, he wanted to know … when could we meet?

My response was to feel a bit overwhelmed; I was six time zones away in Florence, and he was writing from a small town in Maine. His eagerness to know me was flattering, but time- consuming. Had I forgotten how to be swept off my feet? Had I become too jaded to enjoy the infatuation phase of falling in love?

I had moved to Italy five years earlier and now split my time between Utah and Florence. I’d hoped to find a partner who wished to join me in that unconventional lifestyle. As Scott and I moved to not just daily emails but Skype calls as well, he quickly made it clear he had the same vision.

Scott was a practicing attorney, but thought nothing of a three-hour conversation during his workday. He could work while I slept, he said, because nothing was more important than our knowing each other better. Flowers, gifts, plans of luxury travel were liberally offered, along with constant assurance that he could and would provide anything my heart desired. When he learned where I planned to eat on Thanksgiving, he had an enormous bouquet of flowers sent there.

I was cautious: Living solo in a foreign country had heightened my awareness that I, alone, was my safety net. Long walks along the Arno had me wrestling with the idea of such adoration arriving instantly, and Scott’s too-soon writing of his love for me made me uncomfortable. But during our daily chats, time seemed to disappear. We discussed everything from politics, religion and family —and we laughed a lot. I wondered if this was, perhaps, the real deal.

“Love bombing” is the term used to describe a form of conditioning perpetrated by one who seeks to manipulate another with gifts, attention and affection. What begins as a whirlwind romance soon gives way to an all-consuming relationship where the victim has been groomed to acquiesce to the demands of the love bomber.

What makes this particular behavior difficult to identify, initially, is that all new romance is exciting — full of butterflies and potential. However, love bombing combines over-the-top words and deeds to impress upon the victim that the love is real and the couple’s future is bright. It is narcissistic behavior, and distinctly different from true adoration and respect of another. The ability to spot love bombing is easy once you know the signs.

* The pace of the relationship is accelerated. Early declarations of love and commitment are given as well as quickly cementing a future together.

* Boundaries are ignored. Whether it’s sex, time or attention, the love bomber is after full control and will ignore what he doesn’t want to hear.

* Pushback is met with silent treatment or devaluation. An easy way to distinguish whether you are being love bombed or just truly adored is to have a difference of opinion, need some time away or criticize the perpetrator. All will be met with immediate disapproval and a withdrawing of affection and attention.

* Your intuition kicks in. Never underestimate the intuitive feeling in your gut that something is just not right.

I did travel to Maine to meet Scott. My intuition immediately sounded alarm bells as my head tried to process why I wasn’t warming up to the man. By day two, I understood — he was telling the story of our future as if we’d spent years discussing it together. He referred to his home as “our home” and bristled when I said I needed more time to make that type of commitment. And then it was done. When I couldn’t swear undying love after two days, when I tried to discuss my concerns, he was finished. Scott told me I was to return to Utah to process what I’d thrown away.

And so it goes with a love bomber. As quickly as the adoration begins, it is withdrawn and all communication ceases. Psychologists trained to identify this type of behavior warn women that the love bomber often returns after weeks or even months to repeat another cycle. I know that won’t be my case, however, because knowledge is power … and a powerful woman is not an easy victim.

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