How the Abuse Started – Love Bombing

Love bombing is an attempt to influence a person by demonstrations of attention and affection.

He was always creepy, he was always hanging around me, he was always persistent. That started as early as December 1999 when he followed me to the Ladies’ toilets at the Xmas do.  Minging!  I tried to brush him off (politely, after all, he was a Senior Manager), for about 4 months, at which point I started to wonder whether he was actually serious in his intentions towards me as his flattery and attention just didn’t stop.  I tried to be rational and came to the decision that we got on well, had a laugh and he seemed ok.  Perhaps that was ok.  I felt mean for thinking that he was a creep.  I was always trying to see the good in others – this is a common thing we teach children and tell ourselves, but unfortunately it means you flick off that switch inside that says “this bloke is creepy, stay away”.

The emotional backdrop to this story was that I felt lonely.  My Dad had died less than 2 years previously, and the end of university had hit me very hard – I actually felt terrible at the loss of my good friends who’d been so supportive and close to me during the time when we lost my Dad.  I felt like I was always trying to be brave, putting on a front, stepping out in the world alone, but clueless and actually quite nervous about the whole thing.

Relationship-wise, I’d never properly recovered from the end of a relationship in 1997.  I’d loved my boyfriend and didn’t understand why it ended.  I wasn’t ready for the end and there was never the closure that I needed – I was still hurt and confused about that but felt it wasn’t the right thing to express that.  I was young, right?  I had things to look forward to, right?  Just get over it, right?  My internal dialogue was harsh.  I felt like perhaps I’d done something wrong that had caused the end of the relationship, but I didn’t exactly know what it was.  You can’t force your heart to move on when it’s not ready.  In a nutshell, I was well acquainted with grief, loss and sadness but pretending everything was fine.

In March 2000, I’d finally broken up from a relationship with a friend that was pretty unspectacular, so I felt relieved and a bit freer – single life suited me.  Perhaps that’s what he liked when he came sniffing round me, undressing me with his eyes, his body language permanently suggesting that he’d like to be with me.  Perhaps he sensed I was dreadfully low on self-esteem underneath my bravado, and the psychopath inside him could smell that at 100 paces? He was always grinning at me, looking at me for too long, making conversations that were highly personal and lingering. Accidentally standing too close to me on a night out.  Loudly buying a round of drinks for everyone within my earshot.  Engaging in fun behaviour.  Making me feel special.

Looking back, it’s clear to see that his behaviour was all connected to abuse and misuse of power.  As a bereaved 22 year old, that wasn’t obvious to me at all.  This fact was made harder to detect by the fact that everyone, myself included, seemed to be either working hard or playing hard. Yep, that good old 90’s attitude to corporate life just meant we were permanently pissed.

At the time I shared a little back to back terraced house in Leeds with a female work colleague, and he would do weird things like accidentally getting a taxi home to our house (instead of his own house?) and we’d be trying to be polite but all the time thinking nervously, “this is a bit weird, I wonder when he’ll leave?”  I mean he was 33. It’s not the same as straight out of uni, is it?

Often it was unclear whether he fancied me or my housemate or whether it didn’t matter at all.  As long as he was wielding his power and getting attention, I guess we could have been anyone.  His attention got more insistent in April and he made it clear that he’d like to be with me.  He said he’d recently split from his girlfriend and somehow managed to make me feel sorry for him.  (Look up patterns of abuse – this is typical).

In May 2000, he started work on a consultancy project down south for a large retail organisation.  Immediately he pulled me off another job to go and work with him.  The speed and style of it was bizarre and caused ructions between a couple of managers.  I also look back and wonder whether anyone in the office thought twice about whether this was ‘ok’ (because I’m very clear that it just fucking wasn’t) to let a 33-year-old male senior manager work alone on project over 3 hours away from the office base with a 22-year-old female associate. The project was to last for 6 months and off we went.

There was I, thinking I might learn a thing or two that might help me on future projects. That the whole experience might be good for my career.  Dear God!  Talk about things not turning out how you might hope.

He made it obvious very quickly that he expected us to have a relationship. He constantly made sexual advances.  I was confused because I didn’t know why he fancied me – remember, I was low on self-esteem.  On the other hand, he tried very hard to ‘win me’ and since he kept up the attention for a good 3 months I had to eventually just believe that he really liked me.  He’d pay me compliments ALL the time.  He’d look at me ALL the time.  He wasn’t short on grafting, as they say on Love Island.

There’ no denying there were some good times although it’s hard to admit that when I know the rest of the story.  He was very clever and came across like everyone’s best friend. He’d buy everyone rounds of drinks: he was very generous and flattering to everyone.  He seemed to me to be very popular, and I enjoyed the feeling of being with someone who was popular and clever.

He was amazing at work. I looked up to him – he seemed to be able to always know exactly the right thing to say to anyone, in any situation.  Everyone would have a good word to say about him: the life and soul of the party and very well-liked by clients.  Intelligent, psychopathic manipulators are amazingly popular, you know.  Anyone would be hard pushed to believe a man like this could do the things he later did to me.

He was a very productive, action-oriented worker with a bright mind and a good sense of humour.  Those qualities I admired and reflected back.  We seemed to make a good team at work and I learnt a lot from him. I started to feel like I could perform better at work and got into a groove of feeling confident.  I had visions of a good and long career in front of me.

On the relationship side of things, he was constantly flattering and attentive and that was really bolstering for a while.  We basically dated whilst working together.

Did I really, deep down, want a relationship with him?  I look back and remember admiring him and being flattered by him.  But was this really what I wanted on a deeper level?  Truthfully, I never got chance to answer that question because there was no space, no room, no time away from him, which made the act of thinking impossible.

We worked 14 hour days, travelled together, worked together and slept together.  It was intense to say the least and I started to feel physically drained.  Perhaps I never truly fell for him deep down.  Nothing really significant happened on a deeper soul level during the early phases, so I suppose that very wrongly, I assumed that the lack of intense feelings for me meant that I was ‘safe’.

Next post – then things changed – the grooming phase

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