What Does Love Bombing Mean?

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A woman excited to receive a gift at a restaurant

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Love bombing is a type of emotional abuse where someone uses grand gestures to manipulate another person. A love bomber may "bomb" you with gifts, compliments, and affection, but these actions are not done out of kindness. Instead, love bombing is used to make a friend, partner, or loved one dependent on them so they can control the relationship.

Why Do People Love Bomb?

Love bombing often stems from insecurities around trust and dependence on others. People typically love bomb to gain control in a relationship and make others feel guilty about questioning their actions. Sometimes love bombing is intentional manipulation. Other times people may not realize they’re doing it. 

Romantic partners are more likely to love bomb, but anyone can do it—including friends and family. However, love bombing is typically a manipulative tactic used by people with narcissistic personality disorder—a personality disorder where someone feels self-important and entitled to attention and praise. 

Love bombing can also be a learned behavior. People may start love bombing after learning it from parents, childhood trauma, or past abusive relationships. 

What Are the Signs of Love Bombing?

Love bombing signs can vary from person to person. However, it’s typically an unwanted grand gesture that initially could make you uncomfortable, not simply loved. Some different signs of love bombing include:

  • Over-the-top declarations of love or admiration: A love bomber may tell you they love and flatter you constantly—often too early in a relationship. They may also like over-the-top public displays of affection and demand your attention.
  • Constantly calling or texting you to check in: Your partner may ignore your schedule and not respect your time by communicating constantly. They may also become irritated if you don’t respond when they are “concerned” about you. 
  • Rushing into a relationship: They may make intense plans for a future together early into a relationship. A love bomber may also declare you’re their soulmate or rush a committed relationship before you really know them.
  • Giving unnecessary or unwanted gifts: A love bomber may pay for extravagant and unwanted gifts to make you think they love you and have your best interest. These gifts may be too much, and a love bomber will remind you about them like a debt.
  • Constantly praising or complimenting: Your partner always seems to say the right thing, but compliments seem exaggerated. They may also become overly interested in your hobbies and accomplishments. 
  • Boundaries are ignored: A love bomber doesn’t like to be told no or listen to healthy boundaries. If you discuss that you feel overwhelmed or need them to stop a behavior, they may argue that they’re doing it for your best interest.  

These signs are different than behaviors in a loving, healthy relationship because these actions often can make you feel unnerved. Love bombing signs like over-communicating feelings and constant communication also cross healthy boundaries. A love bomber will not like you trying to set boundaries. 

These love bombing actions may be a red flag right away. However, you may catch yourself second-guess them because your partner appears generous and loving. Love bombing is a form of gaslighting. Gaslighting can make you question your feelings as if you’re the problem. You may start to believe your love bomber has your best interest, and you should be grateful.

Why Is Love Bombing Harmful?

Love bombing is a sign of an unhealthy relationship because the behavior is manipulative and can be emotionally abusive. Love bombing is often a domestic abuse tactic used to gaslight someone so a partner can isolate and control them. In turn, the person experiencing love bombing will likely struggle with their mental health and become stuck in an unhealthy, abusive relationship.

As love bombing progresses, the emotional abuse can worsen and become physical. Love bombing is often part of a narcissistic abuse cycle, which includes:

  1. Idealization: Your partner showers you with gifts and affection early in a relationship. You may feel like you're in a whirlwind romance or other intense, caring relationship. This person constantly tells you how much they love you and plans a future with you. They are also in constant communication and become deeply interested in everything you do and have to say. 
  2. Devaluation: Those grand gestures and compliments can make you comfortable with the relationship. Your partner may start to demand more of your time or become irritated if you don’t spend all your time with them. If you second guess your feelings based on these red flags, your partner may gaslight you or use physical violence to intimidate you. 
  3. Discarding: When you realize your partner’s behavior is unhealthy, you confront them and try to set boundaries. In retaliation, they refuse to compromise or blame you for their actions. Your partner may suddenly end the relationship to leave you feeling like it was your fault. They may also immediately replace you with a new partner.

What To Do If You’re Being Love-Bombed

If you think someone is love bombing you, listen to your gut. Love bombing often makes people initially question their true feelings, and the relationship may feel uncomfortable or overwhelming. 

Partners, family members, and friends should respect your boundaries when asked. If you sense you’re being love bombed, you should confront them about their behaviors and discuss setting boundaries. Working through love-bombing behaviors and sticking to healthy boundaries may take some time, but it can help heal a relationship.

You may need to end the relationship if a partner or friend reacts poorly to discussions about boundaries, refuses to change, or blames you for their actions. It’s never your fault when someone tries to emotionally manipulate you. If you need help navigating your feelings after emotional abuse or ending a relationship, seeing a mental health professional can help. 

If you feel unsafe in a current relationship and need help, talk to your healthcare provider or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788. In addition, the Crisis Text Line can connect you with a crisis counselor by texting “HOME” to 741741.

A Quick Review

Love bombing is a manipulative tactic often used by people with narcissistic personality disorder to gain control in a relationship. Friends, family, or romantic partners can love bomb you by showering you with gifts, being overly complimentary, or constantly giving you attention. These actions make you feel loved and dependent on that person, which they will use against you to isolate and control you. Love bombing can happen quickly in a relationship and slowly progress into an unhealthy and abusive relationship. 

Setting boundaries in a relationship can help you navigate unintentional love bombing. Seeing a therapist can also help you decipher your feelings and learn about creating a healthy relationship. If you feel unsafe in a relationship because of love bombing or physical abuse, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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5 Sources
Health.com 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.
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