For those who don’t know what a garrapata is, it’s Spanish for tick. I’m not talking about the mark you long for on your graded paper, but the other kind.

A garrapata is the sneaky parasite, who lies in wait in the long grass, until an unsuspecting warm-blooded victim walks past. Then superfast, they jump on to their innocent host, crawling about their flesh until they find a nice warm, vulnerable stop in which to snuggle down and sink their fangs into. Once attached, they settle down to get lovely and fat on a rich diet of blood.

What follows is the metaphor I teach my clients when they are exiting their old destructive relationship and contemplating entering a new one. It is my narrative counterattack against Rom-Com mentality.

Let me explain…

Rom-com narrative: boy meets girl, boy falls madly in love with girl in an instant, sweeps her off her feet, they go on to live happily ever after.

This storyline I’m afraid is total horse manure. You need to get rid of this romantic brainwashing right now. It’s what makes you vulnerable to a garrapata.

Here’s how the garrapata uses it:

Garrapata Move 1: I feel like I’ve known you forever. I feel like I could really see a future with you. I feel like you are who I’ve been waiting for all my life.

Garrapata Move 2: We should really live together. Get married. Have a baby.

Ladies, let’s get something straight right now, right here. If some random man is telling you this crap after 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months THIS IS A RED FLAG.

Stop right there, I can already hear you, ‘but what about my boyfriend I just met, 1 month after splitting up with my abusive boyfriend who beat me. This one does everything for me, he’s the man of my dreams….blah blah blah…’

I’m going to lay this out once and for all:

He’s on the make. That’s it.

He needs to feed. He’s probably being thrown out of his apartment, fallen out with his Boss, got serious addiction problems, or his current girlfriend is tossing him to the kerb, and this man cannot function on his own. He’s incapable. What he needs a replacement carer (food source) quick.  

So, let’s return to our tick. What does he do? Remember he waits until some unwitting blood source walks by to find a lovely place to attach and feed. And that’s exactly what this guy is doing.

Let me spell it out for you. If you are coming out of a coercion and control relationship, there are 2 things we can take as true:

1. You are currently overwhelmed and a neurochemical mess – sorry but you just are – anxious, depressed, confused, lonely.

2. You got into the first relationship because you couldn’t read the danger signs.

So, with that said, what the hell makes you think you can read the signs now in your current state? Have you done any therapy work? Have you re-built your life of independence? Have you worked out what the hell you did wrong in being with that hideous ex in the first place?

If you are telling me, you’ve met Prince Charming after a month, I’m suspecting you’ve answered ‘no’ to a lot of the questions above. In which case, you are seriously at risk of invasion by another abusive man.

And here’s the rub, a garrapata knows the state you are in – you are even telling him (feeding him ammunition which he will use against you later). He can see, hear, and feel your vulnerability. You are screaming ‘hey I’m lost in the wilderness and have no clue what is going on’. You are the perfect victim, completely disoriented. He is going to do what he needs to do, to attach to you fast, I mean like lightning fast – he needs to feed remember.

That’s why suddenly you’ll find he’s in you house and you aren’t overly sure how he got there (it was supposed to be the weekend). You’ve only known him a month, but you are spending every minute with him. He whines if you say you’ve got stuff to do. He tells you he misses you sooooo much. You feel flattered and wanted, so drop everything to see him. (Truth told you haven’t got anything going on in your life anyway since the end of your last chaos, it was barely a month ago, so it feels good to have someone around and you tell yourself he’s so kind and considerate, not at all like the last one.)

Come on Ladies, admit it to yourself, you’ve only known this guy a handful of days. How the hell can you tell who he really is? You haven’t had time to evaluate. And remember this dude is a con artist. He will charm, and coo, and listen, and feed you ever corny Hallmark line he can, to get you bedazzled by him. He’s quite frankly a one-trick pony and this is it – romantic lying. And hey, he’s good at it, but darling, it’s damn short lived because it’s just a bloody act.

The garrapata relationship speed is quite honestly only appropriate when you are 5 and you tell mummy that ‘I’ve met my new bestest friend forever and ever today’. If you are grown woman, then believing this is how healthy relationships develop is just wrong; plain pathologically wrong.

I’m going to put a shout out for all those emotionally sound and healthy men. God love them. They DO NOT ACT LIKE THIS. They have lives, friends, families, jobs, hobbies. And here’s the big rub, they know something for certain: that they do not know you yet, so why the feck would they say they love you?

No self-respecting man is going to be proposing marriage after a fortnight because he knows that’s dangerous, stupid and would probably be based on his sex-oxytocin drive. He is going to get to know you, slowly, patiently, calmly. He will be assessing whether you are compatible on values, lifestyle, passion, ambition, parenting – you name it. And you, my dear, should be doing the same.

What he certainly isn’t going to be doing is turning up to your house, moving in and demanding you have a baby within a couple of months. That is a the garrapata attaching. Stop thinking about fairy tale nonsense like, love at first sight, it’s total fiction. At best, for you, it will be attraction at first sight; for the garrapata, food source at first sight.

Garrapatas must sell fast because if they give you time to think, you are going to see them. They cannot keep up the ‘love bombing’ for long, so they need to dazzle you, confuse you and hook you on them quick. So, the longer you keep them at a distance, the more time you get to see and evaluate who they truly are. I assure you it won’t take long before you see that they are subtly undermining you, using slips of anger, episodes of victimhood, and all the other stock in trade nonsense to keep you focussed on yourself as opposed to asking, ‘what is this guy actually bringing to the party?

You see garrapatas have got nothing going for them, except they can hustle. They know what you want to buy – love, affection, support, romance – and they’ll tell you that’s what they are selling. They will get in your life, your bed, your house as quickly as possible, Why? Because once they are in, they know it’s a bloody nightmare getting them out.

Fun Fact: if you try and remove a garrapata you are likely to end up with some hideous disease. The metaphor just keeps going.

So, Ladies for reference here’s a healthy relationship timeline:

  • 3 months to get to know someone superficially
  • 6 months to begin to build trust of their consistency in behaviour over time and place
  • 9 months to start to think about possible future planning
  • 12-24 months before any real commitment, significant life change (babies, living together, moving across the country)

Give yourself space between meeting up: to process, review and breathe. Watch what he does if you want space – a good man will respect that unquestioningly; a garrapata will cause a rumpus and say his actions are cause by love. Quite frankly arse to that – it’s a tactic get in your house and have you look after him.

Aiming for a longer courtship process, means you will have time to keep building your life, get into therapy, find out where your blind spots are in choosing partners, get a great job, find new friends and hobbies, explore every possibility. Whilst learning to avoid ‘too good to be true’ men (remember ‘too good to be true’ is the oldest sales red flag in the book). All the while you are going to be uber-busy getting on with all the great stuff in your new wonderful life.

And one last thing Ladies, for God’s sake if you realise, he’s a garrapata, get rid of him immediately before he attaches. No matter how lonely you are, how desperate you feel, don’t delude yourself you can be the one to change him. A quick Google search has shown me that there is currently estimated to be around 3,753 billion men in the world. That means you really don’t have to worry about scarcity. Don’t accept a garrapata because you think something is better than nothing, cause that is what you are going to be getting, nothing – again.

For an interesting (but kind of gross) video on garrapatas, watch this You Tube link – let this metaphor really sink in.