The early days of a romantic relationship can feel like a whirlwind. Movies, TV, and romance novels often depict heroic men literally sweeping women off their feet, spoiling them with lavish gifts and words of adoration and commitment. It sounds like a dream, right? In the real world, excessive adoration and affection in a relationship’s early stages could signify something called “love bombing.”
This page is all about what love bombing looks like and why it’s potentially dangerous in a relationship. This is a relatively new concept discussed among relationship therapists, and it’s not always easy to identify. But if you think you are being love-bombed in a relationship, it’s important to take a closer look at your situation. Love bombing is often a sign of a narcissistic partner.
What Is Love Bombing?
Love bombing is a manipulation tactic often used by narcissists. It involves a person excessively showering a partner with compliments, gestures, and acts of service that lead to the partner’s dependence on the love bomber. This is often followed by a withdrawal of love when certain conditions aren’t met.
This is just a simple definition. Not all people who love bomb are narcissists, and not all love bombing is immediately followed by abuse. But once the signs of love bombing are identified, it is important for a partner to maintain their independence or have an open dialogue to avoid dependency or abuse.
Examples of Love Bombing
Cindy matched with Jacob on a dating app and he immediately started offering to take her on vacation. At first, the vacations were exciting. They went on road trips, camped together, and enjoyed weekend trips out of state. Soon, every weekend seemed to be consumed with Jacob’s travel itinerary. Cindy had spent so much time with him that she lost touch with her good friends. Jacob convinced Cindy that her family and friends had been jealous of their travel-filled lifestyle, but he understood her. He would provide a fabulous life for her that she always wanted.
After a year of dating, Jacob convinced Cindy to quit her job and move in with him. She lost all control of her schedule and her whereabouts – every day seemed to be planned by Jacob. When she objected to a trip or asked him to spend a holiday with her family, he refused. Even if she tried to plan a trip, he would yell and shout until he got his way. What seemed like a wonderful lifestyle – and even appeared to be a wonderful lifestyle on Instagram – became a nightmare for Cindy.
Love Bombing in Real Life (Example from Reddit)
A Reddit user on the datingoverthirty subreddit asked if they were being lovebombed:
“I met a guy only 3 weeks ago and I’ve experienced some “sweeping me off my feet behaviour”. So far the man has consistently taken me out to fancy dinners, dropped flowers off at my work, drove my car to have it fixed and paid for the bill, fills up my gas tank, completely bends over backwards to look after me so “I’m not stressed”, he seems to have morphed himself into stuff that I’m like so the conversations are always a “me too!” or “same!” Response from him. I love being looked after, but I find it very odd behaviour. Is this love bombing?
EDIT- more info:
There was one case last week where he mentioned he will visit after I finish my uni at 9pm, I didn’t confirm plans, he turned up on my doorstep at 9pm and I turned him away.
He cooks me food and drives it to my house when I study till 9pm.
I’m 25 and he’s 35. I work 80 hour weeks so I initially told him I have no time to see him, hence why “he wants to help me out and take the stress away”
Although this might seem like a lot of kind gestures, altogether, it’s worth going through the comments and seeing how this pattern can lead to dependency. One commenter wrote, “My ex husband did the same thing. Out of his way kind, fixed my broken car, quickly insisted we move in together and I quit working til I finished college. Nearly instantly turned abusive once I became completely dependent on him. Be careful.”
Four Signs of Love Bombing
Excessive Gift-Giving and Flattery
If a person’s lavish gifts or dramatic compliments are “too good to be true,” they probably are. Small compliments are normal, but sweeping proclamations of their commitment and love may make you feel uncomfortable for a good reason. If your gut is telling you that a person’s flattery is “too much,” consider telling them to tone it down.
Ignoring Your Boundaries
A partner should respect your comfort level, whether it comes to gifts, flattery, or your schedule. If you tell them that you are feeling uncomfortable and they insist on excessive flattery, consider their actions a red flag.
Isolation From Family and Friends
It’s nice to date someone who is attentive and wants to spend time with you. In the early days, it’s normal to spend extra time with a new partner. But if that extra time ends up consuming your whole schedule and prevents you from seeing your friends and family, it’s manipulation. You may find yourself isolated and more vulnerable to abuse. Like cults isolate members from their friends and family, narcissistic partners isolate partners.
Loss of Independence
Love bombers may make these grand gestures until you are at the point where you are dependent on their kindness, money, or time. These gestures can start small – a person will drive you everywhere or help you out with big purchases that you have a part in paying off. Without their help, they will convince you, you’ll be worse off and helpless. Maintaining a sense of independence throughout your relationship can help you create distance from a love bomber in case you need to make a clean break.
Can Love Bombing Be Unintentional?
Love-bombing is only love-bombing if it’s done with a greater goal of “getting” or manipulating a person. However, a person may unintentionally show signs of love bombing. Only with open conversation will the “love-bombing” start and an equal, healthy partnership begin.
We’ve all heard of love stories that sound like love bombing. Sometimes they are love-bombing, and sometimes they are just a fantasy written by someone who wants to be swept off their feet. Either way, people may take these stories as a template for starting a grand, romantic relationship.
If you think your partner is love-bombing you, have an open conversation with them. You don’t have to accuse them of love-bombing, but you can share your concerns that their excessive flattery is making you feel uncomfortable. If you want to make the relationship work, you will need some breathing room.
Pay attention to their reaction. Do they acknowledge your feelings and promise to do better? Then they’re probably not a narcissist. Do they tell you that you’re overreacting and continue to display the behavior that is clearly making you uncomfortable? At the very least, they’re probably not a good partner. The worst-case scenario is they are potentially a narcissist who will go so far as committing abuse to get their way.
Is Love Bombing a Red Flag?
Constant love bombing is a red flag, especially if attempts to curb the love bombing are ignored. Here are some experiences that Reddit users on the datingoverthirty subreddit had with love bombing…
- “Nearly 3 months of razzle dazzle and him pursuing commitment (esp meeting families, making plans, talking about the future, etc etc) and one day out of nowhere he acted weird, then ghosted me for 3 days, then gave some weak excuses to break up. I’m still mad about being blindsided like that.”
- “Whirlwind romance. Super intense. Then all of a sudden BOOM over with no explanation. Then after the boom, it was a lot of breadcrumbing and mixed signals from there.”
- “Behaviors that signaled something is really wrong, and/or actions that do not line up with the love bombs. In my case, despite “apparently” being head over heels with me (asked me to marry him two months in), he was on the phone for work and consulting all the time…. like, DURING our dates, and always. If I brought it up he flipped his lid, temper, gaslighting, bonkers. There is a patience that comes with loving feelings. In the midst of the thrill and excitement of a genuine connection vice lovebombing, there is some kind of kernel of patience that is calm and kind and easy and sweet… and not pushy at all.
- “Yes, I had a tinder date that felt like love at first sight. He couldn’t keep his hands off me and made me feel like the most unique and special woman in the world. told me he was in love with me on our second date and asked me to be his gf. I said yes because he was gorgeous and intense and romantic (and I was young and wanted so badly to be loved). Cracks started to appear 3-4 months in (weird little outbursts and borderline threats). Turned into a 2 year relationship and some of the worst emotional abuse I’ve ever experienced. It took me nearly 2 years (and thousands in therapy) to extricate myself completely.”
Is Love Bombing Always a Sign of Narcissism?
Love bombing is frequently associated with narcissism because, unless the person is immature when it comes to romance, only a narcissist would be capable of love bombing. People who have empathy for others are less likely to smother a person with excessive gifts unless that is what the person asks for. These other signs of a narcissist also line up with love bombing.
A narcissist often prioritizes material possessions over a person’s personality or well-being. They believe that lavish gifts are a sign of love and could make up for rude comments or abusive behavior. There is nothing wrong with getting a partner gifts, but if those gifts are meant to excuse poor behavior, the partner may find themselves in a dangerous situation.
Using People as Pawns
Why would someone love bomb a partner for three months and then ghost them out of the blue? Simple – the person sees no need in using that partner anymore. Narcissists use people for their own personal gain. If the person is no longer of use to them, they have no issues with dropping them.
Expecting Special Favors or Treatment
Those early gifts or gestures aren’t just done from the goodness of a narcissist’s heart – they are a setup for special treatment later on. When questioned or rejected, a narcissist will point to their early gestures as a way of saying, “I did all this for you. Why won’t you do something for me?”
Love bombing is, at best, a sign of immaturity and at worst, a roaring red flag. If you think you are being love bombed, talk to your partner about their behavior and pay attention to their reaction. You don’t deserve to be treated poorly! Look instead for a partner who displays habits of a healthy relationship partner.