How to Tell if It's Love or Love-Bombing
2. Test them early by setting boundaries.
Posted December 8, 2022 | Reviewed by Michelle Quirk
- Love-bombing is characterized by excessive displays of affection, gifts, and attention early in a relationship as a means to gain control.
- Love-bombing behavior is particularly common among people with low self-esteem.
- To save yourself from being love-bombed, communicate about your romantic expectations and set clear boundaries.
Many people come to therapy feeling confused about the signals being sent to them by their partner. They may say things like the following:
- “My partner has been showering me with compliments and gifts since day one. I don’t know what to think.”
- “My partner texts me excessively. Sometimes it’s nice, but it doesn’t leave me with much time and space to respond.”
- “I can’t tell if my partner is isolating me from my friends and family.”
If you can relate to these statements, then you may have fallen into the trap of a love bomber at some point.
Love-bombing is a form of manipulation characterized by excessive displays of affection, gifts, and attention early in a relationship as a means to gain control over the other person. Love-bombers typically have a history of broken relationships and feel the need to be in constant control.
One study conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas found that love-bombing behavior was particularly common among people with low self-esteem. The authors state, “When an individual’s self-esteem is high, there is no need to look for affirmation in another individual. However, when an individual’s self-esteem is low, it is likely that they will engage in love-bombing behaviors in order to increase the feeling of being valued in a relationship and reduce the potential of becoming an undesired self.”
Here I’ll talk about three steps you can take to stop a love-bomber in their tracks.
1. Set boundaries to assert your independence.
One of the best ways to save yourself from being love-bombed is to speak up. Communicate about your romantic expectations and set clear boundaries. Be clear about what you really want.
Communicating boundaries can sound like this:
- “I need to focus on my career. Therefore, we might have to tone it down between us.”
- “I can only hang out once a week.”
Clearly stating your expectations for a relationship can sound like this:
- “I want to date someone who is committed and consistent instead of someone who is erratic.”
2. Test your partner by politely refusing their gifts and assessing their reactions.
To determine whether it is love-bombing or a harmless rush of excitement, gently indicate to the person that you are not ready for such extravagant gestures so early in your relationship.
You can politely refuse by saying, “This is very sweet, but I think it’s a little too soon for me.”
Wait for them to respond to your concern. Their response to your request to slow down will give you clarity about whether your relationship is headed in a positive direction.
If they seem to be persistent in their unnecessary and unwanted efforts, consider the following:
3. Move on, even if it’s difficult.
While you might still feel attached to the other person or while you might experience guilt for "abandoning" them, remember that nothing feels as good as loving yourself does.
Ending a toxic relationship with a manipulator is a surefire way to help your mental health.
It is possible that standing up for yourself may present short-term challenges, so don’t hesitate to lean on your support network while you extricate yourself from the situation.
What if you’re the love bomber?
Alternatively, if you are someone who has been love-bombing another person (unknowingly or not), here is what you can do:
- Engage in self-reflection. Love-bombing is a hard habit to stop. The most crucial thing you can do is acknowledge the consequences of love-bombing and take steps to avoid repeating these behaviors.
- Think of some patterns of behaviors that you would like to change. Wanting an exciting romance is completely normal. But being disingenuous is not. For instance, do you tend to "mirror" your partner’s interests to make them think you are a perfect match? Is having the upper hand in your relationship a necessity for you?
- Be open with your partner. Don’t hesitate to ask your partner if your behavior is excessive or hurtful. If they say it is, try your best to avoid becoming defensive. It may take quite a bit of willpower, but it’s a good way to flex your empathy muscles.
Relationships Essential Reads
Love-bombing can be difficult to spot because it often starts off feeling wonderful. But, if you know what to look for, it becomes easier to see when someone is deliberately toying with your emotions. If you find yourself in a relationship with a love-bomber, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional mental health support so that you can get out safely and move on with your life.
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