Love bombing is a way of trying to influence a person by an excessive show of affection and attention. Love bombing can be used positively and negatively, however, psychologists have recognized it as a part or type of abuse that should be totally avoided.
What is Love Bombing?
There are several healthy and heart-warming ways of finding or falling in love and the story is different for every person. Some start off as friends and fall in love with each other over time, some meet on social media and others get to experience the love-at-first-sight scenario at a really cute place. All these are cute but things can go wrong as fast as they started and an example of that wrong is meeting or running into a love bomber. This is not only hard to figure out but also very abusive and can have your life spinning in a totally different direction in no time.
The term ‘love bombing’ was made up by members of the Unification Church of the United States in the 1970s. Love bombing was used to describe the coordinated effort of cult members to recruit new members by feigning interest or friendship with them to lure them in. It involved verbal seduction, flattery, affection, and lots of attention to everything the recruits had to say.
Narcissistic Love Bombing
Even though anyone is capable of carrying out a love bombing, psychologists have described it as mostly a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder. It is also described as an unconscious act for people with this disorder because their goal is to ‘get’ the other person and the moment they have been able to achieve that, they become very abusive and manipulative. This cycle can be in the following stages:
- Love bombing stage: The part where they spoil you with flattery and gifts just to stir a desire, to be close to them, within you.
- Devaluing: This is immediately after you show interest in them, they start doing the total opposites of what they were in the beginning. They begin to criticize and gaslight you and can become very aggressive.
- Discarding and Hovering: When they decide to end the relationship, they do so abruptly with no regard for how it makes you feel, and even after leaving, they would keep up with their ex which is also a way of drawing them back into the cycle.
Love Bombing Abuse
Love bombing abuse is a form of abuse and with social media, it has been made quite easy. Social media gives an abuser the opportunity to be in constant communication with their victim and one sign of love bombing that is very predominant is the show of intense attention in a short period with added pressure for commitment.
Psychologists have been able to break this abuse down into three phases with an acronym IDD: ‘Intense Idealization- Devaluation- Discard’ which means the abuser starts by intensively idealizing with lots of flattery, remarks, and the likes. Afterward, the actual abuse starts with the process of devaluation either verbally or otherwise, and finally, they discard their victim, This is usually the cycle but psychologists also stated that this behavioral pattern can be identified by SLL which stands for ‘Stop-Look-Listen’
Signs of Love Bombing
Being with a love bomber is not the same experience for every victim but in several cases, there have been signs of love bombing that were the same across all. Love bombers are extravagant gifters that would give so much in a such short period, they use a lot of obsessive flattery and are also obsessed with texting compliments and expecting prompt replies. For more depth on the signs of love bombing, here are a few common things that love bombers would do to their victims:
- They constantly demand attention and time to isolate you from your family and friends and keep you dependent on them. They might also get angry and try to make you feel guilty for making plans with other people.
- They shower their victims with expensive and over-the-top gifts, affection, and attention early into the relationship. They would send you gifts at work or buy you expensive outfits or vacation tickets and would not allow you to turn them down. All these might come off as harmless at first but this is usually their way of drawing in their victims and gaining control of them without the victim realizing they are being love-bombed.
- They constantly pressure their victim into making a commitment to them from a very early stage of the relationship and when you try to slow things down with them, they only continue to manipulate you towards getting what they want. Someone who actually cares would respect your boundaries and let you set your own pace.
- They are constantly complimenting you. Compliments from an admirer are not bad except that in this case, they are giving constant flattery which could be a sign of ingenuity and scripted compliments. Just like their affections, the words they use are over-the-top. They might say something like ‘I have never met someone as perfect as you are.
- They call and text every hour of the day and this is not a bad thing since a lot of new couples do it but with a love bomber, it can be very overwhelming and when you don’t respond to their texts, they might get angry without considering whether you were busy at the time. When you are not paying attention to them, they can become angry. For example, when you are on phone with a friend.
- They are always exuding an uncomfortable amount of charm which can feel overwhelming when you are around them. You also start feeling uneasy and anxious whenever they are around.
- No matter the kind of situation you’re in, they are always trying to make you feel better by saying the right things. It seems they know you too well, too early and this might make you feel really special at first but it is just how they are. They pay really close attention to people and because of their charm and social intelligence, they can feign genuine interest and closeness in their victims.
These are things they will commonly say to their victims:
- ‘I want to spoil you ‘
This is something they actually do by buying their victims excessive gifts in a short amount of time.
- ‘I just want to be with you all the time’
If they make you feel guilty for wanting some alone time or having boundaries, they are probably a love bomber.
- ‘We are meant for each other’
Being called their soul mate or twin flame two weeks, be cautious because love bombers are usually intense at the early stage of the ‘relationship’
- ‘It’s me and you forever, right?’
If they are constantly putting pressure on you concerning your level of commitment to the relationship way too early, that might be a sign!
- ‘I check on you a lot because I get worried’
Getting checked on once in a while is fine but for love bombers, the checking on includes wanting to know every one of your whereabouts, stalking your social media pages, and asking you for the passwords to your social accounts.
Why is Love Bombing a Red Flag?
A lot of people ask questions like “why is love bombing bad?”, “Why is love bombing a red flag” because they assume it’s a situation you can enjoy the goodies in while it lasts and leave when you want to.
Love bombing is very harmful to one’s mental health as it is a form of mental and emotional abuse. You might feel like you owe your bomber a lot because they have given you a lot and due to this feeling of reciprocity, you might be forced to look past all of the bad signs. This can result in a cycle of abuse because for a love bomber, being in control of the mind and heart of their victim is usually the goal. That way, it is easier to manipulate them and have their own ego boosted. Once they have been able to achieve this, they no longer have a need for their partner and then, the withdrawal stage sets in, and it is accompanied by a series of devaluation and invalidation mechanisms like verbal and emotional abuse, hurling of insults, gaslighting and disparaging remarks. Due to this new power, the love bomber possesses, they do all this with the knowledge that they can love bomb and ghost and then return whenever they like to continue the cycle of abuse.
How to stop Love Bombing?
It is normal to feel attached to the actions of a love bomber, or to them. You might even find yourself defending their actions. This is totally normal because it’s all part of the ways love bombers try to exploit their victims. They look for deep-rooted insecurities and manipulate their victims with them. This can make you feel like they actually care about you and every other person just wants to judge you. They give you an addictive kind of validation, even when all their actions are bleeding red.
If you are finally able to discover you’re being love-bombed. If you are wondering how to stop love bombing, here are a few things you can do to get yourself out of that situation and, safely:
- Find a support system outside of the relationship. It could be your family, your friends, or a therapist. Someone who can see things outside of the lens of the relationship is more capable of helping you understand your emotions with logic. There are also support groups for narcissism that you can reach out to for help.
- If the love bombing is still in the early stage of excessive gifts and over-the-top flattery, you can have a conversation with them about it and help them realize how uncomfortable their actions make you feel. That will also be a good time to set some boundaries.
- Understand you’re not capable of changing a love bomber. Once your mental or physical safety is at stake, it is better you safely avoid and stop every form of communication with them. You can do this by blocking them on socials and just avoiding them generally.
- If you’ve been able to leave the relationship, avoid being in contact with them. Love bombers are always trying to suck their victims back into that cycle of abuse.
How Long Does Love Bombing Last?
Love bombing can last weeks to years, but some data suggest that the most active stage is usually between 3 to 32 weeks of the relationship. Another study also claimed that in the case of grandiose and covert narcissists, the love bombing lasted for 25 weeks while in the case of malignant narcissists, they love bombed for 9 weeks and a communal narcissist, they love bombed for 32 weeks.
There is no fixed answer for love bombing lasts as it is a continuous cycle of abuse that continues until the abuser is fully in control of their victim.
The end of narcissistic love bombing is usually only the start of controlling behavior, and if the signs are not seen quickly, it might lead the victim to fall more in love with their abuser which will only intensify the love bombing.
When you first meet a person or your relationship is still new, it’s okay to be a bit nervous but if it feels like things are happening too soon and you’re more overwhelmed than excited, it’s probably because your partner doesn’t make you feel comfortable. Falling in love is a great thing and it should be experienced gently without the rush. Love is calm and kind, if your partner claims to like you, they should be willing to move at a pace you are comfortable with. If you’ve already passed the first stage and your partner is now at the manipulative stage, it is important you reach out to professionals (i.e therapists) as soon as possible. Love bombing is hardly from a place of innocence and it always ends in complicated consequences. Understanding the signs will answer the question “what is love bombing?” and getting help as fast as possible with help make a difference in how you feel and recover.