How To Spot 'Love Bombing'—A Sneaky Form of Emotional Abuse

It happens when a new partner's over-the-top displays of affection cross a dangerous line.

When the initial affection in a relationship is mutual, it can be a perfectly healthy sign of a blossoming relationship. However, extreme attention and affection that's one-sided at the beginning of a relationship can be considered "love bombing"—a type of emotional abuse. Here's what you should know about the signs of love bombing.

What Is Love Bombing?

The term applies to troubling behaviors sometimes seen in romantic relationships, sometimes portrayed in entertainment media as a good thing.

Geraldine Piorkowski, Ph.D., author of "Too Close for Comfort: Exploring the Risks of Intimacy," describes love bombing as "a seductive tactic—consisting of excessive affection, attention, flattery, gifts, and praise—designed to ingratiate oneself and create positive feelings in the other person."

Excessive is the keyword in that definition. Love bombing differs from normal relationship behavior in that it feels unrelenting and unwarranted—or, depending on how taken in the receiving partner is by the attention, too good to be true. Also, though it usually happens at the beginning of a relationship, it can happen anytime.

"As in wars, love bombing is a bombardment or storming of the gates, designed to break down resistance—that is, the protective walls we all erect to shield ourselves from harm," said Piorkowski. "The victim in love bombing is usually vulnerable at the time and readily influenced by the inordinate attention."

Love Bombing Signs

Common signs of love bombing include the following:

  • Labeling a partner as a soulmate early on
  • Exaggerating compliments
  • Gift-giving that seems over-the-top
  • Having a communication overload

The overloaded communication can be in person, but it's also possible for that communication to be digital. People who love bomb may do so through text messages, emails, phone calls, and social media.

Beyond the above signs, the most obvious sign of love bombing can be how a partner's behavior makes you feel. For instance, you shouldn't feel overwhelmed, uncomfortable, or uneasy.

"Intimacy comes with a lot of risks, like being embarrassed or rejected, so it's human nature to proceed cautiously in a new relationship," said Piorkowski. "When someone goes very quickly, you have to ask yourself: Why are they doing this?"

There are other things to watch out for as well. "One-sided conversations are an important sign," said Piorkowski. "Love bombers often talk a lot about themselves, and your own needs and wishes don't matter much." The exception is when they pay you lots of compliments—but even those can start to feel insincere and inappropriate.

Additionally, pay attention to how your partner treats other people. "The bullies of the world are bullies, not just in romantic partnerships, but they tend to be bullies with others in their lives, too," said Piorkowski.

Reasons People Love Bomb

One study concluded that individuals with low levels of self-esteem and high levels of narcissism engaged in relationship love-bombing.

"First, there's the kind of person who's really very desperate for a relationship," explained Piorkowski. "They're needy, depressed, and they're looking for someone to fill up their emptiness."

These types of love bombers aren't necessarily harmless. They often form unhealthy attachments to their romantic interests and can even turn into stalkers. While misguided, their feelings toward their partner tend to be somewhat genuine.

The other type of love bomber is more sinister. "These are the narcissist sociopath types, who deliberately engage in a strategy to control someone," said Piorkowski. "It's almost a conscious ploy to gain favor and power with a partner, regardless of how they truly feel about them."

Dating this type of person rarely ends well. Love bombers often become angry or act hurt when their partner doesn't fully return their affection and attention—or questions or contradicts them.

Eventually, these types of love bombers may lose interest in their partner as quickly as they fell in "love" in the first place. Even worse, they could become controlling, verbally abusive, or even violent.

Love Bombing vs. Loving Relationships

Just as it's important to know what love bombing looks like, it's also good to know when you're experiencing romantic love in a relationship.

Romantic love refers to love that includes intimacy and passion. Part of knowing what romantic love is is recognizing what type of relationship you have in general. A healthy relationship has the following qualities:

  • Communication about problems and opinions
  • Good boundary setting
  • Honesty
  • Equality with decisions and standards
  • Partnering economically and financially
  • Respect oforopinions, feelings, needs, and personal freedom
  • Time for personal space
  • Trust in what partners say

Romantic love itself should also include interactions specifically between attraction, connection, respect, and trust:

  • Attraction: Physical and personality traits
  • Connection: A sense of oneness between partners in the form of companionship, friendship, and intimacy
  • Respect: Admiration and consideration for a partner
  • Trust: Partner reliability and dependability

Keeping these four factors intact requires active effort from the partners involved. Otherwise, romantic love cannot exist in the relationship.

What To Do About Love Bombing

Love bombing isn't always a sign of emotional abuse or deliberate manipulation, said Piorkowski. Sometimes, it's truly a matter of crossed signals and a little too much enthusiasm. The only way to find out, explained Piorkowski, is to have a serious conversation about what's bothering you.

"You need to sit down together and say, 'This is going too fast for me; I want to slow down'—and then see how they react," said Piorkowski. "Do they acknowledge your feelings and pay attention to them, or are they like a good salesperson who keeps talking you out of whatever objections you have to buying something?"

On the other hand, if you really are feeling head-over-heels with a new partner, and you're truly loving the attention, enjoy it—cautiously, said Piorkowski.

"Some people do fall in love quickly, and those feelings in and of themselves are not bad," said Piorkowski. "But you have to check those feelings against the reality of who this person really is." In other words, make sure you're both really into each other—not just the idea of love.

Looking for Support?

If you're worried that your situation could become dangerous, tell a friend or coworker about your concerns. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can offer support and references to resources.


A Quick Review

Love bombing consists of charming behavior, usually at the start of a relationship, that can turn into emotional abuse. Love bombing may involve behaviors like wanting to engage in excessive partner communication, and people may love bomb because of self-esteem or narcissism.

Ultimately, knowing what love bombing looks like can help you determine when you are experiencing romantic love and when affection in your relationship is too much.

Was this page helpful?
6 Sources 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.
  1. National Domestic Violence Hotline. Signs of love bombing.

  2. Strutzenberg, C. C., Wiersma-Mosley, J. D., Jozkowski, K. N., & Becnel, J. N. Love-bombing: a narcissistic approach to relationship formation. Discovery. 2017;18(1):81-89.

  3. Rathus Z, Jeffries S, Menih H, Field R. “It’s like standing on a beach, holding your children’s hands, and having a tsunami just coming towards you”: intimate partner violence and “expert” assessments in Australian family lawVictims & Offenders. 2019;14(4):408-440. doi:10.1080/15564886.2019.1580646

  4. American Psychological Association. Romantic love.

  5. National Domestic Violence Hotline. Healthy relationships.

  6. Tobore TO. Towards a comprehensive theory of love: the quadruple theoryFront Psychol. 2020;11:862. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00862

Related Articles