in ,

Love bombing: 15 ways narcissists use it to control you

Love bombing is a narcissist’s secret weapon.

And in this article, we discuss everything there is to know about this subtle yet dangerous manipulation tactic – what love bombing is, what the signs of a love bomber are, and what you can do about it. 

What Exactly Is Love Bombing?

In simplest terms, love bombing is a kind of romantic manipulation.

It is most often used by toxic and narcissistic individuals, who have experience seeing love bombing firsthand (from parents or other relationships in their lives).

Love bombing is the manipulation of the victim in a romantic partnership through extravagant displays of affection at the beginning of relationships,

The intention of love bombing is to make them helpless and vulnerable to the manipulator.

In other words, the victim is relentlessly “bombed” with love at the start of the relationship, making them believe that they have to match the intensely high commitment of the relationship, which becomes an impossible pursuit.

This leaves the victim feeling deeply indebted to their supposed romantic partner, and thus vulnerable to whatever their partner might want of them.

What is the purpose of love bombing? 

Love bombs are actions to gain your love and trust. It could be flattery, compliments, romance or promises of the future.

Once they have your trust, they’re in control. A narcissist will manipulate you to get what they want.

They’ll shape your role in the relationship and see you as a supporting cast to the hero (which is them, of course).

If your focus isn’t 100% on the love bombing narcissist, they’ll get angry. They won’t be able to comprehend that you have other things going on in your life.

But here’s the kicker:

Narcissists struggle to maintain mutually beneficial relationships.

In other words, the relationship will only benefit them, and over time, you’ll be left in the dark to heal your emotional wounds.

Now here’s the main issue:

It can be really difficult to figure out when it’s happening to you.

After all, not everyone that is romantic and sweet is a narcissist.

So, how do you differentiate the genuine expressions of love from the actions of a love bombing narcissist?

15 Clear Signs of Love Bombing

Image credit: Shutterstock – By View Apart

If you aren’t sure if you are the victim of love bombing or not, here are fifteen clear signs of love bombing.

While an individual sign doesn’t necessarily mean your romantic partner is a love bomber, a majority of the signs together should bring up your red flags:

1. “I love you” comes easily to them

All relationships have their own paces, so an early “I love you” isn’t necessarily a bad sign. But a mature partner understands that love is something you should think about before saying.

If your partner wants to skip the natural process of falling in love, then they might be a love bomber, or they might just be a hopeless romantic.

What can you do?

When it comes to falling head over heels in love with someone, the magic seems real, but the reality is much different.

If someone swoops into your life and you find yourself taken with them, you’ll be right to question the legitimacy of the relationship and your partner’s motives.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust a relationship, but that you should be wary of any relationship that seems to come out of nowhere and answers all of your prayers.

It’s probably too good to be true, and it could be that this person is really trying to swoon you so they can manipulate you later.

You’ll find that as time passes, their demeanor changes and they seem to be needing things from you instead of making you feel like the special person you are.

This is the beginning of the end of these narcissistic relationships.

Keep your wits about you and recognize when things are moving too fast.

Remember that genuine love grows slowly and that moving fast isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. It’s only by moving slowly that a fulfilling and intimate relationship can develop.

In other words:

Take it slow, respect yourself, love yourself and don’t fall over too quickly for someone so desperate to impress you.

2. They always say the right stuff

Love bombers have tons of experience with manipulation, so they know how to push the right buttons at the exact right times.

You feel like they always know exactly what to say in the right moments to make you fall deeper in love with them, to the point that it feels a bit uncanny.

3. It’s so good, it doesn’t feel real

No relationship is perfect. But for some reason, your relationship with your love bomber is flawless in every way.

They make you feel amazing, special, and loved at all times, especially at the beginning of the relationship. It doesn’t feel right and you have the suspicion that something else might be going on.

4. They are incredibly fast

On top of saying “I love you” incredibly early on in the relationship, they also want to approach the other relationship milestones at blistering pace.

Things like meeting the parents, traveling to other countries, moving in together – relationship milestones that typically would take months if not years of build-up, love bombers want to accomplish in days or weeks.

5. They live off grand gestures

It feels like you can never have just a normal date with your love bomber. Almost every time you see them, there is something new to be surprised with.

Once in a lifetime experiences like hot air balloon rides, plane tickets to Paris, or writing songs or poetry about you – these are normal events in your relationship with them.

6. The compliments are endless

You’re beautiful, intelligent, amazing, hilarious, sexy, incredible, unbelievable, absolutely gorgeous, and so much more.

While a compliment every now and then is never a bad thing, a love bomber drowns their victim in compliments to the point that no compliment from anyone else means anything anymore.

To sum it up, love bombing is all about abundance. It’s about making a person feel overwhelmed by your affection, giving them just enough time to go from one sign of affection to the next without ever truly processing it.

Some readers may ask, “What makes all of this wrong?” You might see love bombing as a partner who is simply excessively affectionate, and some people do like being pampered and treated like queens.

But the truth is the good part of love bombing only happens in the beginning, when the love bomber is trying to win their victim over. Once they get what they want, the love suddenly disappears.

7. When you’re in a bad position, they’ll act like they’re your savior

A narcissist’s eyes will light up when you’re in a bad situation.

Finally, it’s their chance to gain control.

They’ll make it seem like they’re the hero and without them you’d be screwed. They’ll frequently remind you of this in subtle ways.

Here’s what you need to look out for:

The main difference between someone who is genuinely helping you from the goodness of their heart and a narcissist is that a genuine person won’t make a big deal of it.

They’re focused on helping you and won’t need to gain anything from it. They’re not searching for a reaction from you.

A narcissist is quite the opposite.

A narcissist will help you while expecting admiration from you. They will tell you that what they’re doing is kind and helpful.

What can do you?

Watch out for their reactions when they help you. A narcissist will make it all about how helpful and kind they are, even though the problem has to do with you.

RELATED: The Hero Instinct: How Can You Trigger It In Your Man?

8. They want you to think that they’re the best person you’ve ever dated

Love bombing is all about getting you hooked on them. They want you to admire them so they can eventually manipulate you to get what they want.

They want you to think that you can’t do better.

So how will a narcissist do this?

They’ll ask questions about your previous lovers. They’ll likely insult them and try to make them look like losers.

After all, they’re trying to compare themselves and show they’re better. They want you to realize how lucky you are for dating them.

Here’s what they’re doing:

They’re merely reducing your self-worth to a level that you’re manipulated into thinking that you are really lucky to have them.

What can you do?

If they drop subtle hints about great they are, or how much better they are than the previous people you’ve dated, then call them out for how self-centered and lame they’re being.

Watch out for attempts to reduce your self-worth. They might bag you and put you down. Let them know why they’re wrong and then get the hell out!

Don’t fall for these self-serving tricks. Love yourself, respect yourself and don’t let a narcissist reduce your self-worth.

(To learn how you can become mentally tough in the face of toxic and narcissistic people, check out Hack Spirit’s eBook: The Art of Resilience: A Practical Guide to Developing Mental Toughness)

9. They keep asking about the crap things in your life

A narcissist will do this for a few reasons:

1) They want to provide solutions for you, so it looks like they’re the hero (as discussed above).

2) They want to reduce your self-worth so that you admire them and think about how great they are.

3) They want ammunition for when they abuse you later in the relationship.

What can you do?

If they keep bringing up your past shit times, then watch out.

A genuine person will be happy to talk about it, but they won’t always bring it up. There is a time and a place for those discussions.

Watch out for it and be skeptical about someone who is regularly bringing up the tough times in your life. Let them know that it’s weird and you’ll get the hell away if they don’t stop.

10. They’re not direct, and they backpedal from what they initially said

The narcissists who love bomb are concerned about how they appear, and they’ll want to impress you.

But here’s the real kicker:

It means that they’ll say one thing, and then when they see that your reaction is less than flattering, they’ll change up what they said.

They suddenly realized that it makes them look bad.

At first, you won’t think much of it. But if it happens continuously, then you won’t be able to trust what they say.

They’re more concerned with how they appear to you rather than being themselves.

A narcissist doesn’t care about being genuine or authentic.

They want to appear like the perfect partner so they can eventually manipulate you.

So, here’s what you need to keep in mind:

The original statement they made shows who they are.

11. They are always giving you gifts

Now don’t get me wrong. Gifts aren’t exactly a bad thing. But when they do it repeatedly, they are trying to buy your love.

It’s not real.

The real reason they do this is that they want you to feel that you “owe” them, which is the perfect scenario for a narcissist.

It’s an easy way to buy your love so you fall into the trap of trusting them.

What can you do?

It’s wonderful for someone to shower you with gifts and kind gestures, but when there is an expectation attached to those gifts, the sentiment is lost, and the creepiness sets in.

If your new love is looking for you to “owe” them for the kind of things they’ve done for you, it kind of defeats the purpose of doing nice things, doesn’t it?

And it might not be a problem at first, because that’s how these narcissists operate: they want you to feel showered with love so they can make you feel guilty about not returning the favor.

It’s a slippery slope and you might not catch on right away, but trust us, there is a catch.

Anyone who lavishes you with gifts and attention “just because” is to be suspected of ulterior motives.

It doesn’t mean everyone will turn out to be a loose cannon, but the chances are that this person is looking for someone in return that goes beyond a roll in the sheets.

12. The affection you’re getting will be superficial

Love bombing is superficial in nature, so it makes sense that the affection they give you will be superficial.

After all, love bombing is just a way to get you invested in them.

What can you do?

Watch out when they mention aspects of your behavior or personality that aren’t true.

Or if they say things like “you are the most beautiful person I’ve ever met” after only two dates.

13. They treat other people like crap

This is a gold nugget to recognize a narcissist that a lot of people ignore.

If they are a narcissist, they’ll treat others like crap, especially people that are ”lower’ than them.

Remember:

This is fairly easy to notice, so pay attention to how they treat others.

For example, when you go to a cafe together, are they rude to the waitress?

If it becomes a pattern, then they are a toxic character that you need to get away from.

14. Something just isn’t right

Getting a weird vibe from them? Like something isn’t quite right about them? Did they not take a hint when you rejected their advances? Are they complimenting you for things that aren’t true?

As we mentioned above, love bombing is superficial. And when something is not real, it just doesn’t feel right.

What can you do?

The truth is, when you feel that something isn’t right, it usually isn’t. So trust your instincts and get away.

You might think you want someone to be at your beck and call, or you might even dream of someone who looks to you for everything, but when you see that kind of relationship in reality, it looks very different from how you thought it would.

What might have started out as romanticism could quickly turn to discomfort and possible stalking.

A romantic gesture, such as sending flowers to your office on a Wednesday is wonderful, but calling three times to find out if you got them and what you think of them and to see what your coworkers thought of the gestures is weird. Just weird.

Setting boundaries can help with this, but only if you see it as a problem and not just an overzealous partner.

15. You’re experiencing a never-ending cycle of emotions

Does nothing feel steady in the relationship?

One moment you’re feeling great, then the next day you’re feeling like a terrible human being.

That’s what a narcissist does. They’re skilled manipulators. They’ll compliment you and make you feel like an amazing person. Then they’ll put you down, abuse you and make you feel like the worst person in the world.

What can you do? If you find yourself experiencing ups and downs like you’ve never experienced before, then you need to recognize that this is psychological abuse.

The most healthy relationships are stable relationships.

To protect yourself, you need to love yourself

A narcissist will try to bring you down. They’ll superficially love you; then they’ll abuse you and take what they want.

But if you respect yourself and realize your inherent worth, then they won’t be able to take control of you and manipulate you.

(To learn more about how to practice self-love, check out our ultimate guide to loving yourself here)

Keep your wits about you and stay strong. And find out whether you really do love them deep down.

Now if you’re stuck dealing with a narcissistic love bomber, you probably want to know how to deal with them. Below I discuss how to avoid being a target and what you can do if it’s happening to you.

Stop, Look, and Listen: How To Avoid Being A Target

So what can you do to avoid being love-bombed?

It can be impossible to predict who might become a victim of love bombing; different love bombers prefer different personalities, with some targeting women with high-confidence and extroverted characteristics for the extra challenge, and others preferring women who would be relatively easier to manipulate.

If you feel that you might be in a love-bombed relationship, whether you are at the start or deep into it, try to take the following steps to analyze the situation:

1) Take Things Slow

The most obvious sign of a love bomber is their absolute refusal to let their victim dictate the pace.

An enthusiastic boyfriend or lover might exhibit some of the same overwhelming positive behavior of a love bomber, but the key difference is that if you put your foot down, the innocent party will understand and apologize, whereas the love bomber will make you feel guilty and ashamed.

2) Read Between the Lines

Listen carefully to everything they say. One of the most telling signs of a love bomber is an exaggeration.

Trust your gut – do you ever feel like they are just full of hot air? Do you get the impression that their compliments are meant to distract you from something else? Do they never act like a normal person, with their own opinions and thoughts and needs?

3) Introduce Your Friends

A love bomber works by changing your reality, firstly by subtle manipulation, and secondly by isolating you from your social circles.

So test him out – is he willing to meet your friends and actually befriend them himself? Or does he act shy and reserved when around your friends, and even toxic when the topic of your friends come up?

Let him know that your friends and family are important to you; if he doesn’t accept that, then it’s better to let him go regardless of whether he is love bombing you or not.

RELATED: My life was going nowhere, until I had this one revelation

Avoiding the Love Bomb: Real Love Doesn’t Happen Overnight

We all just want to find happiness at the end of the day. The love bombers out there are like sharks, looking for the desperate hopeless romantics just waiting for their Prince Charming. The best way to keep yourself safe from love bombing is to always remember – real love doesn’t happen overnight.

Love takes time. Both individuals should be setting and demanding respect and loyalty from their partner.

There is always a push and pull in every relationship, and if the relationship is too perfect without any of the struggle, then it might be a game to them rather than the real thing.

Keep yourself protected, and keep your head out of the clouds no matter how good it feels.

Why Love Bombing is so Uncomfortable

Even before the later stages of love bombing when affection is withdrawn and the victim is made to feel small and worthless, love bombing can feel uncomfortable and strange, although victims can rarely understand why (particularly when they are in the middle of this kind of relationship).

Here is why love bombing can be so uncomfortable:

1) Affection is excessive and uncalled for.

Affection should always be a two-way street. It should be something you earn and something you give when it makes sense.

But when affection is dished out unconditionally from someone who is still practically a stranger, it can feel more like worship than an actual relationship.

This is when you start to ask yourself, “Why does my partner want me to feel like he is worshiping me?”

2) You feel like you’re being forced into a commitment.

Society teaches you that relationships should be about give and receive, with equal effort going both ways.

Love bombers use that expectation to their advantage – by investing more into the relationship and forcing an artificial connection, they force their victims into a position where they have to give the love bomber what they want, or else they aren’t being good people.

When the affection becomes too much for you to handle, you feel forced into a corner: do I allow my partner to take this relationship forward even if I’m not comfortable with it, or do I break up with him?

But you find it difficult to choose the latter, because he has done nothing obviously wrong to warrant a break up.

3) The intensity is disproportional to the time you have known each other.

In all relationships you ever experience, the amount of affection going both ways grows in proportion to the amount of time and the amount of shared experiences you and another person have together.

In a love bombed relationship, your internal formula is thrown out the window, making you feel suspicious from the start.

Instead of the relationship growing organically, it seems to appear out of nowhere.

Before you know it, the relationship is one of the biggest things in your life, and you don’t even remember how it became that way.

The Psychology Behind Love Bombing: What Makes a Modern Love Bomber

Who are the people behind love bombing, and why do they do it? It can be easy to say that love bombers are all toxic narcissists, but more and more people are naturally falling into the role of love bombing without even realizing it.

While the classic love bomber was more calculated and refined in their actions, the modern love bomber of the digital age has adopted the role more naturally, simply because of how easy it is to love bomb over the internet.

So what makes the typical love bomber? Here are some of the major characteristics to look out for:

Narcissist, someone who loves their ego and needs to have it stoked

Individuals with insecure attachment styles, with an insecurity stemming from not having consistent caregivers

People who don’t have successful relationship histories, with issues of abandonment from their early partners or parents

Individuals with low self-esteem, despite pretending to have much independence and confidence (thus they require what psychologists call a “narcissistic supply” to fulfill their hunger)

The best way to think of love bombing in the modern context is to compare it to reinforcement when training an animal.

The narcissist acts as a trainer, choosing a victim who is easy to manipulate.

In the digital world, this is easier than ever before, which is why love bombing is becoming more common in the world of online dating.

Here is why love bombing is easier to perform in the digital age:

Social media allows for constant connectivity.

Social media, the internet, and mobile connectivity allow us to stay in touch with everyone in our lives 24/7.

This means that love bombing can be done from the comfort of the narcissist’s own bedroom, and the difference between showering someone with attention or affection and not doing it is simply a matter of choice.

All it takes for a love bomber to show a girl that they’re interested is to keep messaging them throughout the day.

They can come up with a number of reasons and excuses as to why they can’t shower them with affection in person – maybe they are too far, or they are too busy with work or school, or something else.

But without even making the same grand efforts of traditional love bombers, love bombers today can make their victims feel special and loved with a fraction of the previous effort.

You can “be there” for multiple victims at once.

Before the internet, love bombers had to choose their victims carefully.

This is because they could only realistically love bomb one person at a time; since love bombing requires incessant attention and affection, the love bomber couldn’t disappear without explanation while he was courting another girl.

But the love bombers of today can have multiple girls believing that they are their one and only with barely any suspicion.

And due to the inherently narcissistic nature of love bombers, more and more men have naturally fallen into the role of keeping multiple girls hooked on them with nothing more than daily messages and calls. The “narcissistic supply” thus never runs out.

Nothing is lost from failed attempts.

If a victim becomes suspicious or even aware of what’s going on, the love bomber can cut their losses and end the relationship without a second thought.

The love bomber loses nothing from cutting off any victim who might start to get too high-maintenance because there was almost no real investment in the relationship at all besides the artificial emotions created through online messages and calls.

The ease of which love bombers can pick up new victims and drop old victims turns love bombing into a kind of manipulation game, one in which they continuously suck attention out of the women they manipulate.                                                                                                      

4 Phases Of Love Bombing

Phase 1: Idealization

The first phase is idealization. You meet the love bomber and they immediately start filling whatever emotional needs you have, and more. They idealize you and do whatever it takes to earn your love and affection.

Many people fall for this phase without realizing that they might be dealing with a love bomber, simply because it can be so easy to get caught up in the romance and emotion.

Signs of this Phase:

They shower you with love and affection

They give you more compliments than you feel you deserve

You feel like you are being rushed into a new and strange relationship

Phase 2: Conditioning and Dependence

Idealization has become routine, and the extravagant grand gestures start to feel like a normal part of life.

In this second phase, the love bomber has inserted themselves so thoroughly into the life of their victim, gaining access deeper into their life forcefully through grand acts of kindness and love that the victim feels obligated to accept.

This continued deluge of attention and affection eventually turns into a kind of psychological conditioning, in which the love bomber forces the victim to transition from an independent individual to someone who relies heavily on the love bomber.

They do this by isolating the victim from their support circles and replacing what those support circles provide – emotional support, financial support, and more.

The victim becomes trained into believing the relationship is all they have, and thus they become wholly dependent on the love bomber.

Signs of this Phase:

They want to spend all their time with you, but they don’t like your friends or family

They force you into evolving the relationship faster than you are comfortable with, such as moving in together, sharing finances, or planning for children

You feel as if everything is going too fast, and you start to wonder what happened to everyone else around you

Phase 3: Devaluation

The third phase of love bombing begins when the victim starts to question the authenticity of the relationship and the sincerity of their supposed soulmate.

Maybe the victim will start pushing to make their own decisions and hear their own voice once again, things they haven’t done since the love bomber took control of their life.

Or maybe they will start fighting back more indirectly, such as by trying to reunite with the friends and family that the love bomber isolated them from.

The love bomber starts to feel that he is losing control of the situation, so he reacts through devaluation.

By now, the love bomber understands what makes his victim tick – her weak points, the areas in her personality most lacking in confidence and self-esteem.

He knows exactly what needs to be said to deflate whatever confidence she managed to scrounge up, and through devaluation, the victim becomes dependent and helpless once again, most times without realizing what happened.

Signs of this Phase:

The love bomber has an abrupt shift in their attitude, going immediately from endless love and affection to sudden coldness, withholding their love from the victim

The strangest things trigger them, such as planning a lunch date with your old friend

You end up feeling like you were wrong to ever disappoint your partner, and you want to do whatever it takes to make them love you again

Phase 4: Discard

A love bombing relationship can end up cycling through the first three phases multiple times, and most of them do.

This is because the victim is usually mostly unaware that anything wrong is taking place, and instead is convinced that these are the motions of a normal relationship with some rough patches.

By making the victim dependent and isolated, the love bomber can ensure that they will do whatever it takes to stay in the relationship, no matter how badly they are devalued and mistreated.

However, when the love bomber gets bored or when the victim becomes too difficult to control, the love bomber will discard the relationship.

There are generally three main reasons why this happens:

1) The victim is no longer a satisfactory “narcissistic supply” for the love bomber. They have become too broken due to the love bomber’s actions, so they are no longer worth their affection and attention

2) The victim has become aware of the situation and starts pushing back against the love bomber, making new rules and boundaries. The love bomber discards the relationship because they realize that they are about to be exposed, or they don’t want to continue investing more effort when they can easily find a new unsuspecting target

3) They discard to further manipulate the victim, with full intentions to revive the relationship sometime in the future.

This can be compared to a higher level of devaluation – they make the victim feel that they have been discarded, thus ultimately breaking them, and then return to be their absolute savior once again.

You may also like reading:

Sign up to Hack Spirit's daily emails

Learn how to reduce stress, cultivate healthy relationships, handle people you don't like and find your place in the world.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit
Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

What to look for in a guy: 25 good qualities in a man

How to clear your mind: 10 strategies (backed by research)