Everyone grows up watching movies where the protagonist is swept off their feet by their eventual love interest. For instance, we were charmed beyond means when Cary Elwes’ character went to the ends of the Earth to save his true love in 1987’s “The Princess Bride.” In 1989’s “Say Anything,” John Cusack’s character held a boombox over his head and serenaded his love interest from her bedroom window. And who can forget 2007’s “Juno,” where Elliott Page’s character filled Michael Cera’s character’s mailbox full of his one and only vice—orange Tic-Tacs. And while these moments in cinema make our hearts swell every time we see them, it’s important to separate fact from fiction.
While all the affection is nice, love bombing is a tactic used by many narcissists to manipulate their victims. Love bombing can be defined as the practice of showering someone with an excess of affection, attention and adoration. It goes beyond simple flattery or romantic pursuit, reaching a point where it’s toxic, manipulative and at times, down right dangerous.
Love bombing is a lot more common than you think and can occur not only among romantic partners, but friends or family members as well. There are many different types of love bombing and every narcissist works in their own way. However, there are some universal signs that you should be aware of in order to stop a love bomber in their tracks.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
This may sound cynical or jaded, but if someone is going way above and beyond (think showering you in gifts right off the bat), it doesn’t hurt to keep your guard up. Giving someone over the top gifts, especially early on in the relationship, is a way that narcissists manipulate their victims, often making you feel indebted to spending time with them (and away from the other people in your life). Additionally, if they’re always laying the compliments on thick, this may be a sign that their pursuit isn’t genuine.
If they want all of your attention, 24/7.
If they’re trying to take up all of your time, whether that’s in person, on the phone, over text or social media, that’s a big red flag. If they’re constantly blowing up your phone and want to see you at every possible moment, this could mean they’re trying to become the most important person in your life.
If they don’t respect your boundaries.
If they’re coming on really strong and you try to establish boundaries, a love bomber will often get upset. They’ll try to manipulate and gaslight you into thinking you’re in the wrong, but someone who’s sincerely trying to pursue you will respect and acknowledge your boundaries. Even when you feel overwhelmed, a love bomber won’t take their foot off of the gas.
If you think you’re being love bombed, the best thing you can do is trust your gut. Just a few months ago, I was talking with a guy and after just a few days, I had an inkling that something wasn’t quite right. We hadn’t even met in person yet, but he was texting me constantly and showering me in so much adoration that it didn’t feel sincere. When I confronted him about it and said that it was moving too quickly, he got defensive and upset, essentially turning the blame on me because I wasn’t “accepting his love” in the right way. I’m glad that I followed my instincts early on because in this instance, they were pretty spot on.
Of course, there are plenty of ways that love bombing can be taken further and become dangerous, so it’s important to consult a professional if things start taking a turn for the worst. When it comes to stuff like this, it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.