Showing affection, giving gifts, spending time together, and complimenting each other are often considered signs of a happy, healthy relationship. However, there are times when too much of this kind of adoration can signify relationship red flags. And that’s where love bombing comes into the picture.
In our guide below, we provide everything you need to know about love bombing so you can identify it in your relationship, learn how to handle it, and break the cycle.
What is Love Bombing?
Let’s start from the top. What is love bombing? Love bombing refers to a kind of psychological and emotional abuse, which involves showering and overwhelming someone with excessive attention, affection, flattery, and gifts. In addition to smothering them with compliments and words of affirmation, love bombers often encourage a sped-up timeline regarding the relationship’s future. For example, they might mention moving in together or getting married after only a handful of dates.
Now, you might be wondering how love bombing differs from genuine affection. Love bombing is when someone does the normal things a partner should do in a relationship but in excess. Love bombers are overly flattering toward their partners to the point that it makes them uncomfortable, spend exorbitant amounts of money on them in unnecessary ways, and smother them with their attention in an overwhelming and unwelcome manner.
Love bombing also differs from showing healthy affection in that there are often more sinister reasons behind this behavior. It’s not a genuine expression of interest but rather a form of control and manipulation.
Why Love Bombing is a Relationship Red Flag
One of the major problems with love bombing is that it seems innocent and often goes unnoticed at first. After all, what person doesn’t like receiving compliments and expensive gifts? The reason love bombing is so bad is that it can quickly spiral out of control as the person doing it gains power and control over their partner, creating an unbalanced partnership.
In fact, love bombing is often a tactic narcissists use to manipulate their partners and diminish their independence. It turns out all those nice gestures and compliments actually came at a price, as the love bomber makes their partner feel indebted to them—and guilty if they want out of the relationship because their partner feels like they owe them. Love bombing is a relationship red flag because it sets the stage for a toxic, controlling environment, which can lead to more abusive behavior, like gaslighting, intimidation, threats, and more.
Love bombers are sometimes perpetuating a cycle of abuse that stems from experiencing their own relationship trauma or witnessing unhealthy relationships as a child. In other cases, it may develop from one’s insecurities or attachment style. But regardless of the root cause of it, love bombing can be harmful and detrimental to those on the receiving end of it.
Signs of Love Bombing
Love bombing tends to happen in the very early stages of dating someone, but it can also appear at any time during the course of the relationship, so it’s important to recognize the signs of love bombing.
They Deliver Intense Declarations of Love
If you’ve only been on a few dates and they’re having intense discussions about your future together, saying they love you, or calling you their soul mate or forever person, they might be love bombing you. This is because love bombers want to coerce you into a relationship with them by making you think you’re meant to be together while isolating you and increasing your dependency on them.
They Isolate You from Your Loved Ones
By declaring that you’re supposed to be together, they’re implying you shouldn’t spend your time with anyone but them. This helps strengthen their argument that you should be with them at all times, allowing them to control you and keep you from your friends and family members who might tell you otherwise.
They Overwhelm You with Gifts
They say they like spoiling you, but it seems like they’re always showering you with gifts and covering the costs of expenses. For example, they might give you expensive jewelry, pay for your hotel on vacation, or even offer to cover your living expenses. While it might seem nice at first, these presents are just a way of financially obligating you to stay with them since you “owe” them.
They Want to Spend Every Moment Together
If your partner tries to spend every waking moment with you, this could be a sign of love bombing. While it might seem like they just want to be around you, it’s really a guise for gaining control over you. The more time they spend with you, the more they can control where you go, what you do, and who you see.
They’re in Constant Communication with You
If they’re not vying for every second of your time, then they might be texting you, calling you, leaving you voicemails, and even showing up at your house when you’re apart. By always staying in contact with you, they can more easily keep tabs on you and know your whereabouts.
They Excessively Compliment You
Love bombing often involves excessive compliments. If your partner is overwhelming you with their feelings of adoration, you might be getting love bombed. Sure, you might just have a partner who really likes you, but it’s important to have a discussion with them if the constant exaggerated compliments are making you feel uncomfortable.
Oftentimes, in a love bombing situation, they’ll build up your ego only to tear you down later. What starts as compliments may quickly turn to insults, furthering the emotional abuse.
How to Handle Love Bombing
If you recognize these signs of love bombing in your own relationship, it’s important to address them to avoid getting wrapped up in a toxic situation.
Have an Honest Discussion with Your Partner
The best case scenario is that your partner might not understand boundaries when expressing their affection for you, but in the worst case scenario, this toxic behavior could be a sign of a bigger issue. The only way to find out is to have an open and honest discussion about how their behavior is making you feel. Cite examples, express why the behavior is concerning, and discuss ways you can address the issues.
If your partner is open and receptive to your concerns, you might be able to salvage your relationship, but if they’re not, it might be time to consider removing yourself from the situation.
Once you’ve had a discussion about how their affection is making you feel, set up some clear boundaries. That might mean not accepting any more gifts or spending time on your own or with your friends and family (without them).
However, if your partner resists your boundaries and doesn’t respect your limitations, again, it might be time to move on.
Notify a Trusted Friend or Family Member
If you suspect you’re being love bombed, we recommend telling a trusted friend or family member. Not only can they help you see the signs and situation from an outsider’s perspective, but they may also be a good ally in case you need help getting out of the relationship.
Meet with a Professional Therapist
Being in a relationship with a love bomber can be confusing, complicated, and even scary at times, and speaking with a therapist can help you sort through these feelings. A professional therapist can help you identify the signs of love bombing and give you the tools you need not only to address your current situation but also to avoid similar relationships in the future.
Consider Moving On
Don’t stay in a relationship if you feel unhappy or unsafe. If your partner refuses to own up to their toxic behavior or has begun intensifying the abuse, it’s time to break up. This might involve cutting off contact, finding a support system, and seeking help from professional resources.