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What is love bombing?

Love bombing is the romanticizing one partner does to entice their love interest into believing they are their perfect love. The romantic interest over-delivers with compliments, attention, adoration, and romantic gestures, so their partner becomes accustomed to having their world taken over by their new love interest.

Love bombing is when someone puts you on a pedestal and adores you. They sing your praises, claim to love all your flaws and flatter you with undivided attention. The word fawning is accurate for this behavior and it is unsustainable. They can focus on meeting all your needs, being your dream partner, and fixing all problems that come by. It can appear as if they are soul mates but in reality one partner is not showing up as they are but rather performing another’s fantasies.

A love bomber is an active researcher about you so they can show up and be the most desired love object. In fact research tells us that often intense, fast paced romantics are the most likely to become violent. Often the love bombing creates an unspoken tab where the object of affection ‘owes’ the love bomber. The main goal is to control the object of their affection.

Some common signs of love bombing are

  • Wanting to be with you 24/7
  • Putting pressure on you to make commitments
  • Showering you with gifts and compliments
  • Saying I love you too quickly
  • Feeling things are too good to be true
  • The pursuer seeks constant attention
  • The pursuer responds poorly when you set boundaries
  • They act like you are their savior
  • The amount and intensity of the attention feels uncomfortable
  • They seems to distract you away from your other important relationships

Why can love bombing be so difficult to identify in a new relationship?

Because our culture has taught us unrealistic expectations of love and it is hard to walk away from someone that fulfilled your fantasies even if it was only for a short time.  Think of all the love stories, movies and tv shows that glorify showering another with attention.  It normalizes intense behavior without acknowledging how such intensity can turn into domination. You have to ask yourself why the person is working overtime to engage you? If a healthy person sees themselves as valuable, why would they need to work so hard for another to like them?  Is there some reason or struggle they are trying to cover.

What are the common stages of love-bombing?

  1. There is the excitement/pursuer stage where they start gathering information, shower you with attention and get their partner accustomed to the adoration.
  2. The love bomber requires more attention and praise from the partner. The partner gets a decreased level of attention. At times contempt is expressed at the partner. The partner performs in ways to regain the love bomber’s approval.
  3. The love bomber turns off the attention and the partner desperately tries to please the partner to get the love bombing back. At times there can be promises or small gestures from the love bomber that echo the original love bombing but the partner’s efforts are not considered enough to earn the love bomber’s true focus. This leaves thed partner questioning themselves and feeling unlovable.

What are a few signs that can help someone discern between love bombing and real love?

Be clear not to confuse emotional intensity with emotional intimacy. People who meet under intense circumstances (during a divorce for example) confuse the intensity of the situation with the depth of the relationship. A lover can intensely focus to assuage their anxiety of being alone or dealing with a new relationship (which really means the attention isn’t even about how wonderful you are). Ask yourself these questions –

  • Do they actually even know you well enough to be fawning all over you?
  • What do you know about their background?
  • Do they seem isolated or have few interests outside of you?

Here’s a hint – If the relationship feels fast or pressured, slow it down. Notice how the fast pursuer responds to the slow down. Do they approach you with respect or do they attempt to bring the speed up again. Get curious about the why of their approach.

In unhealthy relationships we look for signs of coercive control – liberty crimes if you will. It is when an adult tries to control another adult with how they spend their money, their job, their friends, family, free time, thoughts and behaviors. If violence is threatened or initiated, fight your inclination to talk about it or learn the whys with the abuser – just get out. Loving someone and controlling someone are not the same – know the difference.

Some signs of coercive control can be cloaked in claims of looking out for you –

  • Do they try to influence who you spend your time with?
  • Do they have something negative to say about friends, family or your outside interests?
  • Do they shower you with texts while you are at work or out with friends?
  • Are they angry when you choose to not spend time with your love interest?
  • Are they jealous when they have been given no reason to be?
  • Do they check in with you too much claiming they are worried about your safety?
  • Do they make immediate promises about the future?

Pay close attention to how someone responds to little nos, the nos that don’t really matter – for example “No I don’t want Chinese takeout tonight, I would rather have Italian or Mexican takeout.” Do they pout, or punish you for disagreeing? Dismiss you or bring it up late as if it is a personal offense?

Some phrases used in love bombing are

  • I have never felt this instant connection before
  • Can we move in together?
  • I think I am falling in love with you
  • Tattoos with your name or symbolizing your relationship
  • You are my soulmate, I need you
  • You are the reason I wake up with a smile every morning
  • I have never met anyone so perfect before

All of these phrases could sound romantic if they weren’t all uttered in the first 2 months

What is the link between narcissism and love bombing?

Narcissist’s feel fatally flawed so they rely on performing to gain approval and push away feelings of inadequacies. They were often taught to fawn over their parents or parents fawned over them so they misinterpret fawning as love. With a narcissist they want to have adoration and ensure they won’t be abandoned. Often they come up with grand love gestures that are made for tv ready but are unable to deal with the disappointments with day to day intimacy. Narcissists struggle holding onto loving feelings for a partner when they are hurt by the partner – often they can see their partners as all good or all bad. They often confuse intensity for intimacy.

If someone’s feeling iffy about a new relationship,what should they do?

Trust their gut. People live how they want to live – if you see something that is not for you don’t ignore it. There is no magical partner that can change another’s values or preferences, not even you. If you find yourself trying to justify worrying behaviors, ask yourself why you are doing so. Get real with yourself about how and where you learned to justify unacceptable behavior and if you want to repeat that cycle again.

Know the difference between being wanted and being valued. Strive for relationships where you feel valued because that requires a deeper mutually respectful relationship.

Avoid hot and cold relationships. Someone with emotional maturity can be more consistent with you even when angry or disappointed.

Here’s another thought, put your pride on a shelf when considering leaving a toxic relationship. There are so many people who chose to stay because they don’t want to look foolish by leaving and having everyone learn they were in an unhealthy relationship. They put up with unsatisfying relationships to avoid feeling like a failure. The secret is failure is part of every growth cycle. Resist the temptation to berate yourself for choosing this partner in the beginning. Mistakes can be made and folks can move on.

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