Duck and Cover! Watch for These Love Bombing Signs
Holy hot damn, you just met the most incredible guy! He took you on an absolute whirlwind of a first date. He paid you every compliment under the sun and charmed his way right into your heart. By the second or third date, he was showering you with gifts and affection, already discussing when you’ll get married and have kids.
Okay, sure, he’s texting you every day… and it’s kind of a lot. But no one has ever treated you this way, and the flattery has your head spinning. You’re finally getting the extravagant romantic adventure you’ve always dreamed of, so you ignore the little twinge in your gut that says things are moving too fast. He’s just charming and generous, right?
This doesn’t sound like the work of a manipulative abuser in the traditional sense, and the serotonin rushing through your system feels too good for any of this to look like a red flag.
Unfortunately, these are often early love bombing signs and very possibly the beginning of an emotional abuse cycle. If any of this sounds familiar, we’ve got your back. We’ll explain the warning signs and what to do about it.
What is love bombing?
Love bombing is a form of emotional abuse meant to manipulate you into a relationship. A love bomber likely has an anxious or insecure attachment style at best and an unchecked narcissistic personality disorder at worst. They use overwhelming affection and excessive flattery to rope potential partners into a controlling, toxic relationship that feels like a dream before transforming into a nightmare.
Love bombing doesn’t always look the same, but some early red flags can include the following:
- Excessive expressions of his feelings for you, especially before you know each other very well
- Boosting your self-esteem with extreme flattery and compliments
- Outsized gestures like expensive or unwanted gifts
- Making plans for your relationship years in the future during the first weeks of dating
These behaviors aren’t inherently bad or toxic by themselves. We learn how to express love from our families and previous partners, and early enthusiasm doesn’t guarantee you’re careening headlong into a relationship with an abuser.
But no matter how good he looks in his profile picture, be wary if your new love interest piles all of these behaviors on you and shows any of the following signs of love bombing.
The stages of manipulation
Love bombing often works in stages:
- First, he lures you in during the idealization stage. The honeymoon phase wears off after he’s showered you with adoration and feels confident you’re committed to him.
- Then, you enter the devaluation stage. He might become more demanding of your time or more controlling. Maybe he treats you with cruelty one minute and fawning affection the next.
- If he decides he’s done with you, he steps into the discarding stage, leaving in an abrupt and chaotic scene.
- Still, a narcissist needs a steady supply of ego-boosting reassurance. He may check back in with you during the hoovering stage when he’ll do anything to suck you back into his drama.
These behaviors are intentionally misleading and cleverly disguised, so be kind to yourself if you don’t notice them immediately.
7 signs you’re being love bombed
Here are some common love bombing examples to look out for:
1. Eleganza shit-storm
We’re not talking about flowers from time to time or a thoughtful little gift that feels appropriate for the moment. You deserve nice things and the nice people who give them to you, after all.
However, if someone you don’t know very well suddenly inundates you with lavish gifts you didn’t ask for (and maybe don’t even want), watch out. It starts out feeling exciting, but things don’t make the man, honey.
Once you enter the devaluation stage, those gifts turn into curses he’ll hold over your head whenever he feels disrespected or like he’s losing control. Watch out for anything that sounds like, “You would do that after everything I’ve given you?”
We live for the opulence, but it isn’t worth your autonomy.
2. Relationship speedrun
No two relationships are identical, but there is a typical trajectory that a love bomber throws right out the window. He’ll skip all the getting-to-know-each-other steps and jump right into planning your future.
This is meant to make you feel special and lock you down quickly. But relationships aren’t a sprint. They’re more like a fun version of those super-long ultramarathons. The point is you have to pace yourself.
If you take a step back, you’ll see he isn’t looking for a connection with a particular individual. He’s just casting someone in the role of his partner. You deserve better than to be replaceable.
3. Mr. Demanding
He wants your time, attention, sex, and devotion — all on-demand. He might start out sweet, saying he wants to spend more time with you. Maybe he needs to know what you’re doing because he worries.
This is the soft launch of his control. It isn’t healthy to demand constant reassurance from your partner, and 24/7 surveillance is not the solution to someone’s anxious tendencies.
You deserve independence and boundaries, and you don’t owe anyone the amount of energy that a narcissistic, controlling partner demands from you — especially when he thinks he “earned it” by buying you gifts and paying you compliments. Love is not transactional.
4. Won’t take no for an answer
If you set a boundary and he disregards it, that’s him ignoring your no. If you say you don’t want a gift, but he gets you one anyway, that’s him ignoring your no.
Whenever you say, “Not right now,” “I’m busy/tired/not in the mood,” or “I already have plans,” that’s a boundary he must respect. This applies to anything he expects from you — dates, sex, attention, and reassurance. If he wants your energy and you don’t want to give it, you’re allowed to say no.
A love bomber may struggle to empathize with others. Pay attention if your needs are often swept aside, disrespected, or outright ignored. Healthy relationships are built on reciprocity in a way narcissistic love bombing makes impossible.
5. Allergic to accountability
Here’s where he’ll pull out his expert gaslighting skills and make you feel crazy. He’ll say, “I never did that,” when you know he did. When he has a destructive outburst, he’ll say you made him do it. When you set a boundary, he’ll act hurt — as if you’re taking something away from him instead of asserting your needs.
He’ll do anything to make you second-guess yourself and distract you from the truth. He can’t offer a proper apology for anything because a genuine apology requires accountability and changed behavior — two things he has no interest in.
6. The isolation game
Have you had less and less communication with your friends and family since getting to know him? Does he make it uncomfortable or impossible to do things by yourself, whether by outright disallowing it or by becoming sad, angry, or moody when you do?
Isolating you from outside support is key to his control. This way, you have nowhere else to go.
7. Epic highs and lows of your self-esteem
He builds you up with compliments and adoration just to tear you down with criticism, judgment, and fear. Maybe he lavishes you with gifts and praise after he cheated on you. Perhaps he says and does terrible things during a fight, then promises to never do them again.
So, WTF do you do now?
Listen to your gut. Does this feel like a healthy relationship?
And if you don’t know how to listen to your gut, do yourself a favor and ask a therapist or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) for their opinion.
You can also ask your friends and family, but remember that our society tends to view certain unhealthy relationship dynamics as “normal” or even aspirational. Loved ones might not be equipped to spot these red flags. Not to mention, an effective abuser is savvy enough to put on a convincing show around others.
Lean on your support network but don’t back down if someone doesn’t believe you. You know what’s best. A professional can provide an objective viewpoint to help you understand the situation, set boundaries, and access resources for getting out of an unhealthy or dangerous relationship.
And leave hoovering to the vacuums, babe. If he leaves you or you leave him, take the win and avoid getting sucked back into his bullshit. People often choose a familiar hell over uncertainty because the unknown is scary. But you deserve freedom, independence, and a partner who treats you with love and respect.
If your partner has resorted to violence or you feel unsafe for any reason, you can access a variety of support resources by phone or text:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233 or text “START” to 88788.
- Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741741
- 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988, or chat online here.
- SAMHSA Helpline Database: An extensive database of mental health resources.
Cheers to your future
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