If you’ve been hit by a love bomb, those early days will feel gloriously intoxicating. Being the subject of all of the intense and lavish affection may seem as though your prayers have been answered. You wouldn’t be the first to conclude that this is it; you’ve found your soulmate – Mr. or Ms. Right. You’d be unsuspecting that you may just have been targeted by a narcissist. What you thought was real was, in fact, a mirage.
Highly skilled manipulators know how to seduce their prey. As skilled wordsmiths and psychological puppeteers, pulling the strings every step of the way, they learn your love language and they know how to appeal to exactly what you want to hear. The initial shower of ‘love’ and tenderness masks a chilling interior.
Love bombing, contrary to what other purveyors of click-bait will have you believe, is not a new concept. The expression was coined by members of the controversial Unification Church of the United States in America in the 1970s. The phrase then started to be used in psychology after Professor Margaret Singer discussed it in her book, ‘Cults in Our Midst’ which was about how cults use persuasive and coercive techniques to recruit new members. Love bombing can be used in any situation where one person seeks to convince and convert another into believing in something or behaving a certain way. Love bombing feels good, until it doesn’t.
Love bombing is the practice of overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and intense attraction. We all love to be loved and when someone tells you just how special you are, it can be intoxicating. However, when a person uses such comments to keep your focus trained on him or her, or to keep bringing you back in if you’ve started to back off, it could be a case of manipulation. Please note, I am NOT saying that everyone who whispers sweet nothings in your ear is a narcissist or predator. I am saying that if you’re feeling that something just isn’t right about the person or your relationship, these constant reminders of “how good you are together” (even when you suspect that you really aren’t) may be an effort to keep you tethered. It’s often the first line used by a potential abuser.
So what does love bombing look like? Some examples are:
- Excessive compliments
- Spending too much time together too soon
- Constant gifts
- Texting, emailing, calling many times a day
- Asking you to spend time with them rather than friends
- Mirroring all of your interests
- Excessive interest in your background, life, interests
- Wanting to take things to the next level quickly
As with so many distasteful dating behaviours, love bombing is about power control. It feels so good when the sun is shining down on you and only you, but when that warmth is withdrawn you’ll feel the dark cold even more acutely than you did before. If someone you barely know is lavishing you with excessive attention and affection then, odds are that it is because they want to manipulate you. When we think of a love-bombing campaign, keep in mind that the end goal is to win. When the narcissist uses this strategy, they do so to capture the prey before the prey gets wise to the game. Narcissists are going to do whatever it takes to get close enough to a romantic interest as quickly as they can before their target bolts. Individuals who are especially high in the trait of narcissism, or the minority who are pathological narcissists, may see others simply as objects to satisfy their desire for connection or manipulation.
Again, other explanations for “love at first sight” stories do exist. Sometimes, people really do just click from the start and the relationship builds quickly, but still at a healthy pace that is comfortable for both partners. Whereas narcissistic love bombers generate quite different emotions: anxiety, revulsion and sometimes fear. The pressure for a rapid commitment is troubling and uncomfortable, but if you want to believe what you’re being told (and who doesn’t), it is all too easy to ignore the warning signs. In fact, you might not read them as bombardment or manipulation at all because they fulfill the romantic stereotype of how things are supposed to unfold because they are “romantic”. A post-it stuck to the mirror when you wake up reading ‘soul-mate’ after less than a month of dating? Texts from the moment you wake up until long after you’ve gone to bed? Constant demands for attention and confirmations of feelings? It is the stuff of fiction but, like reading fiction, this story requires your full participation and attention. By constantly flattering and communicating with you, you cannot focus on anything else, which is precisely where the control comes in. At its most serious this can be the foundation for a problematic and abusive relationship.
This connection is heightened in a way that demands our fullest attention on a physical, spiritual and a biochemical level. Before we know it, we begin to rely on this new person for survival. And that is when the danger begins. When a relationship moves too fast or one partner tries to push it too forcefully, it is essential that you call your partner on it, and let him or her know how you feel. If a partner won’t listen and tries to excuse away the behavior, that’s a sign that there’s only likely to be less freedom and more manipulation in the future if you stay together.
When you’re eager to find a partner, it can be exciting to be the focus of someone you find attractive. Beware, though, because narcissists can be skilled at putting on the mask that their target will find most attractive. Healthy whirlwind romances do happen, but if you’re feeling like you’re in the middle of a tornado of attention and it’s more unsettling than not, it’s time to step back. It seems that we hear about love bombing more and more and everyone has a story to share.Could it be happening because it is easier than ever to contact the people? Let’s blame social media, that is always the root cause of everything, isn’t it…?
In my opinion, the internet tends to facilitate pre-existing problematic behaviour rather than cause it. Social media and online communication have enabled people with a propensity for love bombing because the internet is a freeing medium, allowing individuals to lower their psychological guard online. When it comes to relationships, the perceived anonymity of being online means that individuals reveal things about themselves, often very private things, because you are not face-to-face. Individuals can develop deep emotional relationships online without even having met the other person. Consequently, online methods of communication have become yet another tool in a love bomber’s arsenal in (initially) showering their professed love for somebody and 24/7.
The moral of the story? Sometimes the best romances are the ones that look nothing like the movies, the slow burners that gradually and steadily develop. There is a saying that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.