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Ahhh! That warm, fuzzy feeling of a new relationship. It’s unmistakable. You’re getting showered with so much affection, you feel like you’re on cloud nine. You can hardly wait to enjoy the promises made by your new partner for a bright future.
Yet there’s this nagging feeling things seem too good to be true. What can this mean? First, never ignore your instincts. And second, let’s find out if this is the real deal or if you’re actually getting love bombed. I’ve been entirely love-bombed by a narcissist and, dare I say, it’s not a pleasant experience.
In an approximately 20-minute read, you will discover 11 love bombing signs that are early red flags in the beginning stages of a relationship. Since the term “love bombing” is typically used in discussing narcissism and manipulation, much of the article will address the topic in that context.
You’ll also learn what it means to love bomb someone, about the link to the cycle of narcissistic abuse, and the harmful psychological effects.
What Is Love Bombing?
Love bombing occurs when the person pursuing a romantic relationship with you keeps bombarding you with over-the-top displays of charm, attention, and affection. The relationship starts with a great deal of intensity, and they’re attentive to your wants, needs, and desires. You can’t help but feel like the most special person on the planet.
However, things are done with the intent to manipulate your feelings toward the love bomber. Licensed professional counselor Tabitha Westbrook, LMFT, says “Most often, love bombing is done by a narcissist with the intent of drawing in and gaining control over the person who is being love-bombed.”
In addition to people with narcissistic tendencies, results from a study published in 2017 found a link between love bombing and people with the following personality traits:
Narcissists, in particular, continue to love bomb throughout the relationship as seen in the cycle of narcissistic abuse. The cycle begins with the love bombing or idealization stage, followed by the devaluation and discard stages. If they aren’t done using you as a narcissistic supply/fuel, the cycle will start back at the idealization stage.
Why Is Love Bombing So Dangerous?
Love bombing is a psychological manipulation tactic that has harmful effects on the brain. The tactic is used by narcissists and sociopaths to win over those they want to control, exploit, or otherwise take advantage of. They mostly target needy or otherwise vulnerable people.
When you’re made to feel loved by the manipulator, your brain releases oxytocin and other feel-good hormones. However, ‘love is blind’. It doesn’t let us see early red flag signs of a potentially toxic relationship.
Psychological manipulation, or emotional abuse, involving love bombing and other tactics can have damaging effects on your mental health. Other forms of manipulation frequently used alongside love bombing include gaslighting, lying, denying, blame-shifting, passive-aggression, silent treatment, and intermittent reinforcement.
You might be left feeling confused, isolated, anxious, depressed, moody, or even start doubting yourself.
According to PsychCentral, “In a relationship with a pathological predator, love bombing is combined with intermittent reinforcement to create a sense of instability and longing in the victim.” Intermittent reinforcement also works to maintain an emotional bond between you and the individual.
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11 Love Bombing Signs to Be Aware Of
There is a thin line between falling in love for all the right reasons versus falling in love because of love bombing. The latter is achieved by force or manipulation. You may not be aware of it yet. There’s no better time than now to find out if it’s genuine love and affection.
Take a look at some of the classic love bombing signs based on actions or responses by your partner. Collectively, they could signal a toxic or abusive relationship.
Love Bomb #1. Excessive flattery
You think you’re the best person they’ve ever met in their entire life based on the ton of compliments you’re getting. Maybe you are the best, but their lavish praises and admiration aren’t really genuinely in recognition of your personality.
The narcissist I encountered asked me, “Where were you all my life?” Still can’t believe I fell for it.
Admiration and adoration make us feel good about ourselves. Love bombers know this, so don’t be surprised if they say things like “I never met someone as perfect as you.” Another pickup line is “I can’t see myself spending my life with anyone else but you.” Be wary of these massively grandiose attempts to make you fall for these tricksters.
Love Bomb #2. Lavishing you with gifts
Love bombers don’t take no for an answer and will resort to manipulating you by presenting lavish and expensive gifts.
Bouquets of fresh flowers will show up at your home or office. If they have your mailing address, be certain that gifts will arrive at your doorsteps adorned with declarations of love.
They’ll take you shopping for expensive jewelry and products you might have spoken about in passing. Over-the-top gift-giving makes you feel loved and indebted to them. Later, they’ll guilt-trip you for not doing them favors by reminding you of all the gifts they bought you.
Love Bomb #3. Excessive need for communication and closeness
They’ll demand your attention as much as possible and are eager to spend every moment with you. Notice how they text or call you incessantly to check up on you. The clinginess is intended to keep your focus on them all the time.
Your constant attention also provides an ego boost for an attention-seeking narcissist love bomber. Meanwhile, they work in the background thinking of how many ways to screw you over.
Love Bomb #4. Wanting to learn everything about you
They’ll want to know each and every detail about you, your parents, your childhood, friendships, past relationships, and future plans. The tactic is designed to make you think they care a lot about you.
The information you provide helps them identify your weaknesses and use that to manipulate you. Any and every negative detail will be used to criticize and put you down later on during the devaluation stage.
They’ll throw your past hurts, mistakes, and failures back in your face. The act is calculating and intended to crush your self-esteem. The more you’re made to feel less about yourself, the easier it is for them to take advantage of you.
Love Bomb #5. The relationship is moving fast
When you’re dating a pathological love bomber, the relationship appears to be going unusually fast. Fast-tracking is necessary since a faker can only pretend for so long. The mask will eventually slip and you’ll see their true colors. The goal is to make you develop feelings for them before that happens.
On top of that, they’re already talking about being exclusive and committed. The narcissist I dated (let’s call him Adam) was talking about marriage really quickly, within the first 30 days of dating. Woah! Seriously?
Another early warning sign something’s not right. This guy didn’t know me from Adam, yet he was ready to put a ring on it. At that point, I was certain he had ulterior motives.
Love Bomb #6. They discuss major life plans
Someone who’s trying to quickly win over your affection will start making big life plans for the future almost immediately. They’ll make grandiose promises and talk about moving in together, marriage, and starting a family.
I’m talking 2 to 3 weeks into the dating relationship. Do you smell that? Something smells fishy. You’re actually being “future-faked.”
The promises usually reflect the plans and relationship goals you mentioned in the conversation. Future faking is a tactic to keep you interested, says psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula in a YouTube Video titled The Future-Faked Relationship.
Adam made many grandiose plans and promises. He was only creating false hope of a prosperous, happy life together. I put him to the test and all he did was provided excuses for why his plans fell through.
Future faking is done to buy time while they keep enjoying the physical, emotional, or financial benefits (narcissistic supply). It’s time you turn the tables on a narcissistic gaslighter by holding them accountable.
Love Bomb #7. Saying you’re their soulmate
“We were meant to be, you’re my soulmate,” said Adam the narcissist. In my mind, I was like, “This is weird. We literally just met three weeks ago!” That’s the first major early red flag that I missed. To be fair, I knew nothing about narcissism at the time, even though intuitively I knew something was very wrong.
Don’t fall victim to the cliché “we’re soulmates” line frequently used by narcissists and love bombers. They’re absolutely lying to make you believe you’re the ONE. Pathological lying is a trait linked to narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).
The mental disorder features in the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Love Bomb #8. You’re overwhelmed by their intensity
Let this be one of your pervasive early red flag signs in a relationship when someone is coming on too strong.
Narcissists and other love bombers are known for their charm. However, theirs is the type of charm that overwhelms and smothers. The fact that they want to see you practically all the time is too much to bear.
You probably also feel unbalanced, as if something is “off” but you just can’t put a finger on it. If you’ve been gaslighted, you may find yourself questioning your memory, reality, and sanity. Those are some of the effects of a manipulative tactic called ‘gaslighting.’
Love Bomb #9. They idealize then criticize you
Is your new flame putting you on a pedestal one minute only to criticize you the next? Manipulators oscillate between affection and put-downs. Here’s an example of idealization. “You’re the most amazing person ever.” Within the same day, they may highlight your flaws.
Let’s say you try to hold them accountable for breaking your personal boundary, they may lash out and tell you something’s mentally wrong with you. Manipulators are emotionally unstable and cannot keep up the facade. They don’t genuinely care about you. Compliments and flattery are intermittent reinforcements used to keep you under their control.
Love Bomb #10. You notice other forms of manipulation
Once a love bomber feels they’ve won you over, they’ll unleash their dark side. They’ll gaslight, criticize, and degrade you. These cruel behaviors will likely escalate into an argument (fuel for the narcissist).
If you push back, they’ll call you “crazy” and other derogatory names. Intermittent reinforcement then follows as a way to win you back. Intermittent reinforcement is a pattern of providing periodic affection following a period of emotional abuse and is psychologically damaging to you.
Love Bomb #11. Setting boundaries upset them
Someone who genuinely cares for you will want the best for you. They’ll respect your decisions and personal boundaries. When you’re dealing with a pathological narcissist, they don’t take kindly to being told, “No,” or other kinds of limitations that reduce access to you.
Boundaries are meant to protect your safety and well-being. A manipulative love-bombing narcissist doesn’t care about you or your boundaries, only how much they can get before discarding you.
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Final Thoughts on Love Bombing Signs
Based on a general consensus, women are more susceptible to love bombing by men than the other way around. Unfortunately, it isn’t easily detected in a novel relationship until it’s too late.
Hopefully, things haven’t gone that far, and you’re able to protect your safety and well-being from the manipulator. One thing’s for sure, you’re leaving here well-equipped to spot love-bombing signs in the future.
And if you need professional help to recover from the psychological effects of emotional abuse, therapy is always an option. Looking to widen your knowledge on this topic? Check out 23 Emotional Abuse Red Flags in a Relationship. I’m certain you’ll find it as compelling a read as I did.