Recently I was asked, “How can you tell the difference between someone who is just romantic and head-over-heels in love with me, or someone who is toxic and love-bombing me?” Here are some of the key differences between true love and toxic relationships.
People who are in true love don’t fall in love, they ascend into love. They’re cautious and patient. Love shouldn’t be something you fall for. Falling symbolizes being off balance. When you’re on unstable footing your defenses become lowered, and your guard drops, and as a result, you become more weak and vulnerable.
Love-bombing is anything but patient. It’s too much too soon. It’s an intense tsunami of emotion and early declarations of eternal everlasting love. It’s an exquisitely wrapped gift with nothing inside. It takes off like a rocketship, but then as quickly as it reaches the Earth’s atmosphere, it implodes. It’s inconsistent. It’s self-serving. It’s absent of any real foundation. It’s ceremonious validation of nothing and promises of everything.
Good relationships grow into love as they develop and deepen. The relationship is not taken lightly. Declarations of eternal everlasting love are proven, rather than professed. And the relationship does not serve as a means to fill a void. It is steady, consistent, and builds over time. It’s not just superficial gestures or gushy Facebook declarations. The love is seen in the cumulative actions that have established a pattern of behavior that can only be viewed (not heard) over a good amount of time.
Love-bombing consists of one person attempting to unite with the other to fill the holes and gaps in within themselves. It is the formation of an incomplete person joining with another to make one big, flawed toxic mess.
The love bomber is looking for something outside of themself to make them feel complete. They use the other person as a human helium tank and create a very fragile whole, that does not have the strength to stand the test of time.
True love prefers to be two independent people who complement each other and together become a team, each carrying their fair share of the weight in the relationship. They never strive to become one. They maintain their separateness. They have healthy boundaries. They’re two independent, complete individuals looking to enhance and compliment each other.
True love isn’t about filling voids or gaps. It’s about strengthening each other through their individuality and encouraging the other to fulfill their passions, interests and maintain their outside friendships and hobbies. Their relationship is not riddled with control, fear or insecurity that drives them to hold back the other from being the best version of themselves.
Love-bombing is engulfing. It seeks to enmesh, resulting in weighing the other partner down in isolation and control. It can feel flattering to be showered with so much attention at first, but will feel stifling as time goes on. Love-bombing tends to pull the love-bombed partner away from their passions, outside interests, and friends. Toxic relationships decay into stagnation. The love-bombed partner starts to lose their ambition, change their ways and neglects their own needs and desires.
Toxic partners will have meaningful conversations or fights over text messages. Arguing is natural, texting them isn’t. Healthy people will not spend their time discussing important issues over their mobile devices. They will set aside time to have real face-to-face conversations. This way words and meanings can’t be misinterpreted, thoughts can’t be misunderstood, and Emojis don’t replace real emotion.
Toxic partners argue just for the sake of arguing. They would rather be right and win because that is what makes them happy and feel good about themselves. People who are able to give true love will argue in person, and they fight for solutions that benefit both partners. There is never a winner and a loser. They strive to create win/win outcomes because the other partner’s happiness is as important to them as much as their own.
Toxic partners feel threatened by outsiders. Healthy couples are confident in their love, they enjoy being in the company of others and know that healthy relationships are strengthened by socializing with like-minded friends. They have built a solid foundation over time that is not threatened by potential distractions and insecurities.
You can’t have a healthy relationship with two unhealthy people or even one unhealthy person for that matter. A relationship will only be able to function at the level of the lowest functioning partner. When someone is using you to complete them, it forms an incomplete relationship.
Toxic partners expect their partners to meet their needs of nurturing and caregiving. Emotionally healthy partners don’t expect their partners to meet their every expectation. And they don’t expect their partner to mind read their needs. They view each other as a teammate, not a caregiver, mother, father, ATM machine, psychic or on-call servant.
Healthy relationships get better and stronger over time. They continually evolve. Feelings deepen as time passes, and as each partner learns more about the other.
Love-bombing is the exact opposite, over time these relationships destruct and decay. Positive feelings are replaced with criticism and contempt. There is only stagnation and imbalance as the toxic partner expects more and more from the relationship while giving less and less in return.
In the end, the love-bombed partner feels confused, less confident, and less happy, as the relationship progresses. It goes without saying that good relationships should be equitable, reciprocal and build you up, not tear you down.
Bree Bonchay, LCSW, is a psychotherapist with over 18 years of experience working in the field of mental health and trauma recovery. She specializes in helping people recover from toxic relationships and shares her insights about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and psychopathy in her blog FreeFromToxic. Her articles have been featured in major online magazines and she has appeared on radio as a guest expert. She is also a dedicated advocate, educator and facilitates survivor support groups and workshops. Amazon link: http://amzn.to/2gCyYyL