The beginning of a relationship is intoxicating. You and your paramour feel like two peas in a pod. You can’t get enough of each other, you finish each other’s sentences, and you spend all your time wondering how you got along in life before you met each other. These are the fun times, when you’re getting to know each other and everything is rosy with the promise of true love.
Most people know that the early warm and fuzzies will eventually give way to more enduring love — if the relationship is meant to last. But sometimes, those early days might be the only time that things are happy and good in your relationship. Most healthy relationships shift into a more solid kind of love. But some were built on a fake foundation to begin with. If you’ve ever been love bombed, you were legitimately scammed into a relationship — only to find that you were dating someone you never knew.
Pop culture tends to hyper focus on charming yet sinister men like the Tinder Swindler, but women can also be perpetrators of this phenomenon. If you’re concerned that you might be the victim of love bombing, keep reading to understand what it is, how it differs from a true honeymoon phase, and what to do to protect yourself.
What is Love Bombing?
While love bombing can mimic the honeymoon stage of a healthy new relationship, it’s not the same. Real honeymoon stages grow organically, but love bombing is best characterized as “too much, too soon.” Victims of love bombing often describe feeling like they were swept off their feet, that their partners pushed for commitment very early, or that their partner made them feel like the most important person in the world.
But what’s actually happening is something insidious. Bayu Prihandito, a certified psychology expert and life coach warns that “the danger of love bombing lies in its ability to blind the victim to red flags.” While your partner is showering you with praise, they’re often monopolizing your time, and gently pressuring you to prioritize them over everything else, or to get serious faster than you would normally do.
Love bombing is a sneaky tactic that creates control in unhealthy relationship dynamics. It’s a behavioral pattern that draws people in and through excessive displays of affections, quickly creates an attachment that is often accompanied with a power imbalance in the relationship.
What Are the Signs of Love Bombing?
It’s important to note that every relationship is different. So, even though a love-bombing partner will follow certain patterns, individual behaviors and experiences within your relationship will be different. However, a few key patterns to watch out for — especially in the beginning of a relationship —include:
- Excessive flattery or praise
- Constantly sharing their feelings for you
- Excessive gift giving
- Pushing to get serious too early into the relationship
Why Do People Engage in Love Bombing?
Anyone can be guilty of being a little too flattering to get their way. But in the case of love bombing, you’re dealing with someone who has deep insecurities. They might fear abandonment, or may have more serious behavioral concerns like an anxious or insecure attachment style.
Ultimately, it still comes down to control. Someone engaging in love bombing is trying to force a connection so that you won’t leave, and so that they’ll have control in the relationship. More importantly, when the honeymoon phase ends in a relationship marked by love bombing, your partner might switch to more harmful types of manipulation to control you. This might include gaslighting, emotional abuse, and even physical abuse. Note that emotional abuse can be just as harmful as being the victim of physical abuse.
Dr. Martha Tara Lee, D.H.S., M.A., B.A., a relationship counselor and clinical sexologist, reminds us that love bombing is dangerous because it can create “an intense emotional bond that can cloud judgment.” This is a trauma bond, keeping you with someone who’s not in your best interest. And, since you remember the early love phase, you’re too emotionally invested and unwilling to leave.
What to Expect with Love Bombing?
Love bombing isn’t just about romantic partnerships. Dr. Lee adds that “love bombing can occur in various types of relationships, including romantic relationships, friendships, or even within cults or extremist groups.” As mentioned previously, love bombing occurs at the beginning of a relationship and is always the first in the complete love bombing relationship cycle.
Idealization is the first step in love bombing and this is essentially the honeymoon stage. You’re showered with affection, presents, and professions of love. In your partner’s eyes, you’re perfect and you’re swept off your feet.
Once you’re in the relationship long enough, this is where the switch occurs. The devaluation stage leaves people feeling like they’re dating Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Your once loving partner is often cruel to you, making verbal put downs, and harming you either emotionally or physically — especially in private. But publicly, they continue to shower you with praise so that no one will question their motives.
However, love bombing is also linked with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). The idealization stage is the first in the NPD relationship cycle — followed by devaluing, repetition, and discarding. In many cases, people in relationships with a person with NPD may cycle through idealization and devaluation several times before it ends. But the idealization stage gets shorter and more time is spent being devalued.
It’s easy to get swept up by love bombing, and even the savviest person might fall victim to it. By the time most people realize they’re in an unhealthy relationship, the love-bombing stage is over, and they’re deep into the devaluing and discard cycle.
How is Love Bombing Different from a Healthy Relationship?
When you’re knee deep in a romantic relationship, it’s hard to maintain perspective. And this is the point of love bombing. You’re so overwhelmed with positive attention and affection that you can’t step back and see if a person’s words and actions are matching up.
A good way to see if you’re dealing with a love bomber is if they don’t respect your boundaries. If you’re flooded with gifts and professions of love, and it’s making you feel a little uncomfortable, say something. If your romantic partner doesn’t course correct and either continues to do those things, or “benevolently gaslights” you by saying that you’re just misunderstanding things, it’s possible that your relationship dynamic is unhealthy. Be on the lookout for these signs that you might have a love bomber on your hands.
Meeting the ‘rents Too Soon
If you’re in a relationship long enough, it’s definitely a must to meet someone’s family or even their inner circle of friends. But with a love bomber, they just met you and are already trying to rope you into family functions. This is a red flag that you might be dealing with a love bomber.
Pushing for Commitment
The “what are we” conversation is necessary, and having emotional check-in talks is also important. But with a love bomber, it feels like you’re always on this merry-go round. They’re constantly confessing their love for you and also demanding for you to affirm your love for them, and might even do it publicly to pressure you to reciprocate.
They Can Never Get Enough Attention
No one wants to be ignored, but love bombers push for one-on-one time — all the time. Even though you have a social circle and family, they often imply that you’re neglecting them if you spend time with anyone other than them. This particular behavior can cause you to isolate yourself from others as the relationship progresses and the “gentle” complaints about how you spend your time turn into big fights. To avoid them, you might skip spending time with loved ones.
What Does ‘No’ Mean?
Love bombers are notorious for not respecting boundaries. This includes you telling them that they’re coming on too strong and them gaslighting you into thinking that you’re overreacting. If you find yourself constantly calling out your partner’s behavior and them always turning it on you, you’re probably in an unhealthy relationship.
The Relationship Is Draining
It’s normal to have a few doubts about a new relationship — especially if you just got out of one. But trust your gut. If your inner voice is constantly screaming at you when your new beau is around, don’t ignore it. And, if you’ve voiced concerns to your partner and they still bulldoze over your boundaries, run.
Recovering From Love Bombing
Depending on how bad your relationship was with a love bomber, you might have endured emotional abuse, gaslighting, or even physical abuse. Likewise, you might feel off balance and leery about starting another relationship. It’s not uncommon for people that were love bombed to blame themselves even though they did nothing wrong.
Don’t be afraid to seek help if you’ve been the victim of love bombing. A licensed therapist can help you work through what just happened, and even help you identify if there were red flags that maybe you didn’t see, or if there are certain unhealthy behaviors that you’re subconsciously drawn to.