What Is Love Bombing?

By Relationships Australia

Endless words of adoration, gifts on the regular, and wanting to spend every moment together might seem like the pinnacle of relationship goals. But these seemingly romantic gestures can carry with them more sinister objectives – like intentionally lowering someone’s guard so they can be more easily controlled. This is what is referred to as ‘love bombing’, and the red flags can be dangerously difficult to spot.

What does love bombing mean?

The term love bombing was coined in the 1970s, but it gained mainstream awareness more recently, largely due to social media.

A love bomber will use excessive attention, adoration and grand (often public) gestures to position themselves as devoted, kind and generous. This emotionally manipulates the person on the receiving end to trust and become dependent on them, making it easier for them to be controlled, isolated, gaslit, and discarded further down the line.

Love bombing accelerates the pace of a relationship in an extreme way. Relationship milestones and dynamics that usually evolve over months or years – saying “I love you”, meeting your family, moving in together – can happen within days and weeks.

Worryingly, love bombing can be used as part of a pattern of abuse – and the tactics are often deployed during the ‘remorse phase’ of the cycle of abuse.

What it looks like

Domestic and family violence is a serious and prevailing issue in Australia. One woman is killed every nine days by their current or former partner. For men, it’s one every 29 days. It’s important to recognise the signs of love bombing, given how romantic gestures can quickly shift to intimidating behaviour and other forms of abuse.

Here are some red flags to look out for:

  • Giving you excessive compliments
  • Wanting your constant attention and demanding your time is spent only with them
  • Frequently receiving calls and messages from them, often wanting to know where you are, who you’re with and what you’re doing
  • Getting jealous when you’re with others
  • Mirroring you and adopting your interests
  • Regularly gifting you presents, particularly expensive ones
  • Introducing you to their inner circle quickly and pushing you to do the same with yours
  • Being keen to get things moving fast, whether that’s moving in together, saying “I love you” very early in the relationship, or declaring you’re their soul mate
  • Guilt tripping you if you have boundaries or set them.

It can be hard to distinguish between acts of kindness and love bombing, especially at the start of a relationship, so this type of abuse can easily go unnoticed.

Love bombing is used as a form of control

People who use love bombing often have a history of unstable and abusive relationships, an anxious attachment style or tendencies of narcissistic personality disorder.

Physical violence, threats and verbal abuse are often used alongside love bombing. Since these things are such a switch from their previous adoration, it can be really confusing – and distressing – for the person on the receiving end.

Love bombing is used to assert control and works to get someone’s guard down before the person using the behaviour lets their mask slip away. If you’ve experienced love bombing followed by this sharp change in demeanor, you might assume you’ve done something wrong, and be more likely to bend to their will – even if that means compromising your own boundaries – to get back in their good graces.

Love bombing is insidious

Some of the potential indicators of love bombing are romanticised by society and seen as something we should aspire to in our relationships, especially if we’re yearning for love and want to feel appreciated.

Being told we’re loved and knowing that someone wants to spend time with us is something many of us crave, but it’s important to trust your gut if something feels off about the intensity of the relationship and the speed at which it’s moving.

It’s also worth paying attention to what the ‘bomber’s’ response is when they don’t get their way – whether that’s being unavailable when they message or cancelling plans. Are they understanding or angry at you for having boundaries?

If you express to them that the constant gifts or flattery make you uncomfortable, do they double down and make it seem like there’s something wrong with you for not appreciating it, or do they hear what you’re saying and cool it, if it’s making you feel that way?

Getting help

If you suspect you’re being loved bombed, or to prevent you from having this tactic used on you, maintain good boundaries within your relationships. This can be difficult to do for some people, but it’s worth sticking with it until boundary setting becomes more of a habit.

As with other forms of abusive relationships, it’s important to know what support is available to you. Love bombing can be hard for family and friends to detect, so they might not understand that it’s a sign of an abusive relationship. Being open with them can give you additional support when it comes to leaving the relationship, such as having a place to stay or listening to your feelings.

Available 24 hours each day, 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) is a crisis support line for people impacted by domestic, family or sexual violence. At Relationships Australia NSW, we also offer a range of support services – you can find help here.

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