What is Love Bombing and Why It Can Be Dangerous
If someone is love-bombing you, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bad person, or that they should be considered enemy number one. In fact, they’re likely to be just dealing with emotional difficulties. More often than not, love bombing behaviours take place without the deliberate intention to hurt or use someone. So, while it’s important to recognise when you are a victim of this and take action, it’s equally helpful to approach the situation with a sense of understanding and compassion.
What is Love Bombing?
Love bombing occurs when you are being showered with love, adoration, gifts, compliments and attention . They might be spamming your social media accounts, sending extremely long text messages or frequently declaring their love. All of which have the potential to feel stalker-like. Although it’s most commonly seen at a relationship’s start, it can occur at any point. It’s important to note that love bombing is in no way comparable to healthy relationships and is characterised by the somewhat strategic and narcissistic tendencies behind it.
It always feels good to be someone’s priority. Still, love bombing is likely to leave you with an unsettling feeling of insincerity. The love bomber may be, potentially inadvertently, using your relationship as an ego fix or as a way to feel in control, likely to deal with their own emotional difficulties and insecurities. This type of behaviour is often linked to personality disorders like narcissistic, borderline and antisocial personality disorder . A study conducted in 2017 also showed that love bombing was positively correlated with narcissistic tendencies, anxious attachment and avoidant attachment. Unsurprisingly, love bombing was also negatively correlated with self-esteem .
The Cycle of Love Bombing
Forming part of a larger cycle of narcissistic emotional abuse, love bombing is the first stage of the cycle. Although it’s mostly seen in romantic relationships, this type of behaviour can be seen in families and friendships too. The cycle involves love bombing, devaluation, discarding and hoovering .
Once the love bombing stage deteriorates, the devaluation stage begins. This stage is the exact opposite of love bombing. During this stage, love and attention are withheld from you. They may become aggressive or critical and can begin to lie, cheat, ghost [add link to ghosting article] or gaslight you [add link to gaslighting article]. At this point, you’re probably confused and wondering what happened to the loving, devoted person you fell in love with? You may scramble to fix the relationship or do whatever you can to get things back on track. If, at this point, noticing the severity of the situation, choose to stand up for yourself and begin to set boundaries – you’ll likely be dropped into the discarding stage.
Once the love bomber has realised that they are no longer able to control you in a way that satisfies their emotional needs, it’s likely they will quickly disregard you and the relationship. This is perhaps the most challenging stage of the cycle, and often leaves you shocked as to how someone who loved you so much could leave you so abruptly. Although this kind of abuse is incredibly difficult to endure, it’s essential to put yourself first and remove yourself from the relationship as best as possible.
Although your partner may have decided to end the relationship, they will often continue to check on you consistently. Like a Hoover vacuum, during this stage, they are likely to use several tactics to ‘suck’ you back into some kind of relationship. These tactics include re-establishing communication, declarations of love, apologies and threats of suicide or self-harm .
It is important to note that this cycle of love bombing, devaluation, discarding and hoovering can occur many times during a relationship before it reaches its true end.
It might be essential to mention that a similar pattern occurs in relationships with partners who have Borderline Personality Disorder. However, in this case, the person’s behaviour is likely due to ‘splitting’, rather than having the intention to control or use their partner. Splitting is a psychological defence which, in a nutshell, makes it possible for a person to idealise another on one day, only to feel exactly the opposite on another. For example, your partner may shower you with love one day but become extremely aggressive or withdrawn if you disappoint them and make them feel hurt. Both feelings experienced here are genuine and felt. In contrast, in the case of narcissistic emotional abuse, not all feelings are necessarily ‘true’.
Warning Signs of Love Bombing
Here are some warning signs and questions you can ask yourself to determine whether you are caught in the first stage of a narcissistic cycle of abuse :
– They shower you with gifts. Instead of 1 bouquet of flowers, you might get 6. While these gifts might seem kind, they’re likely to feel excessive or uncomfortable. This potential sign of love bombing may be intended to manipulate you.
– They consistently compliment you. A little flattery can go a long way, but too much flattery is likely a red flag. Remember that true love takes time to develop and can’t happen overnight.
– You are overwhelmed with texts and phone calls. Waking up to paragraphs of texts? Or numerous missed calls? Suppose your partner is excessively checking in on you. In that case, this is likely a warning sign to keep an eye on in your relationship.
– They push for commitment, fast. Perhaps it’s only been a few days, but your partner is ready to make it official. Whilst being swept off your feet may be exciting, feeling any pressure to commit is not a good sign.
– They’re overly possessive. Are you constantly being checked on or controlled in your day-to-day life? Perhaps your partner is incredibly possessive but frames it as being protective or worrying about your safety. These are clear signs of love bombing and are used as a method of control.
Whilst these are all common signs of love bombing, abusive relationships are never really black or white. They can exist in many different forms, so it’s essential to be informed and stay aware of love bombing tactics in your relationships.
How to Respond to Love Bombing
Experiencing this kind of emotional abuse can leave you feeling incredibly conflicted. On the one hand, you may feel frustrated, confused or upset. Although you recognise the toxicity of the relationship, you may still feel attached to your partner regardless. It’s important to know that all kinds of conflicting emotions in this situation are entirely normal.
– Be honest with yourself. Accepting that your partner is love bombing you is a difficult thing to wrap your head around. Still, it’s important to be honest with yourself as the situation is not likely to resolve on its own.
– Reach out for support. Leaving any kind of toxic or abusive relationship is an incredibly difficult task for anyone to take on. For that reason, it’s crucial to reach out for support from your friends, family and loved ones. Letting others know what is going on is a great way to ensure you stay on track and not fall victim to manipulation.
– Ignore gestures that make you uncomfortable/overwhelmed. When someone love bombs, the goal is the reaction they receive. Repeated love bombing will likely continue when you provide overt, gracious feedback. So, if you’ve noticed a pattern of strange behaviour, try to ignore the gestures that make you feel uncomfortable. If you cut off the feedback, the love bombing should stop.
– Confront the love bomber. You might consider kindly and compassionately confronting your partner, mainly if you are in the beginning stages of your relationship. Although you may feel like you have something to lose, confrontation could limit the damage (if your partner leaves) or, better, put a stop to the behaviour entirely (your partner realises the implications of their actions and adjusts their behaviour).
– Talk to a professional. As we mentioned earlier, navigating an abusive relationship is incredibly difficult and can become overwhelming. If at any point you feel as though you have become anxious, depressed or simply can’t handle it alone, reach out to a professional.
Tackle Being Love-Bombed Today
Although it may feel impossible to tackle your feelings of anxiety or depression, you shouldn’t give up hope just yet. At Therapy Central we use evidence based interventions such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and many other approaches, to help individuals get their life back on track. In this way, you’ll be able to discuss your experiences in your relationship with expert and friendly mental health professionals who are equipped to provide you with the help you need.
Consider contacting one of our qualified therapists today and request a free 15 min consultation.