Gaslighting, Lovebombing, and Other Manipulation Tactics Named and Explained

an image of a woman looking elsewhere while a man is sitting behind her

These days, everything has a label. Buzzwords like "gaslighting" or "lovebombing" might have come across your social media feed or been mentioned in your favorite podcast. As jargon-y as they might sound, these terms are essential to have but also to understand. By putting a name to these behaviors, we begin to demystify them, allowing for open discussions, recognition, and crucially, a means to call them out or in.

Growing up Latina, we often grow up in the shadows of certain behaviors, deeply ingrained and normalized due to the constant influence of machismo in our culture. These practices, inherited from generation to generation or sometimes even demonstrated within our own family dynamics, can begin to chip away at our mental wellbeing, often without us being consciously aware of their impact.

Have you ever felt uncomfortable after having a big fight with your partner, only for them to show up later with an over-the-top bouquet of roses? (Bonus points if it happens in a public place, that way, you won’t turn them down.) Or felt sad and betrayed after having a date you thought was successful, only to find your date has seemingly vanished from the face of the earth, never to be seen or heard from again?

In our increasingly individualistic society, emotional responsibility is often overlooked, but we’re slowly making our way toward bringing more and more awareness to it. And a crucial step in this journey is calling out harmful practices that belittle emotions and are potentially manipulative. Let's have a closer look:


an image of a couple in therapy

Photo by Antoni Shkraba:

Picture this: You find yourself in a situation where you point out something your partner did or said, only for them to vehemently deny it ever happened, despite your unmistakable memory of the event. Alternatively, if they acknowledge an event occurred, they might belittle your emotions by saying things like, "You're too sensitive," or shift the blame to you, saying that it’s you who misunderstood or misinterpreted the situation.

This psychological manipulation technique is now commonly referred to as gaslighting. It involves the perpetrator making you question your own sanity, experiences, and perception of reality. It’s a tactic often employed in abusive relationships to sow confusion, undermine your feelings and experiences, shift blame, and establish control over you.

To be clear, if this happens to you, you are not “crazy” as they often allege and make you feel. Once you identify you are dealing with a gaslighter, it’s best to try to keep your distance and establish healthy boundaries, or if possible, just cut the person off completely because a gaslighter rarely tends to take responsibility for their actions and the impact of those actions on those around them.


an image of a man with flowers behind his back and a woman in front of him

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Have you ever found yourself in a sudden downpour of affection that felt overwhelming, too coincidental, or almost too good to be true? If so, you might have experienced lovebombing. Lovebombing is a technique in which someone showers you with an excessive amount of love and attention, either to compensate for their abusive behavior, to manipulate you into feeling guilty for receiving such affection and subsequently compelled to reciprocate it, or to prime you for a cycle of giving and withholding which they then use to emotionally manipulate you further.

The ultimate aim is to make you feel deeply indebted and dependent on them, to the point where you cannot imagine life without their presence. This tactic is often accompanied by periods of withholding or "ghosting" you, and, in some cases, even periods of abuse. All these elements are deliberately designed to keep you in a state of confusion, with your adrenaline constantly running, which can lead to an unhealthy emotional attachment.


an image of a person covered in a white sheet with two holes for eyes like a ghost

Photo by Daniel Apodaca on Unsplash

Ghosting is the art of disappearing without a trace, cutting off all communication without any prior indication. It's a phenomenon that, while initially tied to dating, has spread to friendships and even professional connections. While it may seem like an easy escape for the ghoster, who is someone who potentially lacks emotional responsibility or maturity, it often leaves the ghosted feeling disoriented and hurt.


image of two women ignoring each other

Photo by Liza Summer:

In dating lingo, benching refers to someone keeping you in their life but not fully committing, much like a sports player kept on the bench during a game. This can also lead you to get stuck in the dreaded “situationship.” It can feel like they're playing with your emotions, engaging with you just enough to keep your interest piqued, while they explore other options or hesitate to take things to the next level, meanwhile, you’re holding on, thinking that someday they will fully commit.

The person doing the benching may have an underlying fear of commitment, enjoying the attention but hesitant to fully invest emotionally. Some people simply thrive on the thrill of the chase and lose interest once they feel they've won the other person's attention. But always remember, relationships should be built on mutual respect and genuine interest, not on uncertainty and doubt.


image of a woman looking at her phone

Photo by mikoto.raw Photographer :

Imagine this: The person who ghosted you suddenly starts appearing in your social media notifications. They don't make direct contact, but their sudden presence, liking an Instagram post here, reacting to a story there, makes them hard to ignore. Or your ex, the one who must not be named, who only resurfaces twice a year - once to wish you Merry Christmas and then once more to ask you to pass along birthday wishes to your mother on his behalf.

This behavior is commonly referred to as haunting, a low-effort attempt to reconnect that can evoke old feelings and create confusion. It’s similar to Zombieing, where they resurface from the dead, only in this case, they aren’t even putting in as much effort as a zombie which really says a whole lot.

Haunting's intermittent and unpredictable nature leads to an emotional rollercoaster, causing anxiety and unsettled feelings. It fosters false hope for reconciliation, only to disappoint when genuine efforts to rebuild the relationship don't materialize. This emotional tether to the past hinders moving on and finding closure. This is where leaving the dead permanently blocked really comes in handy.


image of a person putting a condom in the back pocket of another person's jeans

Photo by cottonbro studio:

While stealthing is often mentioned alongside all these other dating terms, it’s important to mention it goes far beyond simple dating jargon and is, in fact, dangerous and physically abusive. Stealthing involves the non-consensual act of removing or tampering with a condom during sexual activity without the knowledge or agreement of the other person. Originally associated with cisgender men's actions during penetrative sex, the term now includes the non-consensual removal of any barrier during any sexual activity.

Stealthing profoundly damages relationships, shattering trust and consent. It leads to feelings of violation, shame, and powerlessness, with lasting emotional trauma. The risk of STIs and unintended pregnancies adds further strain.

Stealthing is not a slip-up or a minor inconvenience; it is a form of sexual assault that violates a person's boundaries, trust, and consent, and at least one state, California, has made it illegal to do it.

Emotional manipulation is ever-present and ever-evolving. Therefore, giving a name to these sneaky tactics, no matter how they sound, is always essential. Being able to identify when someone is behaving in a way that is manipulative and/or emotionally abusive is the first step in being able to then respond in a way that protects your well-being and mental health.

covers of books written by Latine authors

This article republishedfrom the 19th News with permission.

Romina Garber had always been an avid reader of fantasy stories, especially Harry Potter, but something ate at her: She could never find another Latina in the stories.

“I couldn’t find someone that reflected me or represented me, and that always really bothered me,” she said. So Garber wrote the story of a young girl who discovers she’s a lobizona, a werewolf of Argentine folklore. But when Garber began looking for literary representation for the book that would eventually be “Lobizona,” 15 years ago, no one wanted it.

Garber remembers one agent telling her that “no one cared about Argentine immigrants.” There was no American market for the title, and it’s not what people wanted to read. Garber felt her identity, not just her book, being rejected.

“He was talking about me, he wasn’t talking about my characters,” Garber said. “It really crushed me. And after that, I just realized I can’t write about myself.”So she began writing allegorical science fiction instead, creating a world where everyone is divided up by their zodiac sign. Garber found an agent with this new concept and finished publishing the four-book series in 2017. But Garber’s mind drifted back to the first book she tried to sell about an undocumented immigrant lobizona. It felt more urgent than ever: The news was filled with stories of immigrant children being detained in cages during the Trump administration’s border crackdowns.

Now armed with an agent from her science fiction series, her book was sold to a publisher. “Lobizona,” the first in the Wolves Of No World Duology, was released in 2020. Garber regrets that she ever shelved the story in the first place. “I should never have stopped fighting.”

There have been a few standout successes for Latinx authors in the realm of speculative fiction — which includes fantasy, science fiction and dystopian stories — and many are written by women and LGBTQ+ authors. Books such as Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Mexican Gothic” and Aiden Thomas’ “Cemetery Boys” have been New York Times bestsellers. Moreno-Garcia’s “The Daughter of Doctor Moreau” is up for the genre’s prestigious Hugo Award.

Publishers have backed a few bright stars, but that doesn’t translate into broader support. Publishing, both the industry and the authors, are overwhelmingly White. For Latinx authors, that can mean an industry that flattens cultural nuances, tokenizing and misrepresenting the speculative worlds they are dreaming into existence.

Analysis has shown that 95 percent of English-language fiction books published from 1950 to 2018 were written by White authors. A 2019 report on the racial diversity of the publishing industry showed 76 percent of the staff are White, primarily cisgender, heterosexual women. Only 6 percent of the publishing industry is Latinx, despite representing 19 percent of the U.S. population.

Speculative fiction has been used to explore Latinx experiences for decades. Foundational scholars in Chicano studies, like Gloria Anadúlza and Cherríe Moraga, have incorporated science fiction storytelling into their works, said Matthew David Goodwin, assistant professor of Chicano studies at University of New Mexico at Albuquerque. His research for the last 15 years has focused on Latinx people in science fiction.

Two key elements of science fiction are representations of the future and technology, said Goodwin. He sees the impact on his students, most of whom are Chicana, when they read Latinx science fiction stories.

“Every single semester, they say, ‘I have never seen a Chicana character in the future. I’ve never seen a Mexican character in the future.’ And they’re very excited about it even if they don’t care about science fiction,” Goodwin said. “They see that’s significant.”

There are specific genre themes that resonate with Latinx experiences, too.

“The migration is really central to science fiction, and Latinx writers are picking up on that. And so the journey to outer space becomes a kind of mirror for migration from Cuba to Florida or from crossing the border,” Goodwin said. “And then you can deal with all the other issues that come in about how workers are treated in the U.S.”

Science fiction gave Garber a chance to highlight real-world problems that the Latinx community faces, even if the characters weren’t explicitly Latinx. Her Zodiac series “tackles xenophobia and discrimination and the prejudices we hold, but I had to do it in this ‘silly’ way of using the zodiac signs, because I found that using real world stuff was so charged,” she said. “It had to be this symbolic representation.”

Goodwin is confident there is an appetite for Latinx speculative fiction: He has co-edited several anthologies of Latinx science fiction. The third one is currently being compiled, and like the last two will be funded via Kickstarter — a direct demonstration of people fronting money to read these stories.

It’s a “no-brainer” that women and LGBTQ+ people are writing some of the most highly acclaimed speculative fiction books, said CeCe Lyra, an agent at P. S. Literary Agency and co-host of “The Shit No One Tells You About Writing” podcast.

“If you have always belonged, if you’ve never had to claw your way … then you don’t have to go to the fantastical. The world that’s in front of you is enough because it’s straightforward,” Lyra said. “You don’t have a second life that you live that you don’t get to share with others.”

In recent years, editors have been more enthusiastic about acquiring Latinx speculative fiction, Lyra said. There was a huge push to acquire more books centered on race and diverse perspectives in 2020, after the Black Lives Matter protests sparked a racial reckoning among industries.

Vanessa Aguirre, an assistant editor at St. Martin’s Press, agrees that demand from publishers is on the rise.

“People are just more aware of the stories that aren’t being told, and the voices that aren’t being centered,” Aguirre said. “Part of the nature of science fiction and fantasy is wanting to explore new worlds,” she said — even if those worlds are new to only the White imagination.

Still, Lyra wonders if the investment feels complete. Authors of color tend to get lower advances for their books, even if they have an established track record of success. She has seen how books that aren’t positioned well — with a robust marketing plan and dedicated staff behind it — don’t succeed.

“It’s a noble initiative. But part of me wonders if it’s more about feeling like you’re checking a box almost as opposed to actually doing the work,” Lyra said. “Because buying the books isn’t enough. … You must properly support these books.”

Part of it, Lyra said, is that many people in the publishing industry don’t know “how to even pitch the story.” Many people are familiar with the Latin American literary tradition of magical realism, which infuses magic into an otherwise ordinary world, and have heard of books like “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez.

But this can be a double-edged sword: Magical realism is a cultural tradition that offers inspiration to some authors, but it can also be used to pigeonhole others. It is widely accepted for Latinx authors to write magical realism, Goodwin said, but that doesn’t carry over to other speculative genres.

Zoraida Córdova, author of the Brooklyn Brujas series and “The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina,” said that at a publicity event for “Labyrinth Lost” a panelist kept referring to her book as magical realism. Córdova had to correct them and say the book, which follows three sister brujas in Brooklyn, was actually urban fantasy.

A lack of understanding of the Latin American diaspora and few Latinx editors are part of the reason why Córdova thinks Latinx fantasy has struggled to take off. Editors don’t know how to define the genre and don’t know what to look for.

“I hesitate to say that this is because of publishers,” said Córdova, when asked about reasons for a rise in prominent Latinx speculative fiction. “I almost feel like it’s in spite of publishers.”

Garber needed someone to review the Spanish she used in “Lobizona,” but no editors were equipped to help her. She had to ask the book’s translator to review the Spanish in the original text. Later, her publisher chose to translate the book into neutral Spanish, despite all the characters speaking the Argentine dialect in the English version. Because of that, Garber got heat from at least one Argentine reviewer for inaccurate representation

Publishing can be somewhat risk-averse, so any increase in speculative fiction titles by Latinx authors can be helpful because it gives them a point of comparison. These previously-published “comp titles” are used by authors, agents and editors to get buy-in for a book. Editors like Aguirre can point to their success to build stronger cases for new titles.

An editor can say, “‘Look, this book did super well, somebody took a chance on this book, and this book is similar to that.’ So it obviously makes the decision easier even from a financial point of view,” Aguirre said.

But it is hard to find comp titles when stories like yours aren’t given a chance. When Córdova was trying to sell her book “Labyrinth Lost,” which came out in 2014, publishers had never seen anything like it before. “Because there was nothing to comp it to,” she said.

Despite that hesitation, she found a publisher. But Córdova had to change the name of her manuscript; it was originally titled “Bruja.”

“They needed to change the title because they said that the readership would not understand what the word bruja meant,” she said. “To me the understanding was like, obviously English-speaking White people, their demographic.”

But just over a year later, Córdova’s publisher proposed the title “Bruja Born” for the second book in the trilogy. “I don’t know what happened in those 18 months, but they sort of did a 180 in like, oh, diversity is good. Now Spanish is OK,” she said.

A book’s perceived value translates into how much authors are paid for their work. Publishing houses give authors a monetary advance based in part on how well they think the book will sell. Agents can negotiate better terms for the writers they represent when there are multiple interested parties. In other words, publishers need to follow through on commitments to diverse acquisitions.

“As an agent, it’s harder for me to push for significantly better terms if there’s only one person interested. So if you only have one editor who’s really into a story of a three generations of Mexican-American women, then the price is not going to go super up,” Lyra said. “But if you have five editors interested then you’ll get those numbers.”

But competition can be difficult when it feels like there are only so many opportunities to go around. Publishing can foster a sense of scarcity and stoke fears that a manuscript will get rejected because there is already another book by a Latinx author recently acquired, said an author who spoke to The 19th on condition of anonymity because she was concerned sharing her experiences would negatively impact her career and livelihood.

“People like to recycle platitudes like ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ or ‘there’s room for all of us to succeed,’ but I think it’s a little more complicated than that for marginalized authors. We’re more likely to be on the receiving end of a rejection saying, ‘We already have one of these,’” the author said.

This tokenization is part of what made Rafael Nicolás turn away from traditional publishing. After he self-published his novel “Angels Before Man,” a queer retelling of the fall of Satan, he got an agent and received interest from editors about republishing the book and its sequels

Nicolás revised “Angels Before Man” to submit to editors at publishing houses, and he wanted to increase the number of “Latin Americanisms” in the story. He asked his agent whether that would result in pushback from editors, but they told him the opposite: It might make the book more marketable.

That gave Nicolás pause. He has observed a flattening of Latin American identity — the pan-continental term is rooted in colonialism, he pointed out — and a desire for aesthetics over authentic individual history.

“It’s just like checking off a representation list,” Nicolás said. “The entire way publishing thinks about diversity just kind of makes me uncomfortable.”

“Ultimately, at the end of the day, they care about selling whatever you’re writing to a White audience,” Nicolás continued. “And I don’t think that’s going to change at all.”

That, combined with insinuations that his books might need to be heavily changed due to the amount of queer sex and violence in them, made him change his mind. He stopped submitting to publishers and self-published the revised version of his book this September. He foresees self-publication for all of his future titles.

Going forward, authors want to see more complex depictions of the Latinx experience and richer displays of the diversity of the diaspora, including stories by Indigenous and Afro-Latinx authors.

The publishing landscape can look bleak for speculative Latinx authors, but attitudes are changing. And Latinx editors and agents are excited to usher through stories that represent them.

“We’re out here, people who want to acquire Latino voices, people who want to champion them, they’re in publishing,” Aguirre said. Change is happening, and organizations such as Latinx In Publishing and Las Musas provide mentorship, opportunities and much-needed camaraderie.

Garber feels the power of community through Las Musas, and sees how things have changed. When Garber thinks about how her manuscript was rejected 15 years ago, she can’t imagine it happening now. “And if it did, I would feel more empowered to go take it to my people,” she said. “I feel like we’re less silent, I feel less powerless. We’re nowhere near done, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.”