Dating as we know it has changed. What used to be sweet first dates and arriving at the doorsteps of our front porch has now evolved into scanning their social media profiles for red flags and potential signs of catfishing before even meeting them IRL. What happened to the dating scene, and how have Gen Z’ers and millennials taken dating and relationships to a new lane?
In the professional opinion of author, therapist, and speaker Nya B, MA, NCC, LPC, the younger generation is tackling relationships with a new tactic – avoidance. “Generation Z and younger millennials seem to be approaching the dating scene with avoidant dismissal or avoidant fearful attachment styles, which means they either approach with an unbothered demeanor, one foot in-one foot out, and with the readiness to be gone at the first sight of trouble (avoidant dismissive),” she said. Furthermore, Nya B said they tend to “approach with the fear that someone is going to leave them,” causing them to lead with the desire to be controlling, people-pleasing or extremely “clingy” and attached – avoidant fearful.
One sign of a toxic relationship is gaslighting, which Nya B defines as “a manipulative behavior in which someone uses shame or fear to control you.” This term has been used more often amongst Gen Z and millennials, particularly in mainstream media when discussing relationships, workplace situations, racial relations, and confrontations. According to Nya B, gaslighting occurs when the aggressor will purposely challenge your triggers by bringing up situations that may upset you, then accusing you of overreacting. “Like most terms that become cliché, I do believe that the term is often misused, more so than overused. I think the behavior is very common in relationships, romantic or otherwise, and a lot of people aren’t aware that they are doing it,” she continued.
The term “love bombing” has been floating around social media, more so on TikTok from wellness and lifestyle influencers, to describe another form of manipulation in an emotionally abusive relationship. Now, what’s the difference between love bombing and gaslighting, as they both sound like they’re in the same department. “While they are both extreme forms of manipulation, their methods to control are very different. Gaslighting uses fear or shame to control others, while love bombing uses love and affection,” Nya B explained. She continued to break down how those who use “love bombing” as their preferred method of control tend to lay their ‘love’ on thick, which can come across as extremely charming by buying gifts, taking you on elaborate trips, giving you all their time, and will claim that they have fallen head over heels for you.
“Another difference between the two is timing. Gaslighting occurs later in the relationship because the abuser needs time to learn what upsets you or what triggers you. Love bombing occurs early in the relationship as a form of courtship because the abuser needs to make sure you become attached to them before exposing their abusive behaviors,” Nya B added.
Below, Nya B. explains to Girls United how one can tell if their partner or love interest is love bombing them, red flags to look for when you believe you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship, and how to support a loved one who may be experiencing one as we speak. Take a look below:
Early Signs Of Love Bombing:
- Within days or weeks of meeting (the talking stage), the abuser will express feeling a deep connection or having strong feelings towards you
- They will take extreme measures to court you and be intentional about letting you know they’ve never done these things for anyone else before.
- They will be overly affectionate and appear codependent (can’t get off the phone, always need to be near you, text you, see you and occupy a lot of your time)
- They will show jealousy or be territorial when others take an interest in you (most girls tend to think this is cute at first)
- They will make you feel like your time with them is a fairytale or unreal.
- The efforts to show “love” are time framed and will abruptly shift or stop within 3-6 months after the relationship has begun. (Victims will find themselves asking for what used to be or searching for who their partners were when they first met)
Overall Red Flags Of An Emotionally-Abusive Relationship:
- Name-calling or using put-downs when upset or angry. They usually begin small with names like, “stupid, dumb or idiot,” and then escalate to “bitch or MF’er,” etc.
- Laughing at you, downplaying, or finding humor in your anger or pain.
- Blaming you for their anger or pain.
- Intentionally withholding sex or affection as punishment.
- Purposefully not doing things that make you smile or make you feel good about yourself such as withholding compliments, nice gestures, or ignoring your love language.
- Shaming you for your wants or needs by calling you needy or referring to you as “doing too much.”
- Constantly putting you in a position to see them care for others while neglecting or ignoring you (giving “shout-outs” to others for their accomplishments on social media and not acknowledging yours, or giving other people credit for being present for them, while ignoring your presence or influence in their life).
How To Support A Loved One:
According to Nya B, the best thing you can do as a friend to support a loved one or someone who may be going through an emotionally abusive relationship is:
- Listen to them. Having someone close to talk to who won’t judge is very crucial to healing.
- Do not judge them. Try very hard not to shame them for not having the courage to leave or set boundaries because they will do what’s best for them on their own time.
- Avoid providing unsolicited advice. Unsolicited advice or opinions can be a disruption to someone’s emotional process.
- Continue to demonstrate love for them in their love language so they can see and feel the difference between what they share with you and what they share with their abuser.
- Give positive reinforcement. Praise them for moments that you witness happiness and joy in them.
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Iryna Veklich