Being in true love is a fantastic experience. Science now understands more of those initial feelings of instant connection and attraction to potential partners as the release of dopamine in parts of the brain that create wellness and feel-good experiences. At the same time, oxytocin and vasopressin levels increase, which increases the sensation of attachment and need for physical presence, as well as the sense of trust and empathy with the other person.
These natural changes in brain chemistry make people want to be with each other, to bring happiness to the other person, and to be excited and motivated to spend time together. It is normal and healthy in a new relationship, as long as both people are actually experiencing this sense of love at the emotional and physiological level.
Unfortunately, there are people who create this sense of being in love as a manipulation of the partner. This is a process known as love bombing. It focuses on overwhelming the partner with words, gifts, behaviors, and actions to manipulate you into believing they are as much in the relationship as you are.
Signs of Being Love Bombed
Love bombing is a strategic, manipulative, and emotionally disingenuous behavior by the partner. Typically love bombing includes all of these behaviors, and they are done frequently.
• Constant compliments – these are over-the-top compliments on even the smallest things. This is often done in public and in private.
• You are perfect – this is not just an endearing statement every now and then. The partner constantly repeats you are perfect, the best person, and the only person for them, even if you are just starting your dating relationship.
• Extreme gifting – large gifts are common, including trips, expensive jewelry, weekends away, or even flowers delivered daily to your home or place of work.
• Cannot manage without you – while it may seem cute at first, these people cannot be on their own without you. They make you feel guilty for spending time with friends and family.
• Constantly sending messages – love bombing can be done through text messaging as well. Constant love messages throughout the day with the expectation of a response in kind is a red flag for love bombing.
• Social media posts – a partner that gets online and makes public declarations of love, post your picture together constantly, or follows and comments on every one of your posts with a love message or a personal message are also signs of love bombing.
What to Do About Love Bombing
People who engage in love bombing may simply lack boundaries, or they may be narcissists or people with other interpersonal relationships challenges. There are few ways to try to diffuse a love bomber, or at least determine if they are willing to work on changing their behavior.
A few tips to try to work with a love bomber and end the behavior in the relationship include:
• Set boundaries – talk about what you will accept and what crosses the line. For example, discuss the frequency or value of gifts, the number of texts or calls per day, or the time you will spend together and apart. If the individual cannot respect these boundaries, it is important to consider the long-term sustainability of the relationship.
• Be realistic about your needs – stay connected to friends and family. Spend time away from the love bomber and be comfortable in your independence. You are not responsible for their emotional happiness, especially in the early few days or weeks of a relationship.
• Meet with friends – limit your time alone with the person and instead make things group events with your friends. This provides you with emotional support and observers to events.
Finally, be aware the earlier you address love bombing, the easier it is to end the relationship and move on. Love bombing only lasts for a short time, and when it ends, a cycle of emotional abuse is typically the next stage in the relationship.