You may have heard the term “love bombing” circulating online and on social media, but what does it mean? Although it might sound like something we’d all want — being showered with unlimited love and affection — it’s anything but healthy. Love bombing is a tactic often used by a narcissist to manipulate you into falling for them. Keep scrolling to learn more about love bombing, the most common love bombing signs, and why it’s a relationship red flag.
“Love bombing is a manipulation tactic people use to secure commitment and connection with others,” says Kevin Mimms, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
Love bombing involves over-the-top and disproportionate affection, flattery, and attention intending to control someone. “One example could be giving extraordinary gifts early into a relationship, or after something has happened that they are apologetic for,” explains Mimms.
“If these tactics are unsuccessful, people that love bomb heap guilt, excessive sadness, and anger in place of the loving behaviors. Their love was supposed to get them something. Love bombing is not always abusive in nature or presentation, but it can be a part of abusive relationships.”
While it might feel like a fairy tale at first, the love bomber will turn on you and become abusive as soon as you’ve fallen for them. Love bombing often goes hand in hand with narcissism, an insecure attachment style, and low self-esteem.
Love bombing can be mistaken for the honeymoon stage of a relationship, but the two are very different.
The affection and interest you might receive at the beginning of a new relationship are sincere and well-intentioned. Love bombing, on the other hand, is all but altruistic. Narcissists use love bombing as a way to control and manipulate someone to make them emotionally dependent on them.
It’s important to recognize the signs of love bombing because they often mark the start of toxic relationships and abusive relationships.
Love bombing can be incredibly subtle — after all, it’s not unheard of to be all over each other during a blossoming romance. And who doesn’t want to be showered in gifts and attention, right? Maybe they’re just really, really into you. Maybe, it’s love bombing.
“Love bombing is a way to manipulate a person into a deep feeling of desire, attachment, and connection,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.
“Ideally, the love-bomber would like to feel like they made the other person feel more special than they have ever felt with anyone else.” A love bomber will purposely build up your self-esteem only to break it later down the line.
Love bombers purposely make you feel special, loved, and needed to make you trust them and lure you in. If it feels too good to be true, it probably is — so knowing the warning signs is crucial.
There are several different warning signs to look for if you think you're being love-bombed. While some of these behaviors can be innocuous on their own — gift-giving, being overly affectionate, moving fast in the relationship — together they could be signs of love bombing, especially if they’re taking a toll on your mental health. Below are 13 tell-tale love bombing red flags.
They check in incessantly, to the point where you have no privacy. This can include always asking where you are or who you’re with.
You feel like you have no autonomy in the relationship, and can’t do anything without their permission or they’ll be upset with you.
They want to be with you all the time and never spend time apart, regardless of your family obligations, schedule, or prior commitments.
They say “I love you” very early on or make intense declarations of love.
They introduce you to family and friends or pressure you to commit (such as moving in together) too soon.
They shower you with lavish gifts and grand gestures. This can include expensive holidays or paying for your rent without being asked.
They put you on a pedestal, compliment you excessively, and say things like “you are so special” or “I want to spoil you” over and over.
They always say what you want to hear.
They’re overly affectionate, both physically and emotionally, to the point where you feel uncomfortable.
They gaslight you and invalidate your feelings.
They’re needy, clingy, or need constant reassurance. They might show signs of unprompted jealousy or expect that you reply to a text or return a call straight away.
They get upset and make you feel guilty for trying to set boundaries. They might go cold or give you the silent treatment if they don’t get their way.
You feel like you’re walking on eggshells around them.
“It’s important to remember that many of these warning signs have appropriate contexts as well,” adds Mimms. “For example, worrying about moving too fast can be a common feeling in relationships. If you are able to communicate your concerns about these things without being reminded of all of the things they have done for you, love bombing may not be occurring.”
How do you know if you’re being swept off your feet in a whirlwind romance, or being love-bombed? Well, it can be tricky.
“It can be so hard to decipher when someone is just falling hard and fast and it will be a healthy relationship for the ages, and when it is love bombing,” says Seeger DeGeare.
We all express romantic interest and affection differently, so what might feel normal for someone else could come off strong to you. And in the honeymoon phase of a relationship, it’s normal for things to feel a little more intense.
To figure out whether you’ve just found your soulmate or you’re being love-bombed, Seeger DeGeare recommends asking yourself if this excessive attention feels welcome, or if something feels off.
“I think the best thing to ask yourself is: how do you feel when you are around this person? Can you be completely yourself? And it is appreciated? Does your partner's celebration not align with the rest of their behaviors?”
When someone is well-intentioned with their affection, they’ll understand and respect your boundaries. More importantly, you’ll feel safe setting boundaries in the first place.
“If you realize that you are being love-bombed, talk about it with trusted friends or family,” says Mimms. “If you feel secure enough in the relationship to discuss it with the suspected love bomber, do so. If you do this, expect some defensiveness and allow for it, but remember that your desire is to have a healthy relationship that not only has these loving behaviors but also consistency over time.”
Remember that love bombing is a form of manipulation, which can be difficult to pick up on — especially if you’ve fallen for the person. Emotional abuse (or abuse of any kind) is never the victim's fault and it’s often unavoidable. But understanding what a healthy relationship dynamic looks and feels like can help you spot love-bombing signs or other toxic behavior and end the relationship before you get too emotionally invested.