Suzanne Degges-White PhD.
A whirlwind romance should never feel like a manipulation of your heart.
If the growing number of matchmaking businesses is any indication, most everyone wants to be in a relationship. Whether you want to be “in love” or “be loved,” there’s likely a specialized business out there somewhere ready to hook you up with “likeminded adults,” “discreet older gentlemen,” “rural Romeos,” “Christian singles,” or whatever your “type” might be. While communication technologies and internet connections make it a lot easier to find potential partners, they also increase the risk that you will be meeting some less than perfect matches along the way to romantic bliss.
When you are openly advertising your interest in a romantic relationship, you are also signaling your availability to any “circling” narcissists. And if a narcissist senses that your guard is down, the narcissist may assume that you are an easier target for manipulation. And one of the most effective ways of manipulating a potential partner is through flattery and metaphorical love bombs.
Love Bombing Can Feel Good . . . Until It Doesn’t
Love bombing is the practice of overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction. It’s flattering comments, tokens of affection, love notes on the mirror, the dresser, the kitchen table, the windshield of the car, the laptop case, and you’re beginning to get the picture. It’s flowers delivered at work with hearts dotting the i’s in the names. It’s texts that increase in frequency as they increase in expressions of the fervor of the love bomber’s affection. It’s surprise appearances that are designed to manipulate into spending more time with the love bomber and less time with others or on your own.
We all love to be loved … until it begins to feel like being stalked.
Well, when someone is telling you just how special you are, it can be intoxicating at first listen. However, when a person is using these types of comments to keep your focus trained on him and to keep bringing you back in if you’ve started to back off, it can be a case of manipulation. Not everyone who whispers sweet nothings in your ear is a narcissistic jerk, but if you’re feeling that something isn’t just right about the person or the relationship, the constant reminders of how good you are together – when you know that you aren’t – -can be an effort to keep you tethered. It’s often the first line used by a potential abuser, as well.
Why do narcissists love bomb?
Narcissists, though, can be another story altogether. Narcissists are known for their skills at manipulation as much as their penchant for self-love. Narcissists use flattery and attention as tools to get you under their spell – they build themselves up as the perfect partner so that they will gain your trust and affection – and adoration. Narcissists also have usually learned through experience that once partners see through their facades that the relationship may be on its way to self-destruction. Once they have convinced you of how good the two of you are together, a narcissist will try to shape your role in the relationship into a member of the “supporting cast” or the “adoring fan.” Narcissists typically fail at maintaining equal and mutually healthy relationships.
Narcissists move quickly to avoid detection – and the more someone tries to flatter you into submission, the harder you need to look to explore his motives.
But if they say they adore me, how can they be narcissists?
Nonstop attention and roses every day can sound appealing in theory, but if you were the object of this type of person’s affection – and you had only just met them – you’d probably think it was more creepy than charming. Most of us prefer relationships that unfold in a relatively organized way. It’s normal to feel a rush of excitement at every glance, touch, or meeting at the start of any new romantic relationship, but when someone’s trying to move it along too fast, it can be a more than a little disconcerting.
When we think of the narcissist’s “love bomb,” remember that the end goal of most emotional campaigns is a “win.” When the narcissist uses her best warfare, she’s doing so in order to capture her prey before the prey gets too wise to the game at hand. It’s like when you’re trying to entice your dog to come to you at the dog park – you use your sweetest voice, pet names, and maybe even bring out the special treats. You want to win over your dog’s trust and get him close enough to you to snap the leash back on his collar. Narcissists are going to do whatever it takes to get close enough to a romantic interest as quickly as they can before their romantic object bolts.
This may sound a little cold, but narcissists don’t really see others as “people” in their own right – they are objects that are used to satisfy the narcissist’s desire for connection or manipulation.
Again, there may be other explanations for those “love at first sight” stories. Sometimes people do just click from the start and the relationship builds at a healthy pace that is comfortable for both partners. Other times, there may be a desperate, lovesick soul trying to do anything possible to attract a partner. This latter case often brings out a feeling of pity in the pursued, whereas narcissistic pursuers generate a different feeling altogether. Sometimes anxiety, sometimes fear, sometimes revulsion.
We really have to trust our intuitions to figure out what the case really is when we’re the object of someone’s too heavy pursuit.
True Love or Narcissistic Manipulation: How Can You Tell and What Should You Do?
There’s an (too) often used saying that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. And, for time immemorial, this saying still brings a ring of truth. When someone is building you up into more than you know that anyone could actually be — or gifting you in ways that are beginning to feel a little too extravagant or co-opting your time because they want to spend so much of theirs with you, while surreptitiously manipulating you to have little time to spend with your other friends or family, these are signs that the relationship isn’t quite as balanced as it should be.
Again, a single rose on the first date might be kinda’ sweet, but a dozen roses delivered every day becomes a little bit concerning.
When a relationship is moving too fast – or a partner is trying to push the relationship too forcefully – it’s essential that you call your partner on it and let him know how you’re feeling. If he’s willing to listen to you and to dial it back a few notches, then there’s reason to give him and the relationship more time to develop, if it’s meant to do so. If your partner won’t listen to your protestations and just tries to excuse away the smothering behavior, that’s a sign that there’s likely less freedom and more manipulation in the future if you stay in the relationship.
When you’re eager to find a partner, it can be exciting to be the focus of courtship by someone you find attractive. Beware, though, because narcissists are skilled at putting on the mask that their audience will find most attractive. Healthy whirlwind romances do happen, but if you’re feeling like you’re in the middle of a tornado of attention and it’s more unsettling than not, it’s time to step back and have a conversation with your partner. If they’re unable to change their behaviors to better match your needs, then it’s unlikely that this person is the match for you.