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Ask Ellie: Watch for red flags in an intense new romance

For all singles hoping to have future relationships, there’s the ongoing need to weigh the kind of behaviour someone’s exhibiting against what feels normal and comfortable for you

Dear Ellie: How can any of us singles have hopes of finding someone to meet and date in time for Valentine’s Day?

We’re being hyped up to Feb. 14 again by sellers of everything from chocolates, flowers, lingerie and even jewellery, during the second year of a pandemic that prevents our getting to know anyone new in person.

Even so, many are frustrated, bored and lonely enough to get caught up in it all, and even believe someone we barely know from online chats, that we’re “perfect for each other.”

What’s your take on people who come on like they’re mad for you after just two “likes?” How do we know when we’re being hustled?

I had a bad experience last year when I believed someone who said I checked every box in a list of “his perfect match.”

He even gave me a necklace, then took it back during a minor disagreement on Feb. 14, which was only our second sleepover date. I lost all faith in Valentine’s Day after that.

Heartlessly Used

It can happen on any calendar date — the dating manipulations of someone who woos you early on, then becomes cool and detached when anything doesn’t go their way.

It’s called “love bombing” which the Oxford Dictionaries define as “the action or practice of lavishing someone with attention or affection, especially in order to influence or manipulate them,” adding this: “cults often use tactics like love bombing to lure new members.” Be forewarned.

Some psychologists have seen it as possibly part of a cycle of abuse.

A recent New York Times article that focused on “love bombing” quoted Chitra Raghavan, a psychology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who said that romantic behaviours can “transform into a manipulative dating practice,” by overwhelming a new partner with grand gestures and constant contact, to gain control in the relationship.

She warns that it can be hard to recognize “the mismatch of familiarity” when someone’s saying the words you love to hear, such as “everything about you is what I wanted.”

Like your own experience last Valentine’s Day, Dr. Raghavan also warns that "showering someone with presents is a common way for love-bombers to exert influence." She adds, “When you’re overwhelmed, you don’t see danger.”

Your experience was unpleasant and disheartening, but fortunately short-lived. You’ll be far more aware in future of how someone new responds to you early on.

For all singles hoping to have future relationships, there’s the ongoing need — pandemic or not — to weigh the kind of behaviour someone’s exhibiting against what feels normal and comfortable for you.

Not every hyper-enthused dater has a manipulative motive in mind. But, as in all new relationships, you must stay alert to red flags in any rushed or controlling connection.

While Valentine’s Day is meant to celebrate romantic love, friendship and admiration, it’s not a one-shot opportunity.

Spend it with someone you already love, like, respect, trust. And, if necessary, in COVID times, express your feelings virtually.

Doubly-Disgusted Caregiver

Reader’s commentary regarding a sister’s negative view of the sibling caregiver for their mother (Jan. 14):

“I actually felt sick reading this self-centred woman’s whining rant about the sister who’s doing all the caregiving while the other siblings occasionally swan in at their convenience.

“I was my mother’s sole caregiver. I’ve been there, though when my sibling visited, I didn’t manifest my feelings the way that caregiver did, but bottled up my hurt inside.

“It was always difficult to have my sibling arrive for a visit and cause upheaval, then depart free as a bird, leaving me to the thankless job of caring for our mother.

“I only once asked my sibling to take over so I could have a 10-day holiday which they grudgingly did. I didn’t ask again because they went home early and left Mom alone for the last two days without telling anyone.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Be alert and recognize red flags if you’re being rushed into an uncomfortably intense/controlling relationship.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.