Love bombing may very well be the scariest thing that can happen while dating. Not only is it an extremely manipulative tactic used by narcissists, abusers, and, ahem, con artists, but its also very, very hard to detect and suss out as its happening. (As I said, scary.)
“Love bombing is characterized by excessive attention, admiration, and affection with the goal to make the recipient feel dependent and obligated to that person,” says licensed therapist Sasha Jackson, LCSW.
“And as the recipient, love bombing feels really good because of the boost of dopamine and endorphins you receive. You feel special, needed, loved, valuable, and worthy, which are all the components that contribute to and increase a persons self-esteem.”
At the beginning, everything may seem perfect-maybe even too perfect. You might think youve found someone who is not only into you but also showers you with attention, love, gifts, etc. Like, all the validation and affirmation youve been waiting for. But then, later on, your relationship may turn into something you dont even recognize.
If you need an IRL example of what this looks like, watch Netflixs new documentary The Tinder Swindler. Simon Leviev, a supposedly wealthy diamond mogul who travels all over the world, eats at the finest restaurants, and stays at high-end hotels, is the definition of a love bomber.
He showers new Tinder matches with massive flower bouquets, private planes, love, affection, and all the affirmation they could ever want right from the beginning. But once he gains their trust, the conning, manipulation, and scheming begins.
Horrifying, right? So to help you understand more about what love bombing is and potential warning signs you can look out for, weve tapped a bunch of experts to help you navigate a potentially love bomber situation. Everything you need to know below.
What is love bombing?
Like mentioned above, love bombing is a manipulative tactic used by narcissistic and abusive individuals. “Love bombers seek to quickly obtain the affection and attention of someone they are romantically pursuing by presenting an idealized image of themselves,” says Lori Nixon Bethea, PhD, owner of Intentional Hearts Counseling Services. The overall goal? To enhance their ego by gaining power over those being pursued.
Anyone is capable of love bombing, but its most often a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder, according to Ami Kaplan, LCSW, a psychotherapist in New York City.
“Love bombing is largely an unconscious behavior,” Kaplan says. “Its about really getting the other person. Then, when they feel like they really got the person and they feel secure in the relationship, the narcissist typically switches and becomes very difficult, abusive, or manipulative.” She adds that the same person who was just super idealizing of their partner will switch to devaluing them.
While its common behavior among narcissists, as Kaplan mentions, love bombing wasnt first coined by psychologists but by famous cult leaders. Members of the Unification Church of the United States (a notorious cult better known as the Moonies) love bombed new Cougar dating service recruits to encourage them to join their fellowship. Other narcissistic cult leaders like Jim Jones and David Koresh used a similar method of excessive positive reinforcement in order to manufacture feelings of intense unity and loyalty.
What are some signs you are being love bombed?
Dating a love bomber isnt going to look the same in every situation, but a few telltale signs of a love-bombing partner are extravagant gifts, obsessive flattery, constant complimentary texting, and always expecting a prompt reply.
- “I want to spoil you.” (Aka if your partner buys you excessive gifts in a short amount of time.)