How to Spot Relationship Love Bombing, According to a Therapist

Is your phone constantly lighting up with their texts?
What is love bombing
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Jessica Estrada - The Knot Contributor.
Jessica Estrada
Jessica Estrada - The Knot Contributor.
Jessica Estrada
The Knot Contributor
  • Jessica contributes wedding planning, wedding etiquette and relationship content to The Knot.
  • She also covers lifestyle and wellness topics for print and digital publications such Refinery29, Bustle, Well + Good, Cosmopolitan, Byrdie, The Zoe Report, The Cut and more.
  • Jessica has a journalism degree from Cal State University, Northridge and is certified as a life and success coach.
Updated Jun 05, 2023

When you meet someone new, it's easy to get swept up in the honeymoon phase and romance of it all. But it's important to remain grounded as you're exploring this new relationship and be on the lookout for potential red flags. Case in point: love bombing. What is love bombing, you ask?

A manipulative tactic often used by narcissists, love bombing is the attempt to control someone via over-the-top displays of affection and attention, which can negatively impact the receiver's mental health and overall well-being. Think your relationship is moving too quickly or it feels too good to be true? You may want to carefully examine the relationship for this problematic behavior.

Additionally, it's not only new relationships that are at risk for this form of emotional manipulation. Love bombing could occur in relationships of all stages—and could also become a repeated pattern of emotional abuse.

To better understand what is love bombing and learn the common signs of this manipulative behavior, we turned to licensed therapist Ce Anderson, M.S., L.P.C. Below, she dives into the warning signs of love bombing and what you should do if you discover you're being love bombed.

In this article:

What is Love Bombing in a Relationship

As Anderson explains, love bombing involves inauthentic romantic behavior, as the manipulator is hoping for something in return—such as loyalty, influence or control. "Love bombing occurs when an individual purposefully and intentionally attempts to influence their target through excessive affection, doting, gifts and attention," says the licensed therapist, who notes that love-bombing behavior typically cannot be sustained by the bomber. The mask will eventually crack and fall, revealing the love bomber's true intent.

A deceptive and unhealthy dating tactic, love bombing is bad as the rush of phony or unreliable affection can be detrimental to the receiver's mental health, as well as cloud their judgment. "The target may perceive it as being freely given when they are really being deceived," explains Anderson. "In other words, what you see is not what you'll get."

Anderson also adds that some people may love bomb unintentionally, while others are fully aware that they are doing it. "They are likely testing your boundaries and have more tactics up their sleeves," she warns of someone of the latter group who could be displaying narcissistic love bombing.

"This individual usually operates with a 'carrot,' displaying what they believe the target desires so that they can gain trust; but they never actually provide said desire," Anderson explains. "They could certainly [also] have a clinical personality disorder, such as narcissistic personality disorder, but this isn't always the case."

What Are the Signs of Love Bombing?

Acts of emotional manipulation, or any type of abuse, are never the survivor's fault or responsibility to have spotted the signs of—but learning some common tip-offs can be helpful in early intervention. Here are five common signs of love bombing:

1. They call you their soulmate too soon.

When you meet someone truly special, even if (as cliché as it may sound) you knew from first sight that they were the one, most people won't verbalize or communicate that to the other person early on in the relationship. This is why Anderson says that if someone tells you they're falling in love or says things like "You're my soul mate," or "We're perfect together" when you're still newly acquainted, that could be a big love-bombing red flag.

2. Things are moving too quickly.

While whirlwind, sweep-you-off-your-feet romances like those in the movies can happen, Anderson says the reality is that healthy relationships with strong emotional connections take time to develop. So, if there is an immediate and overwhelming connection, that could be another sign that points to love bombing or some form of manipulation.

3. They need to be in constant contact with you.

While good morning, good night and just-because "I love you" text messages are all sweet to receive, needing to be in constant communication with you can be a sign of love bombing. The scenario especially should be of concern if your partner becomes upset when their constant messages or calls are ignored or not answered quickly enough.

4. They perform grand gestures.

Some grand gestures and flattery are genuine, but they can also signal love bombing, especially if they come with the expectation of an emotional reaction from you. "This person may be emotionally needy, with hopes to keep you connected for emotional purposes," Anderson says. "Emotional vampires feed off the emotional connections and energy of others. You become a supply, a battery of sorts to keep them on a high—in a euphoric state."

5. They say they can't live without you.

Love bombing can also look like someone calling you their savior or saying they can't live without you. "We're socialized to help others and put others before us," Anderson says. And love bombing in this way, "creates emotional bondage and indebtedness that can make it difficult to disconnect later."

What to Do if Someone is Love Bombing You

If you believe that you're being love bombed, it's important to recognize that what is happening is both not your fault and not okay. What is occurring is a harmful form of emotional manipulation and while the relationship may be unhealthy, it's understandable that you may feel an attachment to either it or your partner. Alternatively, you may want to immediately walk away—there is no one "normal" way to feel. But here are some tips on how to proceed.

Trust your gut.

Our intuition is one of our superpowers, as it can reveal to us a person's true intentions. Anderson says it's important to trust that inner wisdom: If things seem too good to be true, she says, they usually are. Speak up and communicate if things feel off. Discussing and clarifying your partner's actions, how they make you feel and their intentions behind them can help immensely. But again, trust your gut: Don't be afraid to walk away if you're left unsatisfied or doubtful.

Take things slowly.

Forming a genuine connection with a partner requires that you be vulnerable and fully open with them. However, Anderson notes, you shouldn't be too quick to let someone in. "Guard yourself," she advises. "Don't give intimate details about past relationships, flaws or weaknesses so early to someone who has yet to gain your trust."

Instead, take your time building the relationship and give the person the opportunity to demonstrate their trustworthiness. Once they do, you can begin to share those intimate details.

Don't be afraid to say "no."

If you begin to notice a pattern of love-bombing behavior, communication is vital. Anderson emphasizes that it's perfectly okay to say "no" to the attention or affection that the love bomber gives if it seems out of place or makes you feel uncomfortable in any way. Stating and setting your boundaries is important in every relationship and if a partner doesn't respect those boundaries, it could be a sign of a toxic relationship that likely won't change for the better.

Seek support from family, friends or a professional.

Confiding in a trusted friend or family member or a licensed professional can be incredibly beneficial when it comes to navigating tricky relationship issues. Speaking to a therapist in particular can help ensure you're in a safe environment, learn how to assert boundaries and support your overall mental well-being.

How to Stop Love Bombing Other People

As previously stated, some individuals may not be aware that they're love bombing their partner. If you find that you've been channeling relationship anxieties or stress into love bombing, it's firstly a positive that you're able to recognize the behavior as problematic. Next, comes the tougher part: Breaking the unhealthy habit. Consider why you've been engaging in love bombing and communicate the issues behind your behavior with your partner—and potentially with a therapist, if necessary.

Contributions by Jamie Cuccinelli

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