What Is Love Bombing?

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Love bombing involves bombarding a person (usually a romantic partner) with attention and affection, such as excessive compliments and gifts. While this may seem like an over-eager person who is newly infatuated, love bombing is a manipulation tactic meant to obtain power and control at the beginning of a relationship. Love bombing is commonly associated with narcissism.

Read on to learn more about love bombing and why it's a relationship red flag.

Love bombing illustration.

Verywell / Ellen Lindner

What Is Love Bombing?

Excitement and displays of affection are normal at the beginning of a relationship, but love bombing behaviors are excessive.

At first, the love bomber showers their partner with gifts, praise, and other gestures that appear flattering on the surface.

These tactics are manipulative, meant to groom their partners, isolate them from friends and family, and secure themselves as the most important person in their partner's life, ultimately making their partner emotionally and socially dependent upon them.

The term "love bombing" dates back to the 1970s. It is associated with the Unification Church (a religious sect commonly considered a cult). In this context, love bombing referred to the tactics of excessive flattery and admiration used by members to recruit more people into the group.

Love bombing in a relationship takes a similar approach. As the relationship continues, the person becomes manipulative in other ways, such as distancing and coldness, ultimately leading to emotional abuse such as gaslighting (a manipulation tactic that causes a person to doubt their own reality).

Love bombing is commonly associated with narcissism. People with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) see themselves as special and deserving of admiration. They feel entitled and disrespect the needs of others. This does not stem from self-love but rather the fear of being undesired. People with NPD often have low self-esteem.

A person with NPD or narcissistic tendencies engages in love bombing with the goal of receiving praise and admiration. The intention is not to show genuine affection but to exhibit control and elicit personal gain.

Why Is Love Bombing a Major Red Flag?

Love bombing is a way for an abuser to build their partner up before tearing them down. Abusers use love bombing to gain their partner's trust and adoration, getting them to open up, learning their weaknesses, and ultimately using that against them. People with narcissistic tendencies can be very charming, likable, and exciting. The manipulation can happen slowly and the control may go unnoticed at first. This "charm" usually goes away after the initial stage of the relationship, replaced by belittling and emotional abuse. It's important to recognize love bombing not as a sign of affection, but as the first step in creating a toxic and controlling relationship.

Signs You’re Being Love Bombed

There are a number of signs to look for if you think you're being love-bombed. While the measures used may vary, the overall feeling is that it is "too much, too soon."

They Shower You With Gifts

Gift-giving is not uncommon in relationships, but love bombing with gifts tends to be excessive, come with expectations, or both.

Lavishing many gifts on you, or pricey ones (such as trips, expensive jewelry, or designer handbags), especially early in a relationship, can be a warning sign when accompanied by expectations of praise, validation, compliance, or anything else in return.

This includes offering financial support without prompting, such as paying for your rent, bills, or other expenses.

They Can’t Stop Giving Compliments

Compliments are nice, but making grand statements when you are still getting to know the person is problematic.

Phrases like, "my life would be nothing without you," and declarations of love early in a relationship make for good romantic movies, but are red flags in real relationships. If the person is saying things that feel uncomfortably early, or before you know each other well enough for them to feel valid, consider if you are OK with how fast the relationship is moving.

They Tell You What You Want to Hear

One way to "get you on their side" or convince you that they are your perfect match is to agree with everything you say and tell you what you want to hear, even if what they say doesn't match their true feelings or thoughts.

They’re Big on Showing Affection

Being familiar and affectionate in a way that is incongruent with the length and depth of the relationship can be a warning sign.

Calling you their "other half" or their "soulmate" weeks into a relationship—or before enough time and interaction has passed to have a real understanding of who each other are—and placing you on a pedestal, can mean a larger issue is at play, especially if it makes you feel anxious.

They Want Your Undivided Attention

It's not unusual to want to spend a lot of time with your partner, especially newly in a relationship. But if your partner feels entitled to or possessive of your time, that is a sign of potential abuse.

Ask yourself, do they:

  • Expect you to respond to texts or calls immediately?
  • Expect you to prioritize spending time with them to the detriment of your time and relationships with friends and family, or time to yourself?
  • Get irritated, angry, or "stonewall" you when you want to spend time with others?
  • Try to distance you from your friends and family or isolate you from others?
  • Request that you end friendships?

Expecting to have control over your time and with whom you spend it is a warning sign in a relationship.

They Call and Text Frequently 

Being frequently in touch with your partner is natural in a new relationship, but feeling overwhelmed by communication is not.

If your partner is constantly calling, texting, or contacting you on social media, making you uncomfortable, then it's time to discuss your comfort levels and boundaries with them. If they continue to contact you more than you feel OK with or are aggressive with their timing or tone, that is a red flag.

They Get Upset When You Put Up Boundaries 

You are entitled to have boundaries and limits, and you get to control your own life. If your partner does not respect these boundaries or gets angry when you enforce them, that is possession and emotional manipulation.

This may present as them getting upset when you shift your focus elsewhere, such as answering a phone call during a date. They may accuse you of being selfish and portray themselves as a victim when you exercise your own will instead of doing what they want you to.

This is controlling behavior, not healthy relationship dynamics.

You Feel Like You’re Walking on Eggshells 

Because love bombing is a manipulative technique meant to establish control, the initial admiration shifts into further emotional abuse. They may get "set off" easily and become defensive or abusive if criticized or challenged. They may be irrational and volatile, raging when they don't get their way.

They may employ other controlling or abusive tactics, such as gaslighting.

What Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation and abuse used by abusers to hold power and control over their partners. By deliberately questioning facts, denying their partner's memories, and undermining their partner's judgment, they cause their partner to question their own perceptions of reality and the validity of their own thoughts and memories. This may make their partner feel like they're "going crazy".

How to Get Help

If you are noticing signs of love bombing, it's important to acknowledge it and respond.

If You’re Being Love Bombed

Listen to what your gut is telling you. If you are feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable, it is a valid feeling that deserves investigating.

You may feel confused, have difficulty interpreting your feelings, or even face denial as a defense mechanism. It may be helpful to discuss your partner's behavior, your relationship, and how you feel about it with a trusted friend or confidante. They may be able to offer you insight from a perspective outside of the relationship.

It may also help to keep a journal of what is happening in your relationship. This provides a reference for keeping your memories straight should gaslighting occur.

If you feel safe doing so and want to continue in the relationship, you can discuss your feelings with your partner and work on establishing boundaries that allow you to feel comfortable and respected. If your partner resists or does not respect these boundaries, that is a potentially dangerous red flag.

If you have a bad feeling about something, don't ignore it. You can enlist the help of friends, family, or a mental health professional.

Help Is Available

If you are experiencing abusive behaviors, there are professionals available to offer help and support. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has resources available as well as a phone number to call (1-800-799-7233) and a number to text (text "START" to 88788). The Crisis Text Line offers a number to text (text HOME to 741741) to connect with a crisis counselor as well as other resources. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database

If You’re the One Love Bombing 

If you are or think you may be love bombing someone else, it's important to speak with a mental health professional. The reasons behind your behavior could be related to mental health or attachment factors that can be addressed with the help of a therapist or another mental health professional.

Summary

Love bombing is a tactic in which a person uses excessive and disproportionate gestures of affection with the goal of manipulation and establishing control over their partner. This can include elaborate gift-giving, over-complimenting, wanting undivided attention, and other manipulative tactics.

Love bombing is commonly associated with narcissism and often progresses into emotional abuse. Love bombing behavior should be seen as a relationship red flag.

A Word From Verywell 

If you feel like something isn't right in your relationship or with your partner, trust it. Manipulative tactics such as love bombing are warning signs of a toxic relationship and potential abuse.

If you notice this behavior and aren't sure if you want to end the relationship, check with trusted friends, family, or a domestic violence advocate. Remember that it's OK to walk away from people and relationships that make you feel uneasy, uncomfortable, or unhappy. If you need help to do so safely, look into the resources mentioned in this article or other intimate partner violence resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does love bombing last?

    There is no set time for how long love bombing lasts, but those who have experienced it have indicated it can last for several months.

  • Do only narcissists love bomb?

    Many people who love bomb have narcissistic personality disorder, but that is not always the case. Attachment style and other factors can also play a role.

  • How do you stop love bombing?

    If you are love bombing someone, or have in past relationships, talk to a mental health professional. They can help you determine the reason for your behavior and how to address it.

7 Sources
Verywell Health 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.
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