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In the early throes of dating, and during those initial weeks of a relationship, there are certain signs to be aware of that might indicate the other person is trying to manipulate your feelings.
The broad term used to describe a variety of behaviors is ‘love bombing,’ and by understanding what it is, you will be better equipped to spot a manipulative predator before they can truly lure you into their trap.
What Is Love Bombing?
Love bombing is an attempt to accelerate the birth and growth of feelings within the victim by creating an intense atmosphere of affection and adoration. It is designed to disarm an individual’s natural guardedness so that they do not question the direction and speed a relationship is headed in.
In some instances – with narcissists for instance – it is a sophisticated and over-the-top simulation of love by someone who is incapable of feeling love in the common sense of the word.
4 Emotional Signs That You Are Being Love Bombed
Whilst we’ll discuss some of the more specific signs of love bombing later on in the article, these 4 emotional signs are perhaps the most important to watch out for.
A manipulator will use a mix of these things to disarm their victim’s defenses and make them feel a deep level of commitment.
Confusion occurs because of the sheer amount of communication that takes place between the couple; ceaseless texting, frequent phone calls, interaction on social media, and a strong wish to meet in person as often as possible.
It can feel utterly overwhelming to be on the receiving end of such a bombardment, one that is designed to convince the victim of the unique and special bond they have with the abuser.
Having never experienced anything quite like it before, the victim will start to believe that this is something special, something good, a romance like you see in the movies – a whirlwind of excitement, both exhilarating and terrifying.
Flattery is present in virtually all courtship, but in the case of love bombing, it transcends to a whole other level. Every communication must include multiple compliments to seduce the victim and provide an almost irresistible feel-good factor that they will find hard to surrender.
When the victim constantly hears how beautiful, wonderful, and perfect the other party thinks they are, it gives their ego a real boost and causes physical and chemical changes in their brains. These only serve to cement their attraction to the abuser.
Quite often the victim will be someone who suffers from low self-esteem (an ideal target for a manipulative abuser) and so being complimented in this way may feel unnatural to them – even fake – but they will be too caught up to realize the true purpose of all the kind words.
Dependency is something that the love bomber will often attempt to introduce just a few weeks into the process of dating. Despite being in this embryonic stage, they will begin to proclaim how sure they are of the relationship, how much they enjoy spending time with the victim, and even how they are falling in love with them.
They push the victim on their own feelings in an attempt to have them reciprocate declarations of love and affection. They do this to further confuse the victim about how they truly feel.
They start to devour more and more of the victim’s time and energy – preventing them from seeing other people quite so often. This isolation may be noted by the friends and family of the victim, but it is often waived away as mere passion by the victim themselves.
By controlling access to love and affection, an abuser can put themselves in a position of great importance. As contact with others diminishes, the only source of warmth and love available to the victim comes from their newly found partner.
The longer this continues, the deeper under the spell they fall; eventually they start to see the abuser as someone they are unable to live without.
Destiny is how a manipulative abuser wishes to portray the relationship. Using phrases such as “I’ve never felt this way about anyone before” and “I can’t believe we found each other,” they paint a picture that this was meant to be.
A victim, their mind clouded by confusion, is unable to truly assess the value in these statements. They end up taking them at face value and this only heightens their own feelings towards the other person.
Eventually they, too, begin to believe that their meeting was fate. They simply cannot relate their current experience to anything from the past – this must mean it’s love, right? What else could it be?
With these four tools, an abuser is able to pack months’ worth of romantic bonding into a period of just weeks. They can effectively accelerate the typical process of a relationship and skip the part where their victim would stand back and ask themselves if this is what they really want.
Instead, because of how keen the love bomber comes across, and how well they believe they have come to know them, the victim foregoes these usual reality checks.
Suddenly, and almost beyond the control of the victim, the abusive person has succeeded in turning the initial few dates into a serious, full-blooded, intensely physical and emotional relationship.
They have blinded their unfortunate partner with lies, false praise, feelings that never existed, and tales of a happy and fruitful future together.
7 Other Signs Of Love Bombing
We have mentioned some of these things in passing already, but let’s take a closer look at some of the clear indicators that a person is being love bombed.
1. Excessive gift-giving.
It’s natural to feel a bit special and somewhat flattered upon receiving a gift. It communicates that the giver values the receiver’s presence in their life. It’s a demonstration of care and thoughtfulness.
In the case of loving bombing, however, the gift-giving goes beyond what one would usually expect.
The frequency of gifts is at the very high end of the scale with presents not only being given at every in-person rendezvous, but also sent to the victim’s home or place of work on a near continual basis.
The gifts are quite often more expensive and elaborate than is usual during the initial stages of a relationship. Huge bouquets of flowers, jewelry, plane tickets, even puppies.
The purpose of all this gift-giving is not just to flatter the victim; it adds to the confusion they feel because the gifts may convince them that the abuser is the real deal, a great person and partner, perhaps even ‘the one.’
2. Future faking.
Under the umbrella of love bombing comes another tactic used by manipulators to accelerate the development of the victim’s feelings. It’s called future faking.
Future faking is where a person offers detailed visions of what a future together might look like. This might include discussions of all the great places they’re going to take their victim – exotic beach resorts, romantic city getaways, incredible restaurants, amazing natural scenery, the lot.
It might also include talk of what type of house they’ll live in together, where it will be, the outdoor hot tub, the sweeping vistas of countryside, the his and hers sinks, the walk-in wardrobe, that sort of thing.
The manipulator might also tell you about all their friends or family members they want to introduce you to. “You’ll absolutely love Richard, he’s hilarious. And Ruth, too, she’s an absolute blast to be around.”
The main aim of future faking is to convince the victim as to the abuser’s commitment to them. It’s all part of the show and act that convinces the victim that this must be destiny. It allows them to dream of this future together and how great it all sounds.
3. Non-stop compliments.
We’ve pretty much covered this one already in the section about flattery, but it’s worth mentioning compliments specifically because flattery can take other forms.
Compliments in this context are not only incredibly frequent, they are often over-the-top in their praise of the victim. They are designed to put the victim high up on a pedestal; to inflate their self-esteem and make them feel nothing but positivity toward the manipulator.
Here are some examples of the types of things they might say:
“Damn, you are a perfect ten, no question about it!”
“You are by far and away the sweetest and kindest person I have ever met.”
“I could honestly stare into your eyes all day long. They are utterly beautiful.”
“There ain’t nothing you don’t look hot in.”
“I’ve never met anyone quite like you before.”
4. Intense one-sided personal sharing.
A manipulative person will want to know as much as they can about their victim in order to use that information for their own gain.
They want to know how best to press their victim’s buttons; how to elicit an emotional response using things from their victim’s past.
Whilst some manipulators – chiefly narcissists – like to put the attention on themselves, they don’t offer much in the way of depth to their sharing. It’s all at the surface and doesn’t reveal who they really are.
But when they are love bombing someone, they switch tact and focus a great deal on the other person in order to get to know them as best they can. The victim may feel truly heard, more so than with most other people they have dated, but they won’t realize why.
The manipulator will dig for important nuggets of information by asking probing questions and getting the victim to open up, even beyond what they might be comfortable talking about.
5. The pushing of boundaries.
It’s natural to rub up against each other’s boundaries when first dating someone. It’s how people learn what is and what is not acceptable. And in healthy relationships, those boundaries are respected once they are identified.
But a manipulator won’t pay much attention to their victim’s boundaries. They will continually disrespect them or get very upset when their victim tries to assert or reassert those boundaries.
They will have excuses and reasons as to why the other person should drop their boundaries and accept the behavior or requests of the manipulator. They will try to reassure them that it’s okay and that they can trust them, even as the other person is telling them “no.”
They will make the victim feel guilty for resisting by making comments such as, “You would be okay with this if you really cared about me,” or, “This is what’s meant to happen when two people are as perfect for each other as we are.”
6. Refusal to slow down.
If the victim makes any attempts to slow the relationship down, the abuser will resist.
Maybe the victim suggests a date several days away for their next rendezvous. The abuser will see this as a problem because it gives the victim time to think and to gain clarity on the situation – both of which risk the control they are trying to assert. So they insist on seeing them sooner, much sooner.
Or if the victim is being more reserved than usual with their text communications, the abuser will simply text more often and try to force the conversation. Or they will simply change the method of communication and call the victim out of the blue.
The manipulator will insist on reaching ever bigger milestones as soon as possible, such as meeting the victim’s friends, going on vacation together, or even moving in together. Even marriage proposals are not out of the question.
7. Eventual inconsistency in emotional expression.
This sign comes a little later on in the love bombing process when the victim has been well and truly lured into the relationship. All of a sudden, where there was once only adoration, compliments, and kindness, there is now irritation, anger, coldness, and scorn among other things.
The relationship is likely to settle into a pattern of periods of love bombing (which become shorter over time) followed by periods of abuse or indifference (which get longer).
Love Bombing After A Breakup
This tactic is not only used during the initial part of a relationship; it is also common after a breakup.
While the separation might have involved a great deal of spiteful and vitriolic behavior, when an abuser is determined to renew a relationship, they will once again turn on the charm and utilize love bombing to win back their ex.
The approach will not change a great deal – bombardments of texts, calls, letters, emails, social media messages, and any other forms of communication they can think of.
They will profess their undying love for their victim and claim everything that has happened should not deny the destiny of the relationship – that it was a mere blip on the path that they are meant to walk together.
The flattery, which will have become more and more infrequent as the relationship progressed, will emerge from its hibernation to once again try and stroke the victim’s ego.
All of this is designed to cloud the situation with doubt and confusion, to make the victim reconsider their decision and take their partner back.
What Should You Do If You Think You’re Being Love Bombed?
First and foremost, try to be as sure as you can that what you are experiencing is love bombing. True love can sometimes be fast and furious, it can be full of declarations of attraction and affection, and it can feel like it was destined to be.
So how do you tell love bombing from true love?
The primary difference is that true love is two-sided; it feels right for both individuals and there is a distinct lack of confusion present. Even if things happen very quickly, it doesn’t feel rushed; YOU don’t feel rushed. You are 100% consenting when it comes to the speed and level of commitment.
So if you are utterly confused by how you feel, if you don’t truly know the other person that well, and if you somehow find yourself being separated from your existing life, friends, and family, you’re probably being love bombed.
And if you believe that is the case, the only course of action is to leave that relationship and never return to it. Regardless of how you might feel for the other person, no matter how much you might want to help them grow and change, to stay in the relationship is to subject yourself to a life of abuse and misery.
Sure, abuse can vary in its severity, but abuse of any kind should be a deal breaker for you. There is someone out there who will love you and treat you well and allow the relationship to develop at a natural rate.
At its heart, love bombing is a fairly blunt instrument with little in the way of finesse and craft. It uses brute force and persistence to achieve its aim, but this is also its chief flaw; it can be fairly easy to spot once you know what to look out for.
Hopefully this article has given you the knowledge you need to identify the signs and distance yourself from an abuser before they are able to manipulate you into a relationship.
Has love bombing left its mark on you and your emotional well-being? Speak to a counselor today who can walk you through the process of overcoming it. Simply click here to connect with one of the experienced counselors on BetterHelp.com.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long does the initial love bombing stage last?
A manipulator will continue to love bomb a victim until they are convinced that the relationship is well-established and the victim will not fight back or flee when they drop the pretence and show their true colors. This could be a matter of weeks or months.
The abuser will slowly test the waters by reducing the amount of love bombing behaviors they demonstrate whilst increasing the amount of aggressiveness, gaslighting, and belittling comments.
When they are convinced that the love bombing has had the desired effect, this initial phase is over.
What happens after the love bombing stage?
Once the abuser thinks the time is right, the devaluing stage begins. The insults, name-calling, and belittling ramp up either overtly or somewhat under the radar.
Devaluing happens because the abuser no longer gets as much of what they want from the relationship or the victim. They don’t value the attention or devotion the victim gives them as much as they once did, and they make this quite clear.
They may withhold physical or emotional affection, poke fun of the victim in public, or play down their achievements.
This crushes the victim’s self-esteem and self-worth to the point where they don’t feel able to leave the relationship. The abuser will occasionally return to love bombing tactics to reassure the victim for a little while, but it doesn’t last long.
After the devaluing stage comes the discard. When the abuser finally stops seeing the worth in the relationship, they will likely end it and move on to their next victim to regain the thrill of the chase, the attention of someone new. This can come quite out of the blue, leaving the victim traumatized and alone.
How should you respond to love bombing?
If you are certain that a person’s behavior is love bombing, you should walk away from that relationship. The earlier you spot the signs, the better.
But what if you’re not sure someone is love bombing you? Perhaps they show some of the signs, but it’s not entirely clear if it’s malicious or entirely innocent.
Well, you can try to assert yourself and see how they react. If, for example, they buy you an expensive gift on only your fifth date, you should reject that gift and tell them that you think it’s too much. If they accept that graciously, it’s a good sign. If they insist that you take it, it shows they do not consider your wishes or take your boundaries seriously.
Or if you think their compliments are overboard and exaggerated, you could thank them by suggest that you don’t really enjoy receiving compliments like that. Because this is one of the manipulator’s key tactics, they may struggle to keep a lid on their compulsion to say nice things about you. Someone else, on the other hand, will probably take on board your concerns and dial back the compliments.
A general rule of thumb is: if the other person gets annoyed by your assertiveness and tries to steamroller you with their demands, you should take that as a red flag and run.
How can you recover from love bombing?
If you’ve escaped the relationship before the more damaging devalue and discard phases, your recovery is going to be more straightforward. It will mostly involve scaling back your emotional response to the person who love bombed you.
You might have some strong feelings for them at this point, and it is going to take time for those feelings to diminish. You can speed up the process by looking over your time with them with a critical eye and identifying all the ways in which they were insincere and manipulative. As you do, you will see that their feelings for you were nothing like you thought, and that your feelings for them were manufactured.
If your relationship has gone further than the initial love bombing stage, your recovery will involve more work and a lot more time. If you believe the other person was a narcissist, you should read our article on narcissistic abuse recovery.
A counselor would also be a very worthwhile investment if you are able to afford it. They will listen to your thoughts, worries, and feelings, and help you to work through them whilst repairing the psychological and emotional damage your abuser has inflicted upon you. Click here to talk to one via phone or video through BetterHelp.com.
You may also like:
- Gaslighting: 22 Examples Of This Brutally Manipulative Mindf*ck
- The Language Narcissists Use To Manipulate And Traumatize Their Victims
- How To Hurt A Narcissist
- Coping Mechanisms When Leaving A Narcissistic Partner Behind
- The 6 Masks A Narcissist May Wear (And How To Spot Them)
- How A Narcissist’s Delusions Of Grandeur Prevent Them From Loving You
- The Covert Narcissist: How Shy, Introverted Types Can Be Narcissists Too