What is Love Bombing?
Love Bombing is a grooming technique. It involves being overly affectionate and showering someone with attention and compliments. This might take the form of grand gestures like expensive gifts, or saying “I love you” and talking about marriage and children early in the relationship. It is flattering, even intoxicating – it can also be deadly.
It can happen to anyone, men or women. It often happens at the start of a relationship in order to draw us in, or it can be used after an argument or act of cruelty when the Love Bomber wants forgiveness. It is designed to overwhelm us and break down our barriers and doubts. After all, someone capable of so much love can’t be that bad, right? It makes us believe we are special, drawing us into the fantasy that this whirlwind romance is unique; that we are “meant” to be together. It can be particularly enticing for someone who has been let down in the past, or who feels they have gone unnoticed in the world, or for those who feel they didn’t experience enough love and validation as children.
When we feel flattered and validated, our brain produces a hit of dopamine. It’s a feel-good hormone, the same chemical that’s released when we have sex or eat a chocolate cookie. It’s also the chemical that makes drugs like heroin, nicotine and cocaine highly addictive. We can get used to these regular dopamine hits alarmingly quickly. This can lead us to becoming emotionally dependent without even realising.
We might not see anything wrong with Love Bombing. We might think we’ve found someone who appreciates us and makes us happy. Friends and family might like the Love Bomber and be glad that someone is treating us right. This is complicated further by the fact that not everyone who showers a partner with attention ends up being abusive. But Love Bombing is defined by the fact that it is used as a tactic, with a clear agenda.
Tactical Love Bombing is based on:
Grooming and Exploitation: We might have something the Love Bomber wants, such as sex, money, a nice home, a ready-made family, or status. This is the same behaviour we see in cases of Child Sexual Exploitation.
Just to see if they can: The Love Bomber might be excited by the challenge, especially if we have voiced doubts or made it clear we don’t want a serious relationship. When they have finally broken down our barriers and sucked us into an intense connection, they may get bored and suddenly end things or ghost us.
Power & control: The Love Bomber may be exerting their power at an early stage by overwhelming us and encouraging us to fall madly in love with them. This makes us more compliant because we don’t want to lose the relationship.
Risks and Red Flags
Love Bombing comes with warnings and red flags which everyone should be aware of. In a healthy relationship two people take the time to get to know each other and build up mutual trust and respect, but Love Bombers speed things up and it feels like a ride in a fast jet. Some people find themselves living with, married to, or expecting a child with a Love Bomber before they’ve had time to think. It’s then more difficult to get out of the situation when their true colours show.
Although it might be flattering at first, we soon realise our time is being monopolised, but when we try to reclaim some autonomy, privacy, or space for our own interests, this is viewed as hurtful, even a betrayal. The Love Bomber expresses confusion, sulkiness or anger. They blame us for being cold and distant, or not wanting to spend time with them. This might be the first real disagreement and because we believed ourselves to be blissfully happy, it comes as a big shock. But because we are now emotionally dependent, it is too easy to apologise and comply.
Impact of Love Bombing
Love Bombing causes harm in a number of ways:
A Love Bomber may abruptly disappear from our lives and the lives of our children, when only yesterday they were talking about a happy future. This creates a sense of sudden loss, despair and an urgent desire for reasons and closure. We might spend months, even years, wondering what we did wrong. This can result in a loss of self-esteem, or trust and abandonment issues.
If we start to give in to the Love Bomber, spending more and more of our time with them to the exclusion of friends and family, it can lead to the next step in the game of power and control – isolation.
Our best defence against Love Bombers is to keep our heads. Flattery, attention, gifts – these are lovely things to receive, but if it becomes intense, repetitive and prolonged we should ask ourselves if there’s an agenda at play. It’s worth remembering that not only romantic partners use Love Bombing tactics. Bosses, family, friends or others can use flattery to get what they want.
Take the time to get to know someone properly before making any rash commitments, and remember that we can give ourselves time, attention and gifts, because if we give ourselves enough love, we are less likely to fall victim. It’s better to get a hit of dopamine from a chocolate cookie than from the lies and manipulation of a Love Bomber.
National Training Manager