What Is Love Bombing?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on November 11, 2022
5 min read

How do you spot love bombing in a relationship? At first, you don't. 

Your new relationship unfolds like a fairy tale as your partner showers you with gifts, compliments, affection, and promises of a future together. Then suddenly everything changes. Where your partner was once attentive and caring, they are now distant, cold, and even mean. And you're left wondering whether their feelings were ever genuine.

Keep reading to learn more about why love bombing is so dangerous and to understand how to identify the signs.

Love bombing is an emotional manipulation method that often points to the beginning of an unhealthy, toxic, or abusive relationship. Someone who uses this tactic usually does so to quickly gain the favor of a potential partner so they can more quickly and easily control them. Those who love bomb their potential partners often display narcissistic traits. 

Those with narcissistic traits have the following attributes:

  • Being preoccupied with their own wants and needs.
  • Having a sense of haughtiness and superiority.
  • Demonstrating impatience with people and situations they deem unimportant.
  • Manipulating and gaslighting (making others doubt themselves) to get what they want.

Love bombing makes you feel great about yourself, your relationship, and your future with your partner. Your partner uses this stage — often at the beginning of the relationship — to knock down your defenses and find ways to exert control over the relationship, ultimately exerting control over you.

If you're being love bombed, the signs might be more noticeable to others than they are to you. That's because, at this stage, you feel special, understood, and seen by your partner. Meanwhile friends and family may worry that your new love interest is moving too fast or acting obsessively. Love bombing examples might look like this:

  • Your partner seems too good to be true. They may tell you they’ve been waiting for you their whole life, that you’re their soulmate, or that they’re in love with you a short time after meeting.
  • Your partner seems to share all of your interests or agrees with all of your opinions.
  • Your partner wants to stay in constant communication with you.
  • Your partner may become irrationally jealous when you want to spend time with others (even family).
  • Your partner might make grand gestures or buy you inappropriately expensive gifts too early in the relationship.

A more hidden sign of love bombing is what comes next: devaluation. When your love-bombing partner settles into a relationship with you, they may become bored, irritated, and moody. They might insult you, belittle you, or even physically abuse you. If this happens, you might try to leave. At this point, your partner turns on the charm, beginning the love bombing phase again to win you back.

Emotional abuse makes you humiliated, insulted, scared, and unsure of your perception of events. If your partner intends to make you feel this way, this is abuse. Take a look at the differences between showing love and using love bombing to gain control:

Showing love. Some people are more open and expressive with their affection than others. The following signs might be over-the-top expressions of love, but they are not red flags because they are not meant to control the partner.

  • Showering a partner with compliments or gifts at the beginning of a relationship
  • Gushing about your looks, talents, or personality to you or others
  • Wanting to talk to you or meet up with you all the time

Love bombing as abuse. The line between honest, overzealous expressions of love and love bombing is not always clear. The following are a few examples of love bombing meant to gain control over a partner.

  • Demanding a partner’s time, affection, and loyalty before a solid relationship is established
  • Declaring that you are their soulmate and refusing to let you spend time with other people — or acting jealous when you do
  • Saying they know you better than you know yourself

If you’re caught in a relationship that displays such cycles of abuse, you may find it extremely difficult to get out. Maybe you see your partner’s true colors after the love bombing stage is over, but just when you pack up to leave, they begin apologizing, flattering you, and gushing about how perfect you are for them again. In short, they’re beginning the cycle all over again.

If you choose to forgive them and stay with them, you may be caught in the love bombing cycle. All relationships have their ups and downs, and many healthy couples even argue several times per day. However, emotional manipulation is significantly different. Healthy relationships are built on trust, respect, and love. Love bombing — and the cycle that usually follows it — is not love.

It might be painful to notice signs of manipulative or abusive behavior in your partner. You have three choices in this situation:

Stay in the relationship. Staying with someone who relies on manipulation more than honest communication is a tough option. If you choose to do nothing, the cycle of love bombing, devaluing you, and trying to win you back if you threaten to leave will likely continue.

Leave the relationship. Only you can decide whether it’s in your best interest to leave a relationship. Talk to a close friend, a trusted family member, or a counselor who has experience working with love bombing in relationships. Experts do not recommend attending relationship counseling with your partner if they are emotionally abusive.

Give your partner a boundary. It’s possible that your partner uses toxic communication tactics because they were raised in an environment where love bombing or lack of healthy boundaries were common. Don’t let your partner use a difficult childhood as an excuse to engage in toxic behavior, though. Demand that they stop this behavior and encourage them to get help if needed. 

Communicate clearly how you feel and use sentences that begin with “I” to minimize the probability that the conversation will turn into an argument. Let your partner know that you simply won’t tolerate the love bombing cycle, and be prepared to leave the conversation, the room, or the relationship if they violate a boundary that you set.

Love bombing is a sign of a more serious underlying problem in a relationship. Does your partner’s treatment of you follow this pattern? If so, you should consider whether this relationship is making your life better. It may be time to move on to healthier, more fulfilling relationships where both partners are able to communicate without resorting to manipulation.