Love Bombing: How to recognize it and protect yourself
Have you ever met someone you thought was too fantastic to be true? Someone who showered you with attention, affection, and gifts from the very beginning? While it may initially feel like a fairytale romance, this behavior could be a red flag and part of a manipulative tactic known as "love bombing."
What is "Love Bombing"?
"Love bombing" is a tactic individuals use to gain control over another person. Fostering a sense of dependency and commitment entails lavishing the target with attention, love, and occasional presents. The goal is to make the target feel special and loved while creating a sense of obligation to reciprocate the attention and affection.
In essence, "love bombing" is bombarding a person with loving gestures. While this showering of love and affection may seem like a dream come true because of cultural messaging about what romantic love is, love bombing has nothing to do with real love. It is about the immediate gratification of the love bomber's need and preys on the innate human desire to be cared for. However, it's likely happening early on in a relationship. In that case, it's not based on who the receiver is or their actual needs being cared for but is solely about the immediate gratification of the needs of the love bomber, mainly to have someone want them and be dependent on them.
Traditional gender roles, fairy tales, romantic movie storylines, etc., reinforce this idea that "love bombing' and pursuing is an expression of love. Often, these stories cast men as the romantic love bomber, so although all genders and sexual orientations may embody the characteristics of the love bomber, this may be more culturally enforced for male-identified people or those who identify with a need to exert outward dominance in relationships.
However, love bombing is the opposite of a fairy tale. It's about seduction, controlling the relationship, and shaping the narrative so the love bomber looks like the "perfect partner" (no such thing!) and can gain the upper hand. If you obsess about or idealize someone immediately, stay connected to friends and family and see if your partner's actions can remain stable and consistent past the three-month, six-month, and year marks.
It is not advisable to rely on a man or any partner to be aggressive with romanticism from the beginning of a relationship. It reinforces the idea of imbalanced relationships, with one partner in the passive, "desirable," vulnerable role and the other with all the power and control.
True love and lasting mutual relationships are based on trust built over time and small rather than large gestures. The Gottman Institute has done research in their love lab that shows that couples who stay together over the long run have a 5:1 ratio of positive relationship-building behaviors to negative behaviors. These relationship-building behaviors are small gestures or "bids" for affection by both partners over a long period, rather than the unidirectional pursuit and overt displays of affection in the first three months of the relationship that characterize love bombing.
Here is a closer look at love bombing, warning signs to look out for, and tips for self-protection.
Why Is Love Bombing Dangerous?
While love bombing may seem flattering and exciting initially, it can ultimately lead to emotional manipulation and abuse. The receiver of love bombing may, for example, feel pressured to reciprocate the attention and affection, even if they don't feel the same way. Guilt, shame, and uncertainty may result from this.
Furthermore, love bombing takes away the consent and control of the victim. They enter the relationship under the pretense that their needs will be considered, but generally, once dependency is established and the "honeymoon phase" wears off, the love bomber will stop giving their partner what they initially offered.
Love bombing can also be used by abusive or narcissistic partners to gain control over their partners. By creating a sense of dependency and loyalty, the abuser can isolate their partner from friends and family, making it harder for them to leave the relationship.
Love Bombing Signs
- Giving extravagant presents
- Extremely frequent phone calls and texts
- Showering with generalized compliments and affection, especially early on,
- and expressing strong feelings right away
- Talking about the future right away
- A history of short-lived, intense relationships
These are some of the traditional warning signs of love bombing. (That guy who, after just one date, claims he "can't stop thinking about you"? Yeah, watch out for him.)
One way to assess if someone's feelings are genuine is to ask about their past relationships. If they have had a series of short relationships, say a lot of negative things about their exes, or describe losing interest frequently in relationships, these are all signs that someone may not be capable of maintaining a relationship and growing or nurturing real love.
How To Protect Yourself From Love Bombing
Setting healthy boundaries and safeguarding yourself from emotional manipulation is crucial if you believe someone is love-bombing you.
Here are some tips:
1. Take Things Slowly. If someone has been showering you with attention and affection from the beginning, it's okay to step back and slow things down. Refrain from feeling pressured to reciprocate the attention and affection if you're not ready.
2. Trust Your Instincts. If something feels off about the relationship, trust your gut. Do not disregard warning signs or discount your own emotions.
3. Set Healthy Boundaries. Be clear about your own needs and boundaries in the relationship. Don't let someone else dictate how you should feel or behave.
4. Seek Support. Contact friends, family, or a therapist for support if you're feeling overwhelmed or confused. Having a support system in place is important to help you navigate difficult situations.
How Can I Protect Myself From Love Bombing?
While you can't always rule out every person who is nice to you, it's important to:
- Be vigilant about too much generosity early on in the relationship.
- Be aware that your instincts are likely valid if it seems too good to be true.
- Ask about your partner's relationship history and heavily flag for yourself patterns of short-lived relationships or the other person characterizing exes as "crazy."
- Recognize your needs and speak out about them as soon as possible. Don't be a mute participant in the relationship.
- Remind yourself of the qualities of a healthy relationship: empathy, compassion, mutuality, consideration, listening to each other's needs at all times, respect, and more.
- Above all, don't ignore, rationalize, or talk yourself out of red flags.
If you tend to talk yourself out of red flags, it can be helpful to talk this through with a therapist, a grounded friend, or a family member, starting at the beginning of a relationship.
Love bombing can have serious negative consequences for an individual's emotional well-being and the overall health of a relationship. It's important to seek the guidance of a qualified relationship therapist or personal counseling services to identify and address this behavior. Our virtual couples therapy in San Francisco may be able to provide valuable support and resources for those experiencing the effects of love bombing in their relationships. Reach out if you would like a complimentary consultation about our virtual counseling and online dating coaching services.
Blog by CJ Maldupana and Lauren Korshak
Frequently Asked Questions
Q.1 How does a relationship therapist help couples dealing with love bombing?
A. A relationship therapist is a trained professional who can help couples identify and address the underlying issues in their relationship. Relationship therapists use a variety of techniques to help couples communicate more effectively, resolve conflicts, and build stronger relationships. By helping couples understand each other's needs and feelings, they can work together to create healthier and more fulfilling relationships. If love bombing is present, the therapist will work to uncover the needs and motives of the person love bombing and help them seek fulfillment of those needs in a healthier, more mutual way.
Q.2 What services does an online dating coach provide that help with love bombing?
A. Online dating coaches provide a uniquely supportive service to those who are looking for love. They provide personalized advice and guidance to help people find the right partner, navigate the online dating world, and build successful relationships. They can give guidance on how to write an effective profile, how to approach potential partners, and what kind of communication works best in the online dating space. They can also help to identify red flags like love bombing early in the relationship and teach tools and skills to set effective boundaries in dating.
Q.3 How can personal counseling help people deal with love bombing?
A. Personal counseling, or individual counseling is essentially individual therapy. Counseling helps individuals navigate challenges like love bombing in a safe and supportive environment that allows for exploration of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. With the help of a trained counselor, people can gain insight into why they repeat old patterns or stay in unhealthy relationship dynamics too long and find new ways of managing them. Counseling can help people to build resilience and develop new skills for coping with stress, anxiety, or depression.