Gaslighting and other mind games
How manipulative dating behaviors can harm.
Have you ever been love bombed? Future faked? Gaslighted? Even if the words aren’t familiar, the experiences could be. Buzzwords for bad dating behavior have multiplied as society’s tolerance for abuse has dropped.
Amy Johnston, a licensed clinical social worker with Baptist Behavioral Health, explained the meaning behind the trendy phrases and how the manipulative tactics can lead to serious harm.
New relationships often begin with a whirlwind romance, but sometimes it feels more like a hurricane. Flowers appear every week. Text messages arrive every day. A person has found their soulmate, promised eternal love and proposd marriage – all within a few short weeks. The outpouring feels so affirming, it can seem like true love. But a relationship that moves too fast should send up a red flag, Johnston cautioned.
“A love bomber seeks attention and affection, but they're projecting a bond that's not actually there,” she said. “The relationship can't develop in a healthy way because they’ve overstepped every boundary and the natural pace that a relationship needs in order to develop.”
Love bombers use overwhelming attention and affection to build trust, but only so they can maintain control over their target. Their “love” comes and goes quickly, depending on how compliant their partner chooses to be.
This behavior hits quickly, but unlike love bombing, there are no deliverables. Instead, one partner doles out a million promises of all the wonderful things you’ll do together…someday. There will be trips to Europe, a new mountain bungalow, and bonding with your families. It’s a flattering fairytale vision that never comes to pass.
“It can be very impulsive and sometimes the future faker actually believes these things are going to happen,” Johnston said. “But it’s unhealthy because none of it is based in reality.”
The purpose of future faking is to make it seem like the relationship is more serious than it is, so the other partner will easily give in to unreasonable and isolating demands. For example, a future faker could blame a “meddling” best friend for ruining the future you could be sharing.
This term has been around for many years, but lately, people are using it a lot more. In a 1930s play, a husband who wants to get rid of his wife tries to make her believe she’s going mad by dimming a gas lamp a little more each day. When she tells him the room seems to be getting darker, he tells her it’s not.
“Gaslighting makes you question your own reality,” Johnston said. “The gaslighter plays mind games with you, like humiliating you or making you feel guilty. It’s a power and control tactic that tears down your self-esteem.”
Not an innocent mistake
Many people feel insecure when dating, so perhaps a little lying is just par for the course? Johnston said absolutely not.
“All lying is abuse,” she said.
This behavior should be taken seriously because when the recipient tolerates it, the abuse tends to escalate. What begins as manipulation can grow into intimidation, blaming, coercion and threats.
“Domestic violence is rarely a situation of, 'I got into a relationship and they started hitting me,’” Johnston said. “It starts out with little things – emotional abuse, isolation and lies – that build over time.”
If you’re struggling in a relationship, a Baptist Behavioral Health provider can help you regain your balance. Call 904.376.3800 to schedule an appointment. If you are in immediate danger, call 911 or the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800.799.SAFE (7233).