The Love Bomb: What is Love Bombing & Why Does It Matter?
Updated February 19, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
Love can be a great thing, but many use it to manipulate and abuse others. We've all heard stories about abusive partners luring and keeping people in using certain techniques or manipulation tactics. Today, we'll be looking at the phenomenon known as love bombing, where certain people will shower you with gifts, only to have an ulterior motive.
What is Love Bombing?
Love bombing is a manipulation technique where the person uses excessive adoration in order to influence the person, they're targeting. While it may seem sweet, there is an ulterior motive behind the love bombs.
Examples of love bombing include:
- Sticky notes with messages of love on them. They cover the bathroom, your bedroom, your car, and any other place. A couple messages here and there are fine, but if someone is sticking an excessive amount, they could be love bombing. Especially early on in a relationship, this is a sign of a potential issue.
- Sending flowers every chance they get. Again, there's nothing wrong with flowers as a gift, but someone who is love bombing will send them all the time, and you may have enough flowers to grow a garden.
- Excessive texts. If this person is sending excessive love texts, especially as soon as you wake up, then it may be a sign of love bombing. A couple should be in communication, but if there's constant communication that never ceases, this may be a bit of a problem.
- They may buy expensive vacations out of the blue. In most relationships, vacations are planned out and budgeted. In a love bomb, the bomber will send you plane tickets without even talking to you about it first.
- A love bomber will pressure you into rushing things. They may talk about moving in, marriage, or any other big step early onto the relationship. This is their way of making you lose your independence.
- They say extremely hyperbolic phrases. They may tell you that you're the best person they've ever met, even though they haven't known you for long. They will tell you that you're the most beautiful person in the world, and a bunch of other phrases. Saying hyperbolic phrases once or twice isn't bad, but someone who says it excessively may be love bombing you.
Why is this a bad thing? Because this is a technique used by narcissists and abusers in order to manipulate you.
Someone love bombing may be doing it for a few reasons:
- They have nothing to offer personality wise; in fact, their personality is toxic, so they compensate by giving you gifts or excessive praise.
- They are trying to make themselves look as though they have more money than they actually do in order to impress you. Once you're "hooked" by the love bombing you may realize they don't have as much as they let you believe they did.
- They are trying to control you. They get off to controlling other people, and the best way they can do that is by baiting and switching you. First, they bait you through gifts and praise, and when your defenses are down, they become controlling and manipulative.
- They may love bomb as a way to make you forgive them for something, rather than own up to their mistakes.
- Simply put, people love gifts and attention and praise. When receiving these we might be blinded to red flags, more inclined to believe the other person's overtures of interest as sincere, and to let them in closer, faster.
History of the Phrase
The phrase was believed to be coined by the Unification Church of the United States, and there, the phrase was created to mean expressing concern, interest, friendship, or just a fellowship with other members. However, even this definition was criticized, with some people saying that the phrase was meant to unify members of the church while claiming everyone outside was hostile.
In 1996, Margaret Singer, psychology professor, wrote more about this phenomenon, saying people were love bombingas a way to recruit to join other cults. According to her, it was feigned and not really a sign of love, but instead a manipulation tactic to lure and keep people in the cult.
The phrase then went outside of a cult and described the actions of gang members and pimps that are used to control others. Finally, it moved on to the definition we're looking at today, which is where narcissists use love bombing as a way to get into and maintain an abusive relationship.
Love Bombing Vs. True Love
You may wonder how you're supposed to tell the difference between someone love bombing you and someone who is genuinely trying to express their love. While it may be difficult for some, there are ways to figure this out, including:
The best way to tell the different between a love bomb and someone trying to express genuine affection for you is to look at how excessive their gifts or gestures are. Someone who buys you the occasional gift probably isn't love bombing you. Someone who makes a cute song for you probably isn't love bombing you. A person who buys you a gift every day, texts nonstop, or makes a daily habit of unending praise may be love bombing you.
It Seems Too Good to Be True
If the gifts and gestures seem too good to be true, as if the person is straight out of a fairy tale, then there is a good chance that it is. Oftentimes, the love bombs are there to compensate or mask the person's true intentions.
There's a Feeling of Being Rushed
Someone who isn't love bombing you won't make you feel like you're being rushed into the relationship. Meanwhile, someone who is loving bombing you will make you feel like you need to be in the relationship right now or get serious if the two of you are dating. In any relationship, you should never feel like you're being rushed.
It All Goes Away Soon
Once you're together with the person, have moved in with them, and become dependent, then their true colors shine. They may become openly controlling, offer less praise, or even begin verbally abusing you.
The Love Bombs Resume When You're Upset
There is nothing wrong with gifts or with praise in a relationship, but someone who is love bombing usually only gives gifts during the beginning of a relationship to rush you into a closer relationship or commitment. Once you're committed, the gestures will stop, and only resume once you begin to see their true nature and want to leave or are upset with them.
How to Deal with a Love Bomber
If you feel like someone is love bombing you, here are a few ways to deal with them.
- Politely refuse the gifts, or say you're not interested. A person who isn't love bombing will move on, while someone who does may become nasty, or double down on the gift giving.
- If you get into a relationship, make sure you have people outside the relationship. If the partner doesn't want you talking to anyone, you need to leave the relationship ASAP.
- Communicate that you don't want to rush into things, and that the excessive displays of praise or gifts are uncomfortable. Someone who cares will be understanding and open to discussing it. Someone who isn't will double down or become angry. Depending on the response, you can make a choice about continuing the relationship or not.
If you've dealt with a love bomber, it may be hard to trust people again, and you may mistake genuine gift giving as a manipulation tactic. Finding the balance between fear and healthy skepticism is difficult and getting back into a relationship after an abusive one is even harder.
Thankfully, there are ways you can recover from the relationship, and one way is to seek therapy. A relationship counselor can help you in a few ways pertaining to love bombing, including:
- Helping you identify love bombing and other signs of an unhealthy relationship.
- Helping you learn what healthy relationships look like.
- Teaching you how to spot early signs of abuse.
- Supporting you with ways to refuse or leave a relationship.
- Working with you to develop coping strategies.
If you feel like you need help with your relationship life, talking with a therapist can help. If you're in a relationship and having difficulties, therapy can help you sort things out and process options.
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