When the love bomb goes off.

Why Australia should stop yelling at #MAFS and wake up to why she doesn’t leave.

Married At First Sight has morphed from brain cell killing reality tv in to an Australian domestic abuse scandal. Plainly in front of us we are watching Producers pair vulnerable people with narcissists for the joy of ratings.

While we have been screaming this at our TVs for many years now, the fact we are watching is precisely why they keep doing it. No petition, complaints to ACMA or any social media outrage is going to change this. 

And the couple for 2021 at the heart of this (pardon the pun) is Bryce Ruthven and Melissa Rawson. Bryce has been accused of being emotionally abusive, manipulative and controlling over Melissa. Despite this Melissa is in and even on the eve of the show’s finale she is doing the media rounds to show the world they are in love and going strong.

So rather than join the pile on I’m going to take a moment to reflect on why she is choosing to stay. Everyone around Melissa is shouting at her that this is an abusive relationship however that is not how she sees it. Now I am not saying Melissa is not a smart woman or one who can’t think for herself. 

What I want to talk about, is that women who are in abusive relationships are often the last ones to see it. From my work with women who have left domestic abuse, it is not until something really terrible happens or that they feel their safety is compromised do they realise how bad things really are. There are also women who do know how bad things are, but can’t leave because of social isolation, manipulation, gas lighting or the sheer control this person has over their life.

Melissa was painted very early in this series as a woman who was lonely, who was insecure and looking for love. She confessed to issues of abandonment and rejection and it wasn’t just us at home who saw this.

Bryce saw this too, and then what we saw was text book love bombing. How? Well, he admitted in the opening episode he would not sleep with his new wife on the first night, and oops one thing led to another and we saw a love bomb dropped – a shag on the night of the wedding.

From there the honeymoon period went on and it wasn’t long before Bryce’s tells Melissa she is not blonde hair and blue eyed – so not his type – but all good, he told her “you’re not ugly”. So comes the next phase of love bombing – devaluing. This part of devaluing went of for a few episodes before we hit the final phase and that was rejection.

The rejection we saw is another key tool to the love bombing. It is what is used to keep the victim isolated and dependent on the narcissist.

In Psychology Today Dale Acher M.D. gives an example of a client who experiences love bombing behaviour. First its all romance and roses, then when the woman wants to see friends the love bomber piles on the devaluing and then threatens to leave. Even while in therapy this woman did not leave straight away, it took several attempts.

So while we bang out our frustrations at this, the reality is it is going unheard.

But back to MAFS, after reading Archer’s article on love bombing I realised that this show is purposely set up to encourage this behaviour.  As Archer writes: 

Love bombing is an attempt to influence another person with over-the-top displays of attention and affection. We’re not just talking about romantic gestures, like flowers and trips. Love bombing invariably includes lots of romantic conversation, long talks about “our future,” and long periods of staring into each other’s eyes. It’s the combination of words and deeds that makes love bombing so powerful, especially considering today’s technology. The ability to call, text, email, or connect on social media 24/7 makes it easier to be in constant contact with the object of one’s affection than ever before.

Hmmmm, sound like a tv show we all know?

Yep, MAFS has set this all up and they weren’t the only ones who saw it. Archer nails when he writes: 

Love bombing works because humans have a natural need to feel good about who we are, and often we can’t fill this need on our own. Sometimes the reason is situational, brought on by an event, like divorce or job loss. Other times, it’s more constant and traces back to our childhood. Whatever the source, love bombers are experts at detecting low self-esteem and exploiting it.

But here’s a twist, we also know love bombers are insecure people with low self esteem. 

So while we’re all experts in Bryce and Melissa’s relationship let’s take a moment to show some empathy. 

Melissa has been played, it is text book behaviour that we’re watching like a train wreck. And while I would love to see Melissa just walk away, I’ve been love bombed too. It was abusive and manipulative and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. While I can do what I can to help women around me going through it, I know that really there is nothing I can do but be there to pick up the pieces. So guess what Australia? This is Melissa’s journey and while us survivors of love bombing know there is a world of pain to come, there is nothing we can do to stop it.

What I will say to the Producers of MAFS  is this, while the desire for ratings is a hungry beast you keep feeding this narcissistic behaviour you allow to happen is what leads to one woman a week being murdered by a man who has at some point claimed to love them. And for that, you have blood on your hands.