Hearing those three special words for the first should always be an emotionally charged experience. But what if “I love you” is said too early on in the relationship, and is coupled with over the top romantic behaviour? When this occurs, it might be a sign that your partner is “love bombing” you. Essentially, love bombing occurs when the perpetrator showers their victim with affection until they become emotionally dependent on them. That person is then more vulnerable to manipulation and can be more easily controlled.
Gas lighting, on the other hand, is a form of psychological manipulation whereby abusers deny the truth to such an extent that the victim is forced to doubt their own perception or memory of events. Both of these tactics can be incredibly damaging to the victim’s mental wellbeing and self-esteem.
What is love bombing and why is it bad?
An emotional manipulator will employ the tactic of love bombing with the intention of gaining control and influence over their partner. By showering them with overwhelming displays of love and affection, the manipulator aims to make their partner feel cherished. For the receiver of this affection, the relationship can often feel like a fairy tale romance. However, the behaviour serves a darker purpose, as it makes the victim more susceptible to control further down the line.
At first glance, affection, flattery, and attention don’t seem like nefarious behaviours. So, why is love bombing bad? First and foremost, it is not genuine love or care. It is a calculated attempt to gain power over someone’s emotions. When the love bomber’s true intentions are revealed, the victim is left feeling devastated and emotionally scarred. Sadly, love bombing has the potential to completely erode the victim’s self-esteem and ability to trust their own judgment in future relationships.
What is an example of love bombing?
To better understand love bombing, we’re going to describe a fictional situation. Picture a scenario where Katie, a caring and compassionate woman, meets Neil, who seems perfectly charming and kind. From the get-go, Neil showers Katie with affection, gifts, and non-stop attention. He frequently messages and calls her and declares his love after just a few days of knowing each other. Neil often talks about their future together as if it’s set in stone. However, as soon as Katie shows signs of being emotionally dependent on Neil, he withdraws, and becomes controlling and emotionally abusive.
In this case, Neil’s love bombing was a strategic move designed to quickly win over Katie’s heart, leaving her feeling overwhelmed and enamoured. As a result of Neil’s constant attention, Katie gets emotionally attached, and he can then start exerting control, making her more vulnerable to manipulation and mistreatment.
What is love bombing in a relationship?
Due to the fact love bombing can seem innocuous, it can be difficult to ascertain if it’s a manipulative tactic or general flattery. In fact, love bombing can manifest in various ways. It might include excessive flattery, constant adoration, intense expressions of affection or other “loving” behaviours.
The truth of whether love bombing or genuine behaviour is taking place will only be revealed as the relationship progresses, when the manipulator’s behaviour may change drastically. They might change from being seemingly loving, to becoming possessive and controlling, making their partner question what went wrong. This dramatic shift in behaviour can leave the victim feeling emotionally exhausted, as they begin to question their own judgment.
What’s the difference between love bombing and really liking someone?
When entering a new relationship, it’s important to distinguish between love bombing and genuine interest. When someone genuinely likes you, they may show affection and express their interest, but it tends to be more balanced and respectful, as there’s an awareness that the relationship is new.
In a healthy relationship, both partners will take the time to get to know each other. Rather than jumping into an emotionally intense situation, the intensity of feeling grows gradually, as each individual relaxes into the relationship and learns more about their partner. Above all, this is because there’s a sense of mutual respect, and boundaries are established and respected.
For a healthy relationship to develop, both parties should maintain their independence and sense of self, rather than becoming solely dependent on each other. This means that when “I love you” is shared, the sentiment is genuine and heartfelt.
Contrarily, love bombing is characterised by an overwhelming and intense affection from the start. The victim may have feelings that things are moving too fast, or that their personal boundaries are being disregarded. After all, the perpetrator’s goal is to sweep their partner off their feet and establish emotional dependency as fast as possible, so that the victim becomes vulnerable and easily manipulated.