What Is Love-Bombing? 4 Signs To Spot It In A New Partner
While some enter new relationships with caution, others jump in quickly. A fast-moving relationship can be exhilarating and passionate, but in some cases it can be a sign of something more sinister—like love-bombing, a common tactic used by narcissists and in other toxic relationships.
What is love-bombing?
"Love-bombing is a form of emotional manipulation used to gain power over a person by showering them with what appears to be tons of affection and attention," Spirit, Ph.D., LPC, licensed counselor and host of OWN's Love Goals, tells mbg. Anyone can love-bomb, but the most common offenders have unhealthy attachment issues or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
While love-bombing can sometimes be mistaken for the honeymoon phase, the two have some distinct differences. "In the honeymoon phase, love is shown by a desire to focus on what the other person likes or is interested in," psychoanalyst Babita Spinelli, L.P., tells mbg. "Gestures tend to be thoughtful and not with an intent to impress." Love-bombers, on the other hand, will shower their partner with attention and expect recognition from them and others.
"Love-bombing is also about control, creating dependency and idealization," Spinelli adds. "The honeymoon phase is about exhilarated burgeoning feelings of a new relationship."
Signs of love-bombing.
If a partner is exhibiting some of these behaviors, it doesn't necessarily mean you're being love-bombed—these are just a few common signs. "Trust your intuition first and foremost when it comes to love-bombing," Spirit says. "If something feels wrong, then it probably is."
1. They give you constant compliments.
While compliments can be flattering and thoughtful, love-bombers tend to give overwhelming compliments, like "I've never met anyone more beautiful than you," or "My life is complete now that you're in it." Not only will they constantly compliment, but Spirit says they may also bait you to return the compliments.
2. They bombard you with gifts.
Because love-bombers want to be acknowledged for their generosity and attention, they'll generally bombard their partner with extravagant gifts. This can feel like an ideal situation at first but eventually will transition to control, criticism, confusing behavior, or withdrawal, Spinelli says.
3. The relationship feels intense and unbalanced.
Feeling comfortable with someone quickly can be a good sign, but saying "I love you," making plans to meet the parents, move in together, or get married early on, can be signs your partner is trying too hard to get close before fully knowing you.
"Love-bombing goes hard and fast," Spinelli says. "Things will move faster than they should, which is a huge red flag." This is especially indicative of love-bombing if the feelings are not mutual.
4. They expect a lot of attention.
The main goal of love-bombers is to create envy for others and garner attention and affection for themselves. When giving gifts, compliments, and unwarranted validation of the relationship, they expect to be recognized, rewarded, or worshipped.
Eventually, the gifts, attention, and compliments will be replaced with gaslighting and criticism, Spinelli says.
Other common signs:
- They shower you with over-the-top gestures.
- They say exactly what you want to hear.
- They use terms like "soulmate" a lot.
- They push for commitment early in the relationship.
- They get upset with boundaries.
- They're very needy.
- There's lots of PDA, physically and digitally.
- You feel like you have to tread lightly.
What to do if you think you're being love-bombed.
If you suspect you're being love-bombed, it's important to set clear and healthy boundaries. According to Spinelli, refusing gifts, setting limitations on time spent together, and responding to overwhelming texts at your own pace are all good places to start. "You can also communicate firmly you do not want to rush into things and walk away from the relationship if your requests are not respected," she adds.
Confiding in a support system can also be critical. Friends, family members, support groups, and licensed therapists can help you understand what type of person you're dealing with and how to appropriately respond, Spirit says. "If you think you're being love-bombed, focus on getting support for yourself, not the other person," she adds.
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