Love is a captivating emotion that can bring a person immense joy and make us feel comforted and valued. And we all know how finding someone who can make us feel so valued can be such a euphoric and delightful experience.
In a relationship, it is expected of both individuals to understand the other and put in a balance of effort. Love is the foundation for a relationship but it also includes patience, loyalty, and a lot of comfort. Love is a lot of things. But love can also manifest into a lot of things.
Over time, the relationship between two people can change and may get toxic. One of the reasons that this happens is when people start changing and do not align with the other person. However, amongst the genuine expression of love, there can also be a darker and overwhelming side to “love”.
Love bombing is one of the many ways in which a relationship can get toxic. Some people get into relationships with caution, while others often tend to jump in very quickly. Fast-paced relationships can be exhilarating, yes, and can give you a dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin rush, but in some cases, it can be extremely negative. It feels nice to be someone's priority but there is nothing romantic about love bombing; in fact, it leaves you feeling unsettled.
So what is love bombing in relationships, exactly ?
It is a form of manipulation in which someone showers another person with excessive affection, attention, and praise to control or exploit them, often leading to a shift in the power dynamic of the relationship.
It's natural for both partners to do nice things for each other at the start of a relationship because they want to make their partner feel valued and special. However, with love bombing, acts of kindness may appear kind when, in fact, they are self-serving. There's nothing wrong with surprising someone with a trip if you've known each other long enough to justify one, or if the goal is to actually get to know each other better. Instead, love bombers manipulate by making extravagant gestures. They pretend to be interested in another person in order to obtain something they want, which is frequently a combination of sex, money, attention, and/or access to influential people. A romantic gesture a year into a relationship can be off-putting and potentially even a red flag if it comes, say, in the very first month of dating.
The cycle of love bombing is typically made up of 4 stages :
Idealisation: This stage may look extremely harmless with a love bomber showering lots of love, gifts, affection & attention on their partner. This phase creates an emotional high making a person feel extremely valued and loved, putting them on a perpetual cloud 9.
Devaluation: The love bomber’s behaviour shifts. During this stage, love and attention are withheld from you. They may become aggressive or critical and may lie, cheat, ghost or gaslight you. At this point, you’re probably confused and wondering what happened to the loving and affectionate person that you fell in love with? You may try to fix the relationship or do whatever you can in your power (or maybe more) to go back to the loving phase that you were used to.
Discarding: This perhaps is the most difficult stage of the cycle which will often leave you shocked. Once the love bomber has realised that they are no longer able to control you in a way in which their emotional needs are met, they will quickly disregard you and the relationship.
Hovering: Even though you and your partner may have ended the relationship, they will often continue to check on you consistently. They are likely to pull you back into the relationship by re-establishing communication, declarations of love, apologies and threats of suicide or harm.
See, love bombing is often masked and can be very hard to understand what is happening. A few red flags that we can look out for are:
- They buy over-the-top gifts for you or spend a lot of money on you.
- They bombard you with compliments.
- They communicate with you excessively (almost every moment of the day).
- They push for commitment early in the relationship.
- They make “soulmate” references or declarations about fate and destiny.
- The relationship feels a little too intense.
- They dislike it or get angry when you set boundaries.
- You feel uneasy about their level of affection or communication.
The way a love bomber approaches a new relationship is similar to how a salesperson considers closing a deal. They will go out of their way to close the sale or the relationship and win you over. This grandiose display of love, attention, and affection is temporary and usually ends when they believe they have you in their clutches. This type of emotional abuse might leave you feeling quite conflicted. On the one hand, you may be confused, frustrated, or angry. Even though you are aware of the toxicity of the relationship, you may still be emotionally bonded to your partner. It's important to understand that all of these contradictory feelings are quite natural in this situation.
If you are truly being love bombed, it is important to be honest about the situation. This pattern and behaviour does not get better, nor is it your job to “fix” it and change the love bomber’s behaviour. All it will do is add to your worries and your woes. It's essential to reach out for support. Consider talking to your close friends or a therapist about what's going on. If they share concerns about your partner, don't dismiss them.
Chances are, they're onto something that you might be trying to deny, minimise, or rationalise!