Love Bombing: What It Is, and Why To Look Out For It
Many of us are familiar with the five love languages: words of affirmation, gifts, quality time, acts of service, and physical touch. They summarize the way we communicate and express love for another person. In a healthy relationship, we enjoy offering our love in at least one of these ways, and we equally enjoy being on the receiving end. Because who doesn’t love a romantic gesture? But when one person in a new relationship turns up the dial on one or all of these love languages, it’s called love bombing. And it’s a sign that something sinister might be going on.
Beware The Love Bomber
Love bombing is a predatory behaviour that can be incredibly confusing for the person being love bombed. The love bomber showers their victim with gifts, or creates a false sense of intimacy through exaggerated professions of their affection, such as excessive messaging. They tell their victim exactly what they want to hear, and play into their insecurities. Love bombers use this tactic to manipulate someone into falling in love, so they can abuse their trust. It is common among narcissists who are incapable of true intimacy and seek out other people to fulfil their needs: love bombing blinds the receiver into believing they are seen and accepted for who they are, rather than what they can do for the narcissist or manipulator. Love bombing doesn’t only exist in the context of romantic relationships, either: it can happen in any other situation where a vulnerable person seeking love or affection, or a sense of belonging, can be taken advantage of. For instance, it’s actually a commonly-used technique in recruitment for cults
The Dangers Of Being Love Bombed
The person on the receiving end of love bombing is at a high risk of being exploited. They will believe they have met someone who is generous, honest about their feelings, and easy to get to know. They will feel swept up in the romance of the situation and have no reason to doubt that this exciting, passionate affair is the real deal. But there is actually a power imbalance at play and extreme cases of exploitation through love bombing can be devastating. For instance, The Tinder Swindler, a 2022 documentary streamed on Netflix, interviews a number of women who fell in love with the same man through his use of the love bombing tactic一and who were manipulated out of huge amounts of money through the process, left with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of debt.
How To Know When Love Bombs
Intimacy and trust take time to build. Love bombers are trying to fast-track these relationship foundations, so it’s important to tune into your intuition when a relationship seems to be moving very fast. Staying grounded and rooted in your own self-worth is your best defense. Here are some areas to keep an eye on:
Examine your boundaries.
Someone who is genuinely falling in love with you will respect your boundaries and be patient. This means knowing when you need some space, and being able to assert this need. Do you feel safe to do that? If the answer is no, it’s a red flag in any relationship.
Note what’s going on in their life.
Have you become their focal point? Do they seem to be making grand and unrealistic decisions that include you in big life plans within just a few months? It’s not healthy for anyone to pour all of their energy into another person.
Assess their communication style.
Is it so constant that it’s difficult to keep up? Do you feel guilty if you aren’t able to reply straight away? Excessive communication is a sign of anxious attachment and insecurity, which is an unstable foundation for any relationship.
Watch out for coercive behavior.
Are there little things they try and convince you to do, even if you feel reluctant? Do they express expectations or set demands around how you should behave or treat them? Guilt and coercion have no place in a loving relationship.
Compare what they say with what they do.
Does their talk match up to their actions? Do they speak as if you are their savior? This is too much to put on another person. Do they tell you that they can’t imagine their life without you, and then disappear for a few days? If something doesn’t add up, trust your gut.
Explore the friction.
Is everything going a little too well? If you feel any friction, is it because they want something from you? Any two people entering a relationship will come up against compatibility issues at some point, and no relationship is perfect or always easy, but love bombers are skilled at shape-shifting into their target’s idea of the perfect mate. If you’re struggling to ever fault them at any level, it’s a sign that they simply aren’t being real.
If you think you may be being love bombed (whether intentionally or unintentionally), there are a few things you can do to help regain your perspective and sense of control over the situation. While it isn’t your job to try and change their behavior ー and that can be a losing battle ー you can begin by counteracting some of their tactics, and seeing how they (and you) respond to that. You can politely decline or refuse their gifts, and communicate how their excessive compliments and praise are making you feel uncomfortable. You can also ensure that you maintain strong relationships with people outside of the relationship一if you feel like you’ve left them slip away due to a period of being isolated in intensity with the love bomber, the first step can be to reach out and rekindle these external connections before rebuilding them. It is essential to have a good support network that can help you remain honest with yourself about the situation, give you the courage to stand up for yourself, and walk away from the situation if need be.
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals and other resources that influenced this article: Speaking The Language Of Relational Maintenance: A Validity Test Of Chapman’s Five Love Languages; Love-Bombing: A Narcissistic Approach To Relationship Formation.
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