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Before going into this article, I hadn't heard of the term love bombing; the more I researched it, the more I realized it was all too familiar. If you are tilting your head to the side like I was, wondering what exactly love bombing is, hold on tight, because this is gonna get real, fast.
Love Bombing in Psychology
Mental health professionals typically describe love bombers as abusers and narcissists, and the act of love bombing is oftentimes an unconscious tactic to construct a false sense of trust and make you feel “dependent or obligated to them.”
Love bombing occurs when a potential partner overwhelms you with affection, compliments, gifts, and other loving actions and behaviours. Although this attention may seem ideal at first, it is a means to an end. The love bomber is always too good to be true, and uses these kinds of gestures to influence your commitment to them, and boost their own ego.
Love Bombs Aren't Just for Lovers
Love bombing can occur in a variety of relationship types, from partners to parents. In Psych Central's article, The Powerful Effect of Love Bombing and Intermittent Reinforcement on Children of Narcissists, the phenomenon is described as:
…a process of grooming in which a predator uses flattery, praise and the promise of a supreme alliance to fulfill their own agendas. By love bombing their victims, abusers are able to persuade their targets to fulfill their requests and desires. Love bombing is not only a tool used by covert manipulators to exploit their victims, it is also used in cults to ensure loyalty to the cult leader. In fact, there is much overlap between the behavior of cults and the abuse cycle of an abuser and his or her victim.
Remember that excessive attention or affection does not necessarily indicate a person is a love bomber. The difference between the two is the love bomber's intent for control and the potential for future abuse in the relationship. This is why it can be difficult to detect a love bomber, as they use gestures of positive-reinforcement to “win” and then isolate you. In other words, love bombing is a real form of abuse, but signs can often be too subtle – and too different from what we usually assume is abuse – to detect early on.
The Love Bomber Profile
The love bomber is a savant at emotional manipulation, with the ability to grant romance, affection and the façade of early emotional security for self-interest and control.
Dating is the process in which the love bomber finds their victim, and reels them in with flattery, gifts, and a sense of importance. If you think you may have been love bombed, or currently have a love bomber in your life, review these questions:
💓 Do they show signs of narcissistic personality disorder?
💓 Do they exhibit controlling or manipulative behaviours?
💓 Are they abusive or derogatory towards other people?
💓 Do they make excessive and grand romantic gestures very early on, maybe even too soon?
💓 Do they try to move the relationship faster than you're comfortable with?
💓 Does their behaviour oftentimes feel more alarming than charming?
💓 Do they immediately treat you like you're their soul mate?
💓 Do they often question you about your feelings and loyalty?
💓 Do they excessively check-in on you out of the “goodness” of their heart?
💓 Are you starting to feel like you owe them something?
💓 Does their behaviour or attitude make you feel like a “crazy person”?
💓 Have they started treating you like you aren't “normal”?
💓 Do those closest to you feel put off by them?
Once the narcissistic love bomber has willfully and successfully used this tactic, your feelings and the relationship itself are now under their control. This is when they begin to withdraw or show their true colours.
You see, once the narcissist has won your love, they may no longer have use for it. Or, they have use for it in a self-serving way. Because their ego has been reinforced, they may become bored and move on to their next victim or, ominously, utilize your love as an ego pump. Either way, this cycle is detrimental to the victim's mental health, as their needs within the relationship become irrelevant.
My Love Bomb Story
My previous relationship started out like a dream.
He was handsome and full of constant affection and compliments. At the beginning, our feelings felt healthy and infectious; however, the moment I professed my love to him, his interest began to dissipate. Unfortunately for me, I spent five years fighting to rekindle that initial spark with him. What I didn't know then was that relationship was built on the back of his narcissistic appetite, and I fell victim to its control. Once he recognized that, he became reassured and indifferent. It was as if his love and support never existed.
Looking back on my love bomb story, here is an unexhaustive list of manipulative behaviours I wish I recognized then:
⚠️ His need to be by my side whenever there were other men around
⚠️ The use of language that indicated I was a “trophy”
⚠️ His excessive need to shower me with physical affection, gifts, in the presence of others
⚠️ The amount of compliments he gave me from the beginning, then, his claim that, when I indicated I felt good about myself, I was an arrogant person
⚠️ Stating that we were soul mates too soon
⚠️ How early he told me he loved me
⚠️ His need to buy me expensive gifts and show them off to others
⚠️ His incessant need for my undivided attention, especially when other men were around
⚠️ He wanted me to delete all of my social media accounts as a “symbol of my love”
⚠️ Sharing his belief that men and women can't be friends, then only applying it to me
⚠️ He started dictating what he wanted me to look like
⚠️ How disturbed my equilibrium was around him
⚠️ How self-obsessed he was and the blatant signs of narcissism
⚠️ His growing incapability of having me around others
⚠️ His blatant dislike for the people closest to me
⚠️ His eventual verbal abuse towards the people I loved
⚠️ His ability to isolate me with guilt
⚠️ His crazy-making abilities
⚠️ His ability to manipulate me with sex
⚠️ The use of emotional blackmail
What makes love bombing so dangerous is that the less subtle characteristics tend to show up after you're already hooked by the person and the relationship. The narcissist is subconsciously an expert, and can gauge when it's safe to free themselves from the façade they've upheld. Once this happens, the victim is at great risk.
Healing from a Love Bomb
So how does one recover from a love bomb? How did I recover from a love bomb?
To be fair, I only recently learned this word, as mentioned. But what I used to heal and deter that cycle from ever happening again are simple universal tools related to building confidence and community.
Self-esteem is a critical pillar in overall wellbeing. After the experience with my love bomber, I needed a radical inner-love makeover. This allowed me to create healthy boundaries, construct self-awareness and integrity, specifically around my intuition. I paid more attention to my body's reactions and the gut feeling people gave me. If something felt off, I trusted it.
For a personal guide to healing, check out my recent article, Mental Health Tools For Dealing With A Breakup.
Focus on You First
According to Nathanial Branden, a Psychotherapist and the Best-Selling author of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, self-esteem is the health of the mind, which includes having a clear sense of identity, competence, and worth.
To trust one's mind and to know that one is worthy of happiness is the essence of self-esteem. – Nathaniel Branden
When we lack this basic skill, we may become more accepting of bad behaviour, even abuse. If you believe you do not deserve a certain type of love, but then that love shows up for you, you have less chance of questioning the validity of it. When we have low self-worth, as I did in my previous relationship, red flags are easily excusable.
Checking-in with Yourself
If you want to avoid a love bomber or the pattern of falling for them, the first place to start is taking stock of your self-worth and where it's lacking. Then, find ways to build this so you can better trust your instincts. If you don't have the tools readily available, I recommend Nathanial Branden's book. Speaking to a professional, such as a therapist, is also a proactive way to fight this cycle.
The Truth is in Your Boundaries
In my recent article, Signs A Man Is Falling In Love, my husband shares his experience of falling for me. Truth be told, love isn't an automatic thing. You can be excited about a person and the chemistry you share, but you don't really know someone until you've seen the whole spectrum of their emotions, reactions, and behaviours. Although my husband's feelings were quite strong, he needed to see my reactions and evolution related to red flags. He was aware that without this information, he couldn't commit entirely.
So, pay attention to how they react when they are sad, angry, or feeling jealous. Do they communicate their worries and needs? Do they slam doors? Do they insult you?
My point here is, if you want to avoid being love bombed, be sure that communication is on the table, and pay attention to the reactions of your partner.
Do they bulldoze you? Ignore your boundaries or get upset when you try to put them in their place? Do they verbally acknowledge your boundaries, but reject them in practice?
Love bombers have a way of distancing you from yourself. By doing this, they gain control of the reins. Dating should not be a power exchange, and the catalyst to figuring out if someone is worth your time is sharing your boundaries. Flashes of their true identity will appear in their responses. Pay attention to this, and make no sacrifices or room for excuses.
Also, be weary of someone whoprofess their “love” for you before they know you.
Assemble Your A-Team (and the Authorities?)
If you are unfamiliar with this concept, your A-Team is essentially made up of those closest to you. These people want the best for you, and will support positive changes in your life. Ultimately, they are people you trust.
When it comes to love bombing, your A-Team can help you assess the relationship, especially if your feelings are muddled, and your equilibrium is shaken. Because love bombing is a form of abuse, staying runs the risk of further violence. If necessary, your A-Team can help you create a safe distance, by carefully exiting the relationship. If you believe you are in danger, your A-Team can help you take the proper measures, by contacting local authorities or getting advice from professionals and hotlines.
To the Bombed
If you've ever been a victim of love bombing, don't let that get you down. It is never your fault for trusting someone or allowing yourself to be vulnerable with a person you care about. It's critical to say that no person is capable of, nor responsible for, saving a love bomber.
Depending on your life experience and exposure to relationships, understanding the difference between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive behaviour can feel tricky. To assist in this, check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline's article Healthy Relationships, or speak to a therapist who specializes in narcissistic personality disorder, domestic abuse, and/or mental health.
Take care of yourselves, friends!
Quean Mo x