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What is love bombing?

What is love bombing?
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Love bombing is a phrase that describes an intense period of attention and adoration early in a relationship, often characterised by declarations of love, rapid courtship, large gifts and other grand gestures.

“It is typically a time of idealisation and seduction, where you are put on a pedestal,” says says Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist, professor of psychology and author. “But while it may sound like a dream the intent is actually to confuse and blind you, to put you in a position where you can be controlled.”

It’s a typical pattern seen in relationships with narcissists, but love bombing is a tactic used in many kinds of dysfunctional and abusive relationships. And while it’s most common in romantic pairings, it can be seen in relationships with family members, coworkers, and friends, says psychologist Darylevuanie Johnson, PhD. Note that people who love bomb are not always totally cognisant of what they are doing and why. Their behaviour is not excusable, but remember that they are also battling their own demons.

Because it’s so intense and all-consuming, love bombing is exhausting and the “bomber” can only sustain it for about six to 12 weeks, Durvasula says. After that initial period, the gifts, compliments, and trips will dry up quickly.

The two types of love bombing

The two types of love bombing
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Durvasula says there are two main types of love bombing: “grandiose” and “quiet.”

Grandiose love bombers use big gestures like expensive gifts, elaborate holidays, fast and intense declarations of love, and deep emotional conversations to draw you in quickly and keep you off balance.

Quiet love bombers are less common, though just as insidious and damaging. “It’s where you become sucked entirely into the other person’s emotional world and you may feel an intense need to rescue or take care of them,” says Durvasula.

You talk constantly and they want to know every single thing about you. They may tell you that no one has understood them like you do or you may feel like no one has ever gotten you as well as they do. Quiet love bombers often have heart-breaking sob stories and share too much, too quickly.

Here are 15 signs you may have a love addiction.

Who is most at risk for being love bombed?

Who is most at risk for being love bombed?
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Why is it that some people can see right through the love-bombing ruse while others fall for it hook, line and 24-karat-gold sinker?

Anyone can fall for this trick, but some people are particularly vulnerable to love bombing. They include empaths, “people pleasers,” those who grew up in a narcissistic household, were abused previously, or are younger or new to relationships, Durvasula says.

People with these characteristics may be more likely to accept an unequal relationship, adds Johnson.

In love bombing, it may initially seem like the love bomber is doing all the giving. But the balance ultimately shifts, with you giving far more than you get. “In a healthy relationship there is a balance between each person’s needs,” says Johnson. “You shouldn’t be doing all the giving or all the receiving.”

Another risk factor is our cultural brainwashing of what a real, loving relationship should look like, Durvasula explains. “Too many people have bought into the Hollywood fairytale style of romance and think that this is the ideal,” she says.

The truth, however, is that much of what passes for “romance” in romantic comedies is unrealistic, overbearing, abusive and sometimes even illegal. A lot of what is called “true love” in pop culture is really love bombing, adds Durvasula.

“It triggers a childlike fantasy that turns off wisdom, not just in yourself but in those around you,” she says. “It’s not uncommon for people who are being love-bombed to be told by their friends and family that they are so lucky someone loves them that much and they shouldn’t question it.”

Learn 7 reasons you keep thinking about someone – and how to stop.

The dark side of love bombing

The dark side of love bombing
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If too much adoration and too many presents were the only issues, then love bombing might not be a big deal. But the end goal is to make you feel confused, indebted, and so in love with the love bomber that they can control you, Durvasula says.

“Once you let down your defences and decide, ‘Okay, I’m in this relationship 100 percent,’ that’s when the love bombing stops and they begin to lose interest,” she says. “It’s like trying to get a butterfly under a glass. The chase is fun but once they catch you, the game is over. They burn out on being nice and loving and romantic.”

From there, love bombing can lead to more severe types of domestic abuse, including physical violence.

Watch for these tell-tale signs your relationship could turn abusive.

Idealise, devalue and discard

Idealise, devalue and discard
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Love bombing is often part of a larger pattern of abuse in which the abuser will idealise you, then devalue you and discard you, Durvasula says. But they don’t want to lose control over you, so if you do try to leave, it may start the cycle over again.

“You can get ‘hoovered’ back in by another round of love bombing,” she says. “But it’s never as great as the first time and the good times will get farther and farther apart.”

Eventually, you’re living on “breadcrumbs” of hope and memories of the good times, she adds. Guilt and hope are the two main weapons abusers use and love bombing sets you up perfectly for both.

Good vs. bad love gestures: The difference

Good vs. bad love gestures: The difference
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Is love bombing ever a positive thing? Or perhaps could it be a sign of a well-intentioned-yet-overzealous lover? The way to tell the difference between someone who’s just trying a bit too hard and a manipulative love bomber is what happens when you tell them it feels like too much, Johnson says.

If you ask someone to back off a little and slow the relationship down, and they listen and respect that, it’s a good sign. However, a love bomber will usually try to gaslight you into believing this is what you really want and may try to make you feel guilty for questioning their intent.

“True love bombing is a weapon abusers use and it’s always a red flag,” Durvasula adds.

Once you know the signs of love bombing, you can protect yourself and you’ll be far less vulnerable to manipulation, Johnson says. Read on to learn the red flags of love bombing:

And also learn to recognise the 6 warning signs that you’re being gaslighted.

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Your gut tells you that something is off

Your gut tells you that something is off
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Your number one defence against love bombing is to pay attention to your gut instinct. Because love bombing is so over-the-top, it often feels confusing and destabilising, even as it feels fun and exciting.

“It’s very common for people who’ve experienced love bombing to say ‘I knew something didn’t feel right at the beginning, but I ignored that feeling because who gives up a fairytale romance?’” Durvasula says.

These are the 8 red flags you’re in a co-dependent relationship.

They shower you with fancy gifts

They shower you with fancy gifts
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Over-the-top gifts are a hallmark of grandiose love bombing so if someone is spending an immense amount of money on you, be very wary. “Normal people don’t go to the Maldives on their second date,” Durvasula says.

They demand lightning-fast responses

They demand lightning-fast responses
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A love bomber knows their time is limited so they will often demand very fast responses from you, becoming upset if you don’t respond quickly, Johnson says.

For instance, if you don’t answer a text for several hours or if you want to wait a few days to see if you can get the days off work before booking a trip. “They don’t want you to take time to think about things because if you do, you may see through the ruse,” she says.

They promise you your dream life

They promise you your dream life
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Many love bombers use “future faking,” or promises of a grand future together and because they’re so good at figuring you out, it will be the exact future you’ve always dreamed of. Look at what they are doing now to build the foundation of a solid relationship, not what they’re promising for the future, Johnson suggests. And if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

These are the 11 daily habits of couples in healthy relationships.

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