How do you know the difference between love bombing and love? Let's talk about what love bombing is and then I will discuss how to know the difference. The terminology ‘love bombing’ has become increasingly more popular over recent years and refers to a pattern of overly affectionate behaviours that, occurs mostly at the beginning of a relationship. One party ‘bombs’ the other with over-the-top displays of adoration and attention.
This behaviour can include showering the other person with gifts and/or compliments, declaring love very early into the relationship, remaining in constant contact and spending increasing amounts of time together. It also includes the love bomber paying very close attention to the ‘target’, how they look and behave, and listen intently to what the victim says. Perhaps they will ask a lot of personal questions. This is not the same as a normal conversation between two people getting to know one another. It may feel a little off, a little (or a lot) intrusive and very fast. This is the way the love bomber gains information so they can retain and use it throughout their relationship to control and manipulate. The love bomber can then use the information learnt about the victim to ‘flood’ them with praise, promises, compliments and positive attention to make the other person feel good about themselves. This will increase the feelings of indebtedness towards the love bomber (especially if expensive gifts have been given) and a dependency and reliance on them. They can then ‘hurt bomb’ which involves the abuser using some of the same information that they have used to love bomb, against the victim instead, by creating the most hurtful criticisms, complaints, or comments to lower the confidence, to punish, or to keep the victim trying harder to comply.
Love bombing is a tactic designed to accelerate the growth of feelings within the victim, creating an intense atmosphere of affection and love. It disarms the target and so they do not question the speed or direction that the relationship is heading. Love bombing is attributed to individuals who have narcissistic tendencies, people who may have other antisocial behaviours or those who have a tendency towards domestic violence. It has also been frequently used in cultish behaviours.
Love bombing can create a victim to feel confused. This is because of the amount of communication that is involved between the couple, with the constant texting, phone calls, and the insistence of spending time together, it can feel incredibly overwhelming. It may seem like they have an amazing bond, or something special – a movie type of whirlwind of romance, excitement but there is also an underlying sense of worry and quickness to the relationship.
Another emotion that a victim may experience is a high sense of dependency. This is something that the love bomber will have introduced early in the relationship, probably within the first few weeks. The love bomber will declare their love and how much they depend on the relationship they will take up more and more time and energy from the victim which starts to prevent them seeing friends and family. As contact with others diminish the only source of love available to the victim comes from the new relationship and so a dependency form. This dependency on the other person grows stronger the longer they are in the relationship. Eventually the victim will feel that they are unable to live without the love bomber.
During the love bombing phase the abuser gains allies by their big gestures or expensive gifts. They will make sure that these gestures happen in public, in front of family, friends or work mates. It can be flowers at work, or during family get togethers, constantly showing up on social media pages with over-the-top comments of love declarations or compliments. The ‘Aww’ factor will have a ‘what a great person’ effect on people around watching. The abuser does this so when things go wrong, they will approach the allies for support as the allies have only seen the love bomber’s positive behaviour and then do not question the motives behind the moves. If the victim tries to talk about the love bomber’s flaws the allies will dismiss and devalue the victim by only looking at the positive. This will make the victim second guess themselves and conclude that they have misunderstood the situation, even though the underlying feeling of uneasiness can be persistent they may ignore it and distrust them.
Signs of Love bombing
1. Grand romantic gestures and give extravagant gifts. – the gifts and gestures go above and beyond what is expected for the stage of the relationship
2. Moving too fast. – if the victim tries to slow down the relationship, the love bomber will resist. Or if the victim doesn’t text back as often or as fast the love bomber will text more and force the conversation
3. Excessive communication – constant and uncomfortable questions, texting, calling again if the victim creates boundaries, they become agitated. They ask questions that feels too personal too quickly.
4. Constant attention – always wanting the victim’s time
5. Demand commitment – early exclamations of marriage or long-term relationship – how they see the future, or they label girlfriend/boyfriend after only a few dates.
6. Resisting boundaries -. They do not want to adhere to personal boundaries
7. They make ‘soul mate’ claims early and say I love you very quickly
8. Really good at saying what the victim wants to hear.
9. They feel too good to be true – generally, it is too good to be true.
10. They make you feel like you are being rescued from something (even if the victim is not sure what from)
11. They put the victim on a pedestal.
12. Rephrasing victims’ responses. When asking a question, they tend to rephase something slightly to twist it just a little to have enough of the truth of the answer, so you don’t notice the twist to suit them.
13. Takes no blame in any failed previous relationships
14. They suddenly love everything the victim loves
15. Attitudes, behaviours beliefs or personality is not consistent
16. Extreme jealousy
Examples of what love bombers say:
1. ‘I love to spoil you ‘– ‘you are so easy to buy for’ (excuses for buying excessive gifts in a short amount of time)
2. ‘I just love being with you all the time’ – ‘you make me complete’ (when questioned about the amount of time spent with them)
3. ‘You are my soul mate; we are meant for each other’ – (Intense emotions fast or early on in the relationship
4. ‘When we get married...’ or ‘we should travel the world together as soon as possible’ (quick statements of the future within the first few dates)
5. ‘I worry about you, so I am just checking on you’ (excuse or constantly checking on your whereabouts social media or even asking for passwords.)
Reasons for love bombing
1. To control
2. To trap
3. To build themselves up
4. Breakdown your walls and boundaries
5. To keep you hopeful that the bliss will return when things go wrong
6. Build trauma bonding (you can read about that here)
If you are being love bombed, please be kind to yourself. Manipulation of any kind is clever, and you never expect it to happen to you. We also don’t want to see every nice comment from everyone as suspicious. But being aware of the red flags can help to provide some insight that you could be heading into an unhealthy relationship. If you are not sure what the intentions are of the other person have a conversation with them. Their true colours will come out very quickly. In a healthy relationship they will listen and understand and of course change the way they are behaving. If their response to boundaries you are putting into place is sulking, resistance, anger, silent treatment, guilt tripping then this could be a further sign that this relationship is not all it is cracked up to be. Also, if you are worried or anxious about having these conversations, ask yourself why. Another test is to say no and watch for the reaction.
I suggest finding a close friend or family member who will tell you the truth and speak to them about it. Someone outside the situation may see things differently but be aware of who the love bomber has ‘allied’ themselves with and avoid those people.
On the other hand, if genuine affection is mutual it should unfold at a pace that is comfortable for both sides of the relationship, whereas love bombing feels one sided and fast. It is normal for new relationships to spend a lot of time together, but when it comes to spending time constantly on your own with the new partner or in isolation from one’s family and friends it may suggest the relationship may be falling into unhealthy patterns. The simple question to ask yourself: 100% consenting on all areas of the relationship especially speed and commitment.
If you feel that you are in an abusive relationship, please feel free to contact me or find someone you trust to help you. Some organisations will support you, so google organisations near you.
Read my 'Great Safe Escape' blog for more information on leaving an abusive relationship safely.
If you have found this helpful to understand love bombing, then please share and link to this blog.
If you would like to know more about my own personal story, you can buy my book 'Broken To Be Beautiful' here.
Author information: Xenia Schembri
Xenia along with her husband, Simon, are the founders of the charity At the Ark based on the Gold Coast Queensland Australia. Since 2010 At The Ark have supported families whose children have been abused and families impacted by domestic violence.
Previously, Xenia was in a 15-year domestic violent marriage. Xenia has become a voice for the voiceless and has a passion to prove that the past does not have to negatively impact the future, but positively propel anyone to change to their future.
Xenia was Woman of the Year 2020 on the Gold Coast Australia and one of Westfield's Local Heroes in 2020. She is an international speaker and author of 4 published books. The Brave Little Bear series equips families with self-protective behaviours and her own story Broken To Be Beautiful.
Here are links to some of her other blogs that you may find interesting.
Red Flags - Codependency vs interdependency
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