We tend to be enamored with instant bonding, both in friendships and romantic relationships. We tend to believe that becoming “close” to someone quickly is a good sign: of deep compatibilities; love at first sight; or being kindred spirits. Whirlwind romances are exciting and sweep us off our feet. And, in the internet revolution that created an explosion of online dating, clicking with new partners is only a few taps of the keyboard away.
Unfortunately, instant compatibilities rarely turn out to be as promising as they initially seem. More frequently, they fade away and sometimes they are signs of danger. There are two main reasons why this happens: one from your perspective, the second from the point of view of the new person you encounter.
From your perspective, this instant bonding is a sign of your intuition. You sense a vague but compelling emotional intimacy with your new friend or romantic partner. That intuitive sense, you wish to believe, is an emotional insight that defies reason (after all, you don’t know the new person well) and is deeper than rational knowledge. Right? Well, no. This intuition is usually wrong because its insights are not usually based on some sixth sense deeper than reason, but on your own fantasy or wishful thinking.
When you meet a new person, particularly a new romantic partner, both of you are on your best behavior. You undergo a mutual idealization phase during which each of you projects upon the other one’s desires for love and fulfillment; what one wishes to see in each other. The same logic can apply to new friendships as well, where you look for someone who understands you, cares about you and knows you without you even needing to explain yourself. It’s even easier to make such idealized projections in virtual reality, when you communicate via the internet and don’t see each other in person.
In both romance and friendship, however, true intimacy comes from knowing each other over time, in different circumstances, throughout the many tests and challenges life has to offer. The sense of instant bonding is therefore often a sign of projecting one’s desires upon the new person and, sometimes, of shallow emotions and predatory intentions. This brings me to the other perspective: that of the new person you’ve encountered, who appears to be your new soulmate.
As we’ve seen in previous articles, people who instantly mirror your personality and desires; who flatter you; who seem too eager, initially, to please you can be, in reality, not just incompatible with you, but downright dangerous. These are the strategies of social predators; how they initially attract new victims and get them hooked on their (false) “love” and approval. In some cases, such instant bonding is, indeed, a positive sign of compatibility, just as you wanted. In others, however, it’s a warning signal that you’re being targeted by a social predator, who intends to use you and harm you.
This is why the best thing to do is to proceed slowly in new relationships, with CAUTION. While it’s very easy to get excited by what looks like instant compatibility, keep a cool head, observe the new person’s behavior, and be attuned not only to the qualities you (desire to) see in him or her but also to inconsistencies, signs of deceit and implausible behavior. Dangerous predators are very adept at wearing a “mask of sanity” and appearing ideal; however, they are not good at maintaining it consistently in closer relationships.
There is a second advantage to proceeding with caution: if you don’t become too warm too soon with a new person, it’s far less noticeable when you cool off after discovering they’re not who you initially thought they were. This may help you pass under the radar of a vengeful social predator, who may pursue and stalk you if, after a rapid warmup, you decide to cool it off. Keep in mind that real life is rarely a fantasy. When a person or relationship seems too good to be true, it usually is.
Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness
Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction