What is love bombing? It’s the “too much too soon” wake-up call that most people confuse with adoration and adulation. In the majority of the love bomb cases, people don’t realize what they’re dealing with until it’s late because the thrill of being in a new relationship and the excitement of falling in love can numb our logical and practical senses.
The excessive attention you receive from your love interest is enough to make you feel like you are floating in the air. The extravagant and lavish gifts you are receiving are enough to spike up the levels of endorphin and dopamine in your body. You begin to think of this person as your one true love. However, when you find out that you were being love bombed, you’re left shattered and heartbroken, primarily because, by then, you’re in too deep and may struggle to break the attachment you’ve formed.
The hope of bringing back the good old days when your partner’s entire world revolved around you keeps you trapped in what often turn out to be abusive relationships. The sad reality is that pinning your hopes on those days is akin to chasing a mirage. The only way to safeguard yourself is to learn how to identify and deal with the manipulative tactics of love bombers. We’re here to help you do just that in consultation with psychologist Juhi Pandey (M.A. Psychology), who specializes in dating, premarital, and breakup counseling.
What Is Love Bombing?
The first-ever study to examine love bombing found a connection between narcissists and love bombers. It is said that love bombing is a logical and potentially necessary strategy for romantic relationships among individuals with high displays of narcissism and low levels of self-esteem.
Love bombing can be termed as a conditioning tool or a tool of abuse that is used by a person to gain, maintain, and assert control in the relationship. While anyone can indulge in love bombing, this manipulative tactic is usually a narcissist’s weapon of choice to establish control in a relationship.
That’s why it’s always crucial to question the “too good to be true” gut feeling you get when someone showers you with admiration, crosses your boundaries, makes you the center of their universe within just two weeks of dating, wants to spend all their time with you, and buys you expensive gifts.
The love bombing definition boils down to an overdose of attention and compliments to blindside the person at the receiving end. It is not just a reflection of the mental health of the person perpetuating it but can also be extremely damaging to the person receiving this love. Experts also view this as a form of emotional abuse.
Juhi says, “There is nothing wrong with showering your love on someone. It’s only natural to want to spend time with someone you are falling in love with. Some people don’t know any other type of love language than gift-giving. That is fine as well. However, when the sole intent behind these gestures is to make one’s partner feel guilty, emotionally dependent, and indebted, then it’s outright abuse.”
Characteristics of love bombing/bomber
When you are the victim of love bombing, the behavior of the person you are dating may not seem problematic to you. The red flags and signs of love bombing are often hidden in plain sight. You will even brag about their over-the-top gestures to your close friends and family members. And this is exactly what the love bomber wants. They want everyone to know how loving and caring they are.
Juhi says, “As human beings, we have the desire to be appreciated and cherished by other people, because of which love bombing actually works. Narcissists easily take advantage of a human’s intense desire to be wanted and loved. Humans are hard-wired to instincts and they hardly ever fail us. Unfortunately, when a person is falling in love, they become so blind that these over-the-top gestures of gift giving, outrageous display of attention and affection, and subtle gaslighting and manipulation don’t appear as warning signs.”
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Love bombing goes through three phases.
- Idealization: In this first phase, the love bomber keeps bombarding the target with compliments and such affection that the target feels like the most special and perfect person in the world
- Devaluation: Eventually, the affectionate love bomber will turn into a cruel critic, finding faults in your behavior and giving ultimatums in a relationship. Through devaluation, the target is made dependent on the love bomber
- Discard: The love bomber becomes disinterested in the target and leaves him/her. Or the bomber utilizes discard to manipulate the relationship further
12 Signs You are Being Love-Bombed
Recognizing a love bomber is not going to be so easy. Your partner might be genuinely expressing his/her love for you and you do not want to upset them by accusing them of trying to control you. Therefore, you have to be aware of the following 12 signs of love bombing which will help you differentiate between genuine love and affection and overtures meant to serve as stepping stones to future abuse:
1. The relationship is moving at an unbelievable pace
When the relationship goes a mile a minute, it’s one of the obvious signs of love bombing. You met them three weeks ago, had sex three dates later, and in the fourth week, you moved in together. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds and the signs your relationship is moving too fast is one of the biggest red flags to watch out for. The entire process of falling in love will seem too dramatic. It’s not just you who’s taken aback by the pace of the relationship. Your close friends and loved ones will be surprised and concerned too.
For example, it’s genuine love when you’ve been dating for over a year and the thought of moving in together is being healthily discussed. However, it’s love bombing when one partner pressures the other to move in together within just two months of dating. Feeling compelled or obligated to do as your partner wishes will make you feel like you are being stifled in the relationship.
2. They will spend lavishly on you
Juhi says, “A love bomber loves to buy gifts that will make the other party feel indebted to them. As if they can’t repay this gift in any way. All of this may seem harmless when you have rose-colored glasses on. But in reality, this act of gift-giving is done with the intent of making you feel like you owe them something.”
Love bombers who are narcissists want to gain control. They love to feel like they have the upper hand in the relationship. They will try to win your trust with affection and gifts.
3. They will shower you with praises and compliments
This is one of the signs of love bombing I couldn’t see in my previous relationship. At the onset of our relationship, my former partner, a narcissist, would constantly compliment me. And those weren’t your basic compliments “you’re beautiful” or “you’re so cute”, but very specific like “You have such slender fingers” or “I like how you raise your eyebrows when you talk about literature.”
He knew what would sweep me off my feet and he used it to make me fall in love with him. In retrospect, I don’t see anything charming about him except his innumerable ways of praising me and buying me expensive things. He made sure that my self-worth and self-esteem were linked to his opinions and judgments. That’s why love bombers have compliments stacked up their sleeve. They will tell you exactly what you want to hear.
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4. They will bombard you with messages and calls
One of the major signs of love bombing is that your partner will constantly text and call you. You may have been dating them for just two weeks yet they’d spend every waking hour texting you. That’s unnatural because it takes time for two people to develop such an intense emotional connection. But for love bombers, it’s one of the tactics to make you feel like you are important to them.
It’s not unusual to want to know everything about the person you’ve been seeing. However, it’s a red flag when all this attention and over-the-top conversations begin to overwhelm you and you feel like you are being trapped.
5. They will mold themselves into something they are not to make you like them
Juhi says, “In cases where the narcissist is a serial dater, they will know how to change their personality based on who they are talking to. They will perfectly morph themselves into someone they are not. Why? Because they want you to see them as someone you would fancy and admire. It’s one of the common signs of fake relationships.”
You need to be on high alert when a person pretends to be someone they’re not just so you can fall for them. “Oh, you’re a vegetarian? So am I”. “I know you love Van Gogh. I, too, am a huge fan of all things art.” It could be a coincidence as well. But if your gut says something is wrong, then don’t ignore that feeling. This person might have researched all about you in order to make you fall in love with them.
6. They drop the ‘L’ word way too soon
Some people fall in love at first sight, some fall in love after spending a lot of time with a romantic prospect, and some fall in love after sharing emotional vulnerabilities with a person they’re attracted to. However, with a love bomber, you will get the feeling that they’re saying “I love you” too soon. When these feelings take hold without any emotional or physical intimacy between you two, it’s one of the signs they don’t truly love you.
I am not saying you can’t fall in love without knowing a person completely. All I am saying is, to sustain that love, you NEED to know them inside out. Otherwise, the relationship will fall flat. If a love bomber is someone who barely knows you, they can’t claim to love you without knowing your traumas, weaknesses, fears, and secrets.
7. They don’t understand healthy boundaries
A love bomber gets offended when you bring up the need for healthy boundaries and privacy. In fact, they will make you feel guilty about wanting space and independence in the relationship. That’s because an abuser doesn’t want you to have any sort of freedom.
For example, if you tell them you want some alone time for yourself, they may guilt-trip you by saying things like, “I thought you liked spending time with me” or “You are driving me away by asking for alone time”. This constant pushback will leave you feeling you confused and conflicted that you will surrender to their demands and let them walk all over you.
8. They keep tabs on you
Juhi says, “They will be in continuous contact with you as means to keep tabs on you. This could look like care and showing concern but nothing could be further from the truth. This is their tactic to manipulate you to win your affection.”
A narcissist who is a lover bomber will be interested in knowing what you are doing 24×7. Not just that, they will make it a point to track your whereabouts and every activity. What you are doing, where you are partying, and who you are partying with – they will know everything without you informing them about these things.
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9. Commitment is a topic they discuss everyday
A basic rule of any relationship is not to rush things. The faster you move, the harder you will crash and burn. You can’t go from dating to seeing each other to exclusively dating in just three months. But with a love bomber, all stages of a relationship seem to move at a meteoric pace. They will pressure you into making a decision.
Genuine relationships take time to form. You have to foster a great deal of emotional and physical closeness to build a healthy relationship with someone. It’s a constant effort you put in to make something last. But when you are being smothered by a love bomber, they wouldn’t want to slow down or take things forward at a pace you’re both comfortable with.
10. You are expected to love them the way they want to be loved
Apart from wanting your attention and depending on you for their happiness, they also expect you to love them a certain way. You are expected to cater to their demand for affection as per their whims and needs. Here is one of the love bombing examples. Let’s say your partner texts you. If you take a little longer than usual to reply, they get mad. In extreme cases, this anger can turn into abuse as well.
You can differentiate love bombing and genuine care by paying attention to how a person reacts when things don’t go their way. A person who cares about you will ask if you were stuck at work or if you had any family emergency to deal with.
Juhi says, “They want you to be perfect because a narcissist love bomber thinks they are perfect. They believe everything needs to be flawless and must be carried out just as they want and expect. When things don’t go their way, they will wreak havoc in your life.”
11. Others warn you about your partner
As a result of being love bombed, you will not be able to see your partner’s true colors (not at first anyway). But there might be people close to you who recognize the intentions of your partner and warn you. You must pay heed to those warnings to save yourself in time.
A love bomber will have the most charming personality at the beginning, but as the relationship unravels, they might prove to be a control freak or an emotional abuser. So if your friends and family members are trying to drop hints or warn you, pay attention. Chances are they are trying to tell you, you will be love bombed and dumped.
12. You walk on eggshells around them
Juhi adds, “You aren’t just walking on eggshells around them but you also don’t feel safe. You will feel like if things don’t go according to the love bomber’s expectations, you will have to bear the brunt of it. You will be punished if things don’t go a certain way. You will be left feeling iffy mentally and physically. This is your cue to take action against them or you risk being trapped in the narcissistic love bombing cycle forever.”
If you feel like you can’t speak your heart out or you can’t openly share what’s on your mind with your partner, then it’s one of the classic signs of love bombing in a relationship. You need to face them and let them know that you are not game for this sort of behavior.
How To Save Yourself From Love Bombing?
The point here is simple. A love bomber will manipulate you with attention, gifts, compliments, and over-the-top sweet actions. All this is done in order to gain control and make you feel powerless. So, how can you save yourself from a gaslighting partner or a narcissistic love bomber?
First, you need to acknowledge your instinct and intuition. If you have a gut feeling that something seems off about the entire relationship, then address this with your friends and family members. If this abusive relationship turns violent at any point, you must prioritize your safety and make arrangements to leave immediately. You can contact the national domestic violence hotline for help in figuring out your next steps.
Even if you’re not a victim of domestic violence, being in a relationship with a love bomber can leave you emotionally wounded and strip you of your sense of self-worth. Here are some other things you can do to save yourself from being love bombed:
- Create space by not accepting any expensive gifts at the initial stages of the relationship
- Recognize their lack of empathy and kindness toward others. A person who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) will exhibit a lack of empathy toward those who have nothing to offer them
- Don’t be the only one to open up in the relationship. Sharing vulnerabilities and insecurities should be a two-way street in any relationship and must happen at the right time. Don’t share your weaknesses if the other person hasn’t yet. They might use it as ammunition against you
- Create a checklist of what a healthy relationship looks like. If nothing from that checklist matches your situation at the moment, it’s one of the alarming signs of being in an unhealthy relationship
- Don’t isolate yourself from your family and friends. Keep meeting your loved ones who will give you a reality check every now and then
- If you have genuinely fallen in love with a love bomber and want to try to save the relationship, then convince them to seek help. You can talk to a licensed clinical psychologist or go into couple’s therapy to manage this situation as healthily as possible. If professional help is what you are looking for, then Bonobology’s panel of experienced counselors is only a click away
- If you were love bombed, the road to recovery can be long and challenging. Finding the right support system can make all the difference in times like this. Here are some online support groups you can turn to: Loveisrespect.org is an organization that provides assistance to anyone who is experiencing dating abuse; Boundaries of Steel: A Workbook for Managing and Recovering from Toxic Relationships is a book on toxic relationships and how to deal with narcissists; Narcissistic Abuse Support Group (NASG) is an online support group for those recovering from an abusive relationship
- A narcissistic love bomber will try to create an illusion of an intense, passionate love when in reality they don’t even know you properly
- Some of the common signs of love bombing include excessive compliments, grand gestures, absence of space and boundaries and keeping tabs on you
- Love bombing is harmful because it’s a narcissist’s way of trying to blind you from seeing their real character and from seeing where they are taking the relationship
Love blinds you when you feel flattered and impressed every step of the way, and that is the first warning sign of love bombing. The true feelings of love are about equal respect, affection, healthy boundaries, and compromise. Whereas, love bombing feels sudden and mismatched.
This article has been updated in November 2022.
If your partner is showing you too much care and concern, going out of the way to support your ambitions, making extra efforts to bond with your family and besties and at the same time you feel overwhelmed and drained by their love, then it is a sign you are being love bombed. It is indeed a relationship red flag.
It usually lasts till you acknowledge their advances and express your love. They become more intense in their love bombing act till you commit. By the way, a love bomber can harass and heckle you for commitment and when you give it, they start shifting their stance.
It’s hard to reject love bombing because you usually feel good with all the attention. But when it becomes too much to take, you want to reject it. By then you are already in a relationship and it results in a breakup. But a love bomber narcissist keeps hoovering after that.
Narcissists usually have low self-esteem and need to feel desirable all the time. So it’s not that hard to love bomb a narcissist if you can up your game plan and shower them attention. Narcissists have huge egos and if that is massaged they are super happy. But you have to be very intelligent if you want to go to the next stage of manipulation and control with a narcissist.
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