#24 You’ve made your bed, now lie in it

I’m going to start by speaking about women of all generations, then we’ll take a look at a fictional older woman, Fran.

As we are gradually learning more about coercive control & the cycle of abuse, we have discovered the term ‘love bombing’.

Love bombing is where a partner is bombarding apparent ‘love’. It could include excessive affection, excessive compliments, declarations of love early on, extravagant gifts and praise. It may also be wanting to move quickly into a commitment because they ‘can’t live without you’, showering of gifts or lavish treatment, and promises of a perfect life together.

A relationship like this may invite, encouragement, envy or even jealously from those around. ‘Wow, you’re so lucky I wish my partner was as romantic as yours’ ‘he’s everything you’ve been waiting for’ or ‘he loves you to death’.

Love bombing can be part of early signs of abuse in a relationship. Often in the early phases we can feel intoxicated with passion & lust, so it can be difficult to spot.

If you do spot it, telling someone can be difficult especially if they perceive the relationship to be ‘perfect’. .

Love bombing becomes an effective tool to abusers as they exert power & control.

So let’s introduce Fran

It’s the 1980’s & Fran is in her 30’s. She’s got a career as a social worker, owns her own home & has had several relationships but nothing long term. She loves her life but her friends are settling down into long term relationships & she’s fed up of being single.

Her friends are constantly trying to match make her with a man called Chris, but she’s heard he’s been a bit of a ‘ladies man’ so she’s wary.

After a while she is persuaded to go on a date. They meet & the chemistry is electric, she finds Chris’s chat up lines are too much, but the excitement of a first date grip her, & she ignores the niggly feeling that he might not be sincere.

Very quickly they are seeing each other everyday & speaking on the phone til the early hours. Fran is on cloud nine & when she confides in Chris about her troubled past & family issues, he listens & is really understanding.

They plan exotic holidays together, before settling down.

“It’s you & me against the world Fran, we don’t need anybody else” Chris will frequently say.

Within two months, Chris has moved in with Fran, to save money for their travels. They decide to go on a strict diet to be beach body ready & Chris is really knowledgeable about nutrition so takes over the shopping & meal preparation. He is also very good with budgeting so takes over their finances too.

Gradually, Chris persuades Fran that her family issues are affecting her self esteem, she begins to disengage from them preferring to spend time with Chris.

The relationship quickly shifts with Fran feeling emotionally reliant on Chris. He makes all the decisions & Fran begins to feel she needs Chris’s permission for everyday arrangements.

When Fran arranges to meet up with her friends, Chris will interrogate her about who she is meeting, where they are going & when she’ll be home. To appease Chris she will relent & agree to him picking her up so he knows she is safe.

Fran shares some of those niggly feelings with her friends but they reassure her Chris is head over heels in love with her & not to worry, they would love a man who is so ‘obsessed’.

Fran pushes her doubts to one side, she should be grateful. She’s in her 30’s who else would want her, all of her friends were married. 

Decades pass

in her 50’s Fran took early retirement from her career in social work. Chris persuaded her the stress was affecting her mental health. She grew suspicious of him. He was unfaithful to her with multiple women. Fran never knew but when she was working long hours, she suspected he was up to something.  Fran loved her job, but Chris told her it was making her ill & paranoid. She couldn’t see that it was the control Chris had over her that made her doubt herself, her judgement & her skills. 

Fran is now in her 70’s, she has been married to Chris for 40 years.

They never did go traveling. Everything happened quickly. He took over her life, her home & her mind. 

She has no longer has contact with her friends. Her parents died & despite their relationship being broken, they left Fran a substantial financial legacy.

Fran buries the guilt. 

Chris controls every penny she inherited.

In fact he now controls every aspect of her life, when she eats, what she wears, when she can leave the house & when she can use the bathroom. 

They do everything TOGETHER. 

Fran did try to speak to her manager before she retired, she had tried to tell him what life with Chris was really like, his jealously, his control, the CONSEQUENCES if she didn’t obey. But her manager dismissed her concerns, he’d met Chris a few times & found him really likeable. She was referred to HR who suggested the ‘job’ had got to her, that early retirement would help.

She’d had counselling but the focus was always on Fran. 

Work had been Fran’s respite, the heavy workload a distraction from her life at home. Since leaving her career Chris had her exactly where he wanted her. 

So she gradually pulled away from the outside world & stayed silent.

Consider how Fran is keeping herself safe?

Are professionals such as social workers & police  officers immune from being targeted? 

Consider how the risks might escalate as they age?

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