Love bombing is an abuse tactic used to lure or keep someone in a relationship. It often involves intense displays of affection, admiration, and grand gestures. Love bombing can happen at any relationship stage but is more common when two people first meet. While all this attention may seem flattering, it can be dangerously manipulative.
What Is Love Bombing?
Love bombing is defined as the continuous “bombing” of a person with flattery, compliments, and affection.1 It comes in various forms–gift-giving, long-winded messages, social media interactions, and passionate declarations of love–and is often used by those with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
Typically, a person being loved bombed will be flooded early in a relationship with their partner’s desire to discuss their future together. The love bomber may be overly communicative about their feelings for the person. The partner may even claim they love the person or the person is their “soul mate” However, this behavior is rarely altruistic as the partner seeks to make gains for their hopelessly romantic expressions, whether control, success, or unwavering admiration.
Love Bombing Vs. Genuine Love
Love bombing is used to woo a person, control them, or encourage them to stay in a relationship. Love bombing creates an idealized version of the love bomber. However, when their “true colors” shine through, the victim will strive to return to that idealized nature of the relationship.
On the other hand, genuine love is typically less intense at the beginning and stays consistent. A person claiming to love someone will remain faithful to their words, promises, and actions. They may not constantly shower you with gifts, but they will be meaningful, thoughtful, and sincere when they do.
Love Bombing Examples
A love bomber uses enticing words and phrases to hook a person immediately. Love bombing phrases may be over-the-top and even make you feel uncomfortable. Love bombing makes the target feel like the center of the universe by charming them into believing the relationship is perfect. But this simply distracts you from the lover bomber’s true intentions.
Common examples of love bombing include:
- “You’re my soulmate.”
- “You’re the perfect man/woman.”
- “We’re soulmates.”
- “You complete me.”
- “I’ve never met anyone like you.”
- “I’ll never meet anyone like you ever again.”
15 Common Love Bombing Signs
Knowing the signs of love bombing is crucial for protecting your well-being and safety. If you’ve experienced love bombing in the past, you may be more aware of these behaviors. This insight can help you feel empowered before diving into a new relationship.
Below are 15 signs of love bombing to watch out for:
1. They Want to Know Everything About You Right Away
Love bombers are fascinated by you. Your life seemingly mesmerizes them. But sharing so many details about yourself quickly may seem unnerving. At this point, you might wonder why they’re so curious.
Love bombers are incredibly interested in their partners. However, they often use sensitive information as a means of exploitation and manipulation later in the relationship. In other words, they may take what you say to control you, harm you, or damage your reputation.
2. Dumping Their Personal Details Too Quickly
A love bomber may dump all their childhood trauma on the second date. You know everyone who has ever hurt them, and you’ve learned their entire medical and psychiatric history. While such honesty may seem admirable, it can also be an inauthentic form of intimacy.
A person who love bombs may share private information very quickly to establish empathy and closeness. They want you to think you’re unique and privy to their secret world. They want it to seem that you two are more connected than you really are.
3. They Want Constant Validation
You feel like you’re always reassuring a love bomber. No matter how much you compliment them, it is never enough. They keep coming back for more, and you may experience relationship burnout. This constant reassurance of their worth and greatness covers their insecure and fragile self-esteem. As a result, they rely on you to affirm them.
4. Intense Declarations of Love
Feeling loved is something most of us crave, but love bombing takes “love” to another level. The love bomber may remind you of their love in every conversation or constantly post about it on social media. They’ll tell you they “could never live without you” whenever possible. Their declarations can feel excessive and intensify as the relationship moves on.
5. Pressure to Make You Commit
It’s only been a few days, but they’re ready to make things official. Maybe it’s been a few months, and they’re suddenly ready for marriage. The idea of commitment may seem exciting, but part of you wonders if things are moving too fast.
All relationships move on different timelines. However, if you feel continuously pressured to commit to something you aren’t ready for, that should give you pause. Love bombers frequently use this tactic to “test” that their partner won’t leave.
6. Saying All the “Right Things”
No matter what, love bombers always know how to make you feel better. They seem to read you so well. At first, this behavior may seem like a rare gift, and you might feel incredibly grateful. However, it may seem hollow and disingenuous over time.
Love bombers pay very close attention to other people. They’re often skilled in charm and social intelligence, so they know how to feign closeness. Real love isn’t perfect, but love bombers aim to behave perfectly, even when it’s entirely unrealistic.
7. Intense Clinginess
A common love bombing red flag is wanting to spend every moment with you. They text or call you nonstop. They don’t know how to entertain themselves when you’re gone. As a result, they’re clingy and endlessly demand your time and attention.
Clinginess often comes from profound insecurity and can manifest in love bombing. The love bomber wants you to be thinking of them at all times. Even if they can’t physically be with you, they want to ensure you have their attention.
8. Over-the-Top, Expensive Gifts
Instead of one bouquet of roses, they send six. They give you fancy jewelry within the first few weeks. Maybe you commented on your laptop having issues, and they purchased you a new one. Gift bombing may seem kind, but it can feel excessive and awkward.
Gifts can be an act of love, but they can also be exploitative and emotionally manipulative. On a core level, love bombers hope their recipients will feel indebted to their presents. As a result, they will have more power and control in the relationship.
9. Immense Jealousy When You’re With Anyone Else
They get upset when you want to spend time with other friends or family. But it isn’t just about other people- they also get jealous of your work obligations, personal passions, and other interests. As a result, you may feel a combination of guilt and annoyance.
Some jealousy in relationships is perfectly normal, and not all forms of jealousy are destructive.4 But persistent, intense jealousy is manipulative. Furthermore, it tends to be toxic in maintaining intimacy and encouraging personal autonomy.
10. Overwhelming Compliments & Attention
If you’re being love bombed, the compliments will come constantly. Comments won’t be just one nicety but a barrage of them. The attention can feel overwhelming and inauthentic because it happens continuously and from all directions–physically, verbally, and emotionally.
11. Excessively Following Your Whereabouts
Love bombing is intended to control and use you for their own needs. Love bombers can’t do this if they don’t know your whereabouts. It’s normal to spend time apart in relationships. If your partner is always asking where you are, when you’ll be home, and who you’re with, this is a major red flag for love bombing.
12. Ignoring Your Boundaries
Deep down, love bombers don’t actually care about you. One way they’ll show you this is by blatantly ignoring your boundaries. Your boundaries keep you healthy and safe, but love bombers only care about getting what they want–even if it means hurting you or pushing back on your limits.
13. Reminding You of How “Good You Are Together”
Love bombers will direct a conversation when things start to feel “off” or you’ve had a bad argument. They will remind you how special your relationship is instead of taking responsibility for their actions or changing their behavior. This is just another tactic to control you.
14. Lashing Out When Criticized
Love bombers may react with anger when you question or criticize their behavior. They may even lash out in narcissistic rage if they’re a narcissist. Any criticism, even gentle criticism, can expose their intentions and destroy the facade. Becoming angry distracts a person from the love bombing behavior.
15. Never Taking Responsibility for Previous Relationships
Another love bombing red flag is refusing to own up to mistakes or talking poorly about past relationships. Love bombers will often drag their previous partners through the mud. They might always refer to these partners as “crazy” or “abusive,” even though they were the abusive ones.
How Do I Know If I Am Being Loved Bombed?
It can be hard to recognize love bombing. Part of you may feel embarrassed about the intensity of your relationship. You may downplay it to others because you don’t want to be judged. At some level, you may still question if things are too good to be true.
Abusive relationships don’t always look black or white. That said, your intuition is powerful. If something continuously feels off (even if you really care about the other person), it’s worth examining.
The Love Bombing Cycle of Abuse
Love bombing tends to be the first stage of a narcissistic cycle of abuse often seen in narcissistic relationships.5 As mentioned, love bombers cannot maintain this façade for very long. As a result of a loss of control, they start oscillating between love bombing, devaluing, and discarding.
The love bombing cycle of abuse can look like:
- Idealization: Idealization is the initial phase in which love bombing is utilized to win the affection of a prospective partner. Love bombers rely on this phase to build connection and maintain a sense of trust and intimacy.
- Devaluing: Devaluing, in a sense, is the opposite of love bombing. Devaluing refers to the criticism and put-downs used to hurt another person. Unfortunately, gaslighting and love bombing go hand-in-hand.
- Discarding: Narcissistic discard occurs when the abuser decides to end the relationship. It’s not uncommon for narcissists to go from love bombing a partner to then ghosting them later on. While this choice may sometimes be abrupt, it’s often chaotic, dramatic, and confusing to the partner.
- Hoovering: Even though the abuser may “choose” to leave, they often check on their partners. Love bombing after a breakup can look like using various hoovering manipulation tactics to “suck” a person back into their drama.
Why Is Love Bombing So Dangerous?
Love bombing can be particularly dangerous because it’s sometimes challenging to detect. After all, we’re well-versed in the belief that new relationships often feel tantalizing and euphoric. Furthermore, research shows that falling in love releases feel-good hormones like serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.3
Therefore, it’s difficult to distinguish the dizzying sensation of falling in love from love bombing. We all want to enjoy the novelty of a new relationship. Understanding the critical warning signs is essential to avoid becoming susceptible to further love bombing abuse.
Why Do People Love Bomb?
By love bombing, a person is able to gain control quickly and manipulate their victim for selfish needs and wants. Love bombing creates dominance in a relationship as the love bombed will continue to seek their partner’s affection after it ends. It can also make them feel obligated to stay in a relationship.
How to Protect Yourself From Love Bombing
Pay attention to your intuition– if a relationship feels too good to be true, it usually is. Any excessive acts of attention, extravagant gifts, or moving too quickly can be red flags, especially if these make you uncomfortable. Stick to your boundaries, know what a healthy relationship looks like, and learn how to recognize love bombing to protect yourself.
Below are some tips for avoiding love bombers in the future:
- Watch out for the early signs: Pay attention to how things start off when you first meet. Loving bombing can be covert, so watch for excessive attention too soon into the relationship.
- Learn how to avoid narcissists: Narcissists can be very charming. Protect yourself from their tactics by learning more about their behavior and characteristics.
- Recognize your own vulnerability: Check for patterns in yourself if you have been love bombed before. If you seek external validation or have low self-esteem, those are characteristics a love bomber looks for in a victim.
- Understand what a healthy relationship is: The foundations of a healthy relationship are respect, empathy, and genuine concern. Consider reassessing the relationship if your partner’s actions appear superficial or shallow,
- Maintain a sense of relational “realism”: Stay focused on the facts and rooted in reality instead of trying to fix things. Step back to look at the bigger picture or seek an outside perspective.
What to Do If You Are Being Love Bombed
When you’re in a relationship and feel like you may be getting love-bombed, it’s important to take time and consider the information you have before making a decision. Set aside time to determine if the relationship is a good fit for you.
Setting firm boundaries so you have the necessary space to process things is essential. It’s important that these boundaries are respected early on. If they are not, this could mean their affectionate words and gestures are indeed love bombs.
Take Inventory of the Relationship
Consider where you both come from, what you want, and how your relationship is going with regard to self-respect, outside interests, expectations in the relationship, communication, and other critical factors. Take things slow if these are ignored or glossed over to ensure you feel confident about the person’s intentions with you.
Talk to an Objective Outsider
Talking to trusted friends or a therapist can be a good way to get an outside perspective. Family and friends can be biased, so consider who you talk to and if these people can do their best to be objective. If not, talking to a therapist about what you’re feeling and sensing in this relationship can help you learn about healthy relationships and identify what you do and do not want in a relationship.
How to Recover From Love Bombing
If you’re experiencing love bombing, be honest with yourself about the situation. This behavior rarely improves on its own, and enabling it can result in devastating consequences for your well-being. Remember that it’s not your job to “save” the love bomber–you cannot change their behavior.
On the one hand, you might feel quite attached to your partner. You may still be hopeful that the relationship can succeed. On the other hand, you may feel worried about their actual level of commitment. Keep in mind that these conflicting emotions are normal.
Moreover, it’s essential to reach out for support. Consider talking to your close friends or a therapist about what’s happening. If they share concerns about your partner, don’t dismiss them. Chances are, they recognize something you might be trying to deny, minimize, or rationalize.
How Therapy Can Help
Therapy offers a safe and encouraging environment to explore your feelings about your relationship. Your therapist won’t tell you what you should do—they will help you explore your options and support you in making the best decisions for your emotional well-being.
When finding the right therapist, consider working with one specializing in relationship issues or narcissistic abuse. It may be beneficial to start your search using an online therapist directory. Remember that therapy can take time and dedication to be effective. In addition, you may need to interview or meet with a few providers before finding the best fit.
Love bombing is rarely innocent or benign. Instead, it often leads to complicated consequences for you and your other relationships. Learning the warning signs and seeking help can make a tremendous difference in how you feel.