A friend recently told me that her ex-boyfriend was sending “flying monkeys” after her. I paused and asked, “Now, what are flying monkeys again?”
All this dating lingo gets exhausting.
Modern daters seem to have a label for every bad behavior known to man. But ghosting, catfishing, love bombing, etc. are not new.
We might think technology and a breakdown of etiquette are driving these norms, but the following true tales of lovers disrespecting each other should feel familiar. Not only should these tragic romances feel familiar, but we should also learn from them.
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“Dear, won’t you tell me the meaning of this silence?…”
So wrote the author of The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton to W. Morton Fullerton in 1907. Wharton had fallen madly in love with the dashing journalist and supposedly had her first orgasm with him at the age of 45. But after a year-long heated romance…Fullerton ghosted her.
While Wharton did not go full-on Miss Havisham and stop all the clocks, she continued to send him pleading love letters begging for a response.
Don’t do this.
Never in the history of romance did a ghoster turn around and say, “Wow. Your sixth message to me and the way you so eloquently called me out on my horrendous behavior really convinced me that I was making a huge mistake blowing you off. I think I will grow a spine now and stop doing this.”
If someone ghosts you, it shows weak character. And there’s something undeniably unattractive about people who lack courage. Do you really want to be with someone who doesn’t have the guts to say they are uninterested? I guarantee you would get bored with that person in one hot House of Mirth minute.
Eventually, Wharton got to the point that many the ghosted arrive at — she valued herself more than her ghoster.
In her last letter to Morton, she wrote she was “worth something more than [this], or worth, perhaps I had better say, something quite different.”
Catfishing is when your online persona does not match offline reality. Most complaints of catfishing are from dating profile pictures that don’t resemble the real-life person.
Catfishing might feel like a modern phenomenon, but the portrait switcheroo trick is an old chestnut.
One of the most famous victims of catfishing was Henry VIII in his marriage to Anne of Cleves. In 1538, Henry was back on the marriage market looking for wife #4. To secure a Protestant alliance, Henry’s chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, pushed heavily for a union between Henry and Anne.
So Cromwell sent Henry’s court painter, Hans Holbein, to paint Anne, knowing Holbein was famous for his flattering portrayals. Henry immediately fell for the youthful, clear-faced beauty in Holbein’s painting and agreed to the marriage alliance.
But when Henry laid eyes on the real Anne, he was shocked to find “a lady so far unlike what had been represented.” He even called her a “Flanders mare.” Ouch. (Anne was reportedly gangly, pockmarked, and possessed the fashion sense of a Long Island grandmother.)
To further add insult, Henry pronounced that his repulsion was so great that he feared he could not produce another heir with such an uncomely creature. Yep. That’s right. He claimed she made his junk shrivel up.
See? And you thought having to make small talk with someone you are not attracted to was hard.
Henry’s biggest mistake was going through with the marriage despite his repulsion. If someone is clearly dishonest with their online pictures, meet that dishonesty with honesty. Tell them that they don’t look like their pictures and end the date there. They have stolen your trust. Don’t let them also steal your precious time.
But if just a few things are off — they are a few pounds heavier or have a few laugh lines — then check your shallowness at the door. It’s possible that the catfishing person doesn’t even realize they have misrepresented themselves.
In Henry’s case, he annulled his marriage to Anne, gave her a generous settlement, and immediately married wife #5, Catherine Howard. Anne may have been rejected, but at least she got to keep something Catherine did not — her head.
Let that be a lesson to anyone accused of catfishing. Sometimes being rejected is a gift.
No other love affair has been romanticized more than the passionate and complex love affair between Napoleon Bonaparte and Marie-Josephe-Rose de Beauharnais. But if you read Napoleon’s love letters to Joséphine, he sounds like a total love bomber.
Love bombing is when someone showers you with attention and excessive affection with the motive to manipulate you. In any budding romance, love bombers floor the gas pedal. And that can feel exhilarating…at first.
Napoleon had only known Joséphine for less than a year when he wrote the following to her:
Awww, isn’t that sweet? Yeah, sure. But as soon as the “incomparable” Joséphine’s ovaries dried up, it was bye-bye Joséphine and hello nubile bride, Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria.
Love bombers are often deeply insecure and tortured by their jealousies. Such was the case with Napoleon, who constantly accused Joséphine of being unfaithful. (To be fair, his suspicions were correct.)
Unfortunately, discarding often follows love bombing. Love bombers go through a period of idealization where their partner is put on an impossibly high pedestal. These people may give you the heady feeling that your head is in the clouds, but once they start discovering imperfections, it can be a long hard fall to planet earth.
A good way to dismantle a love bomb is to ask the bomber what they think your biggest flaw is. This question forces a love bomber to see you as a real person and not something to project their ideals upon.
In Napoleon’s case, he married a woman six years older than him and knew he might never have a child with her. He may have adored Joséphine, but he didn’t adore her enough to be loyal to her.
A love bombers’ actions never match their words.
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If you have experienced any of the above, then know your pain is not unique. And in many ways, the lessons learned are precious gifts that have brought you closer to finding real love.
We have all heard the maxim, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Put another way,…those who don’t learn from their own history are also destined to repeat it.
This post was previously published on Hello, Love.
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