What Is Love Bombing?

Husband surprising his wife with a flowers and present at home

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What Is Love Bombing?

Love bombing occurs when someone “bombs” you with extreme displays of attention and affection.

Although it can be a positive aspect at the beginning of a romantic relationship, it can lead to gaslighting and abuse. Psychologists caution it might be a manipulative tactic by a narcissist or sociopath in an attempt to control you.

Why Love Bombing May Become Dangerous

Love bombing often takes place at the onset of a relationship. At the beginning of getting to know each other, you might view this person as charming and especially attentive. This person will praise you effusively, tell you they adore you, and often seem to emotionally attach way too quickly.

If you find yourself telling your friends your partner seems too good to be true, they just might be.

Love bombing also happens with couples after they have a big fight or break up. There’s nothing wrong with giving someone a second chance, but if someone belittles you, then begs for forgiveness, promises it will never happen again and offers overly-grand gestures, like sending you five dozen roses to show how sorry they are, be cautious.

Especially common in cases of domestic violence, the abuser will inflict abuse, reiterate how much they love you and employ dramatic tactics to get in your good graces again to keep you in the relationship. The danger is that the abuser needs control and the same cycle repeats. They don’t change their abusive behavior and you might be in harm’s way.

Stages of Being Love Bombed

Let's take a look at the stages of love bombing.

Idealization

Love bombers sweep you off your feet. It’s nice to be flooded with dopamine, the feel-good chemical your brain releases. As Dr. Amy E. Keller, PsyD, MFT points out, “it feels great when a new potential love interest starts sexting you or bombards you with texts, calls, and flowers.”

But a common sign of a love bomber: they don’t do anything halfway. During the first phase, there is idealization. They seem to put you on a pedestal. This can seem flattering, but they idealize you too quickly. In fact, everything seems to happen too quickly.

Devaluation

One of the telling signs of being love bombed occurs during the second phase, the devaluation stage. Your partner alternates between being kind one minute and cruel the next. They’re savvy enough to be loving in public so that others think they’re great. But they turn abusive, especially in private.

These individuals are amazingly adept at finding those who are vulnerable. For example, they’ll prey on those who just got divorced, recently broke up with someone, or have low self-esteem.

In the first study to empirically analyze love bombing behaviors, researchers found a correlation between love bombing and narcissism, insecure attachment style, and low self-esteem using a sample group of 484 college students.

These millennials sent excessive communications at the beginning of romantic relationships to gain power and control over their love interests. The scientists noted millennials have shown a major increase in narcissism compared to previous generations.

Signs of Being Love Bombed

So, how do you know if you’re falling in love or living with a love bomber? Start asking yourself these questions to determine if your mental wellness is being adversely affected and you’re being love-bombed:

  • Is this person taking an extreme interest in your family, career, and hobbies?
  • Is this person complimenting you and then criticizing you in the same breath—supposedly “for your own good?"
  • Is this person constantly asking you where you are and then angry if you don’t answer fast enough?
  • Does this person make you feel comfortable? Or, are you nervous and it all feels like too much? 
  • Is this person narcissistic, i.e. lacking compassion for you and exhibiting self-aggrandizing behavior? 

The Tell-Tale Red Flags

Take a few minutes and see if these red flags have appeared during your relationship. These examples will alert you to the fact that the person you’re with is likely a master manipulator.

Here are specifics to look for:

  • They ignore your time and schedule because narcissists are focused on their own needs.
  • They offer over-the-top compliments and exaggerated flattery. They chillingly seem to know what you want to hear.
  • In public and on social media, they like big displays of PDA (i.e., public display of affection). They like to manipulate the look of a perfect romance.
  • If they give you lavish gifts, they’ll hold them over you. They’ll remind you of how much they’ve done for you and about expensive gifts they’ve given you, especially when you’re exhibiting doubt.
  • They need constant reassurance. If you don’t answer a text, they’ll blow up, maybe threaten you.
  • You start to fear being punished and berated by them. You become uneasy in their company.
  • Narcissists confuse you. They’re insecure so they blame you and make issues seem like your fault.
  • Because of gaslighting, you second-guess yourself and your reality as they slowly exert more control over you.
  • Due to this emotional abuse, it’s not uncommon to experience depression or anxiety.
  • They isolate you from your family and friends so that you rely solely on them.

Can Love Bombing Ever Be a Good Thing?

In fewer cases, love bombing can be a positive experience. Someone eager to find the right person might be elated when they find that special one and shower the other in lots of gifts.

While overly generous, it occurs over time. It feels natural compared to the controlling ways of a typical love bomber.

Depending on the culture and family background, extensive gift-giving and being expressive through compliments and such might also be an inherited way for your significant other to express closeness and love.

What to Do If You Realize You're Smothering Someone With Too Much Affection?

In other cases, you might be love bombing and not even know it. If you're feeling insecure or have a desperate need to shower someone with attention and gifts, it's important to figure out why:

  • Are your smothering actions due to clinging to the relationship?
  • Are you compensating for poor treatment of your partner in the past?
  • Do you fear your partner will break up with you?
  • Do you fear abandonment?
  • Do you want to be viewed as a hero?

Take some time to assess your behavior. After you figure out what is driving you to act this way, consider your goal and how this is impacting the person you love.

If you're innocently love bombing (meaning you have no intention or desire to manipulate your partner), you could possibly have an insecure attachment style. Seek the help of a psychologist to help you sort out your behavior and motives.

Going overboard with your affection out of a fear of rejection or clinginess is not the same thing as love-bombing as a manipulative/abusive tactic. However, it may be a good idea to address your fear of abandonment or rejection with a therapist who can help you sort out any relationship insecurities you may have.

What an Intimate, Loving Relationship Looks Like

With closeness, respect, and consideration, healthy couples can be vulnerable, trust and care for each other. Those who have been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, according to the Cleveland Clinic, lack empathy. They’re self-centered and demand admiration. They also have an outsized sense of entitlement.

Dr. Keller notes, “In a loving partnership, one is allowed to have discussions about changing their mind, ask for time, and confide in their partner their fears and concerns. Then hopefully, they can subsequently come up with solutions together.”

What to Do After You’ve Been Love Bombed 

Know that you’re not alone. A studyon living with pathological narcissism found difficulties within the context of their close relationships.

Researchers found that not only was the grandiosity detrimental to partners and relatives, but the vulnerable aspect of pathological narcissism which includes instability, insecurity, and rage affected their partners in an insidious way.

If you’ve expressed discomfort and were unable to draw boundaries with this love bomber, connect with friends and loved ones. It’s never too early to seek out help from a mental health counselor to guide you. Remember to give yourself kindness and forgiveness, too.

The antidote to being love-bombed in the future says Dr. Keller is “to know your own self worthto love yourself, to keep one eye open in the relationship, and try not to be so blinded that you don't learn enough about your partner.”

A Word From Verywell

Love bombing also happens in friendships and other relationships as well. But if you are being love-bombed by a romantic partner and find that the relationship is becoming more abusive, help is available.

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Strutzenberg CC, Wiersma-Mosley JD, Jozkowski KN, Becnel JN. Love-bombing: A Narcissistic Approach to Relationship FormationDiscovery, The Student Journal of Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. 2017;18(1), 81-89.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Are You (or Is Someone You Love) a Narcissist?

  3. Day NJS, Townsend ML, Grenyer BFS. Living with pathological narcissism: a qualitative study. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation. 2020;7(19).

By Barbara Field
Barbara is writer and speak who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.