There’s one drug out there that’s free, easy to find, and absolutely potent… Love
Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, adrenaline, vasopressin; this natural cocktail fills your veins with a hit of complete abandon and undeniable delight, a tantalising mix of all the good feelings everyone can’t help but want more of.
He may be old school, but Shakespeare remains the Godfather of romance (in my eyes at least), and his one quote of “love is blind and lovers cannot see” resonates throughout time and cultures as the pull of love distracts from unhealthy behaviours and darker agendas.
The timelessness of Shakespeare is relevant in this context as we delve into one of these behaviors here- ‘love bombing’.
But what is love bombing? How do I know if I’m a victim of this phenomena? Read on for all the answers to this dark shadow love conceals…
WHAT IS LOVE BOMBING?
Take a moment to picture Cupid on steroids; that cherubic personification of love throwing sweet nothings, gifts, bountiful charm at you 24/7, being there for your every need, and making sure you know it!
That’s love bombing.
The term is thought to have been coined in the 1970’s when leaders of religious cults weaponized love as a way to control followers, and the modernised meaning is very similar- this tactic spans from relationships to cults, to pimps and gangs. Accessibility to ‘love’ through social media and dating apps has opened a whole new market for people to turn love into a commodity for selfish gain rather than respect it as a defining human characteristic.
“Love bombing is inundating a person with adoration and attention to the point that it gets overwhelming,” – Kerry McNelis, Women for One founder
At it’s crux, these displays of adoration and affection are a form of emotional manipulation that can easily turn into emotional abuse. It’s only too late that you wake up one day to realise that, suddenly, you’ve entered into an intense and serious relationship very quickly, but actually know the bare minimum about your partner; once you peel away the rose petals of adoration, gifts, and bountiful charm all that seems to remain is a thorny stalk- who is this person and what have I gotten myself into???
Narcissists are prime love bombers- they will do everything in their power to hook you onto their drug for their own gain and satisfaction, before removing what you’ve become wholeheartedly addicted to. You’re desperate for your next hit and they hold complete power over you, thereby fulfilling their own incessant desire for power and adoration. Your reciprocation of ‘love’ shows a narcissistic love bomber whether they are winning or losing at this dangerous game of hearts.
Love bombing will always turn sour. The bomber ‘wins’ through gaining your dependency, and at this time their true colours are revealed and the more abusive side of (what was actually transactional) love erupts.
And that’s why love bombing is more dangerous than your average heartbreak:
Once the fix of love has not only been removed, but the memory is used against you as a method of control, emotional abuse spirals as you continue to cling to the memories of love’s first flush. Your sense of self and independence is so severely diminished that as you attempt to claw back the person that never truly existed you’re blind to the escalating spiral of abuse.
It can be extremely difficult to differentiate between the dizzying rush of an organically developing romance, and the tactically excessive displays of a love bomber, but don’t write of all blossoming new romances for fear of the latter! Rather, remain in touch with your gut and consult with reality by bearing in mind these 10 telltale signs of a love bombing extraordinaire.
Further Reading: Platonic Love: The Original Notion and How to Reach It
HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M BEING LOVE BOMBED?
Disrespect of boundaries
The internet has a lot of opinions about Joe from ‘You’, but one thing most of us can agree upon is that his behaviour was unacceptable. Disrespect of basic boundaries (in the name of ‘love’ of course…) is an initial love bomber red flag. So, if your new bae shows up unannounced or makes plans on your behalf without consent- anything that has slight ‘stalker vibes’- keep an eye out.
Guilting you to reciprocate gestures
The love in these relationships is conditional; I’ll love and care for you, but repayment must be made. Any form of guilt to reciprocate love is emotional manipulation, no matter what it may be disguised as.
Isolating you from other relationships
A love bomber wants your undivided time and attention, and one way to achieve this is through putting a barrier between you and your other relationships. Their constant demands for your attention is an attempt to control- it’s easier to hook you and keep you if they’re all you have.
Hot and cold relationship (Check they still have a hold over you)
The narcissistic aspect of a love bomber means they want the prize, and one way to check they’re ‘winning’ is to see if you’re still there following periods of withdrawal. Blowing hot and cold is another form of manipulation, and a tactic to confirm that they still have you wrapped around their finger, should they fancy to restart the games.
There’s compliments, then there’s a bombardment of adoration that’s so sweetly cloying it feels like you’re suffocating! Words are cheap, so compliments are an easy way to express love without much weight.
Who you see, what you wear, what you do, a love bomber may not appear to be controlling, but their uninvited involvement is a severe intrusion upon your freedom. As long as you comply it’s difficult to see the extent of their grip upon your life, but once you exert your free will a love bomber will often turn ugly and weaponise their ‘love’ to force your compliance.
Quickly escalating relationship status/ needing commitment
Call me a cynic, but to be told ‘I love you’ early in a relationship is not something I take well- how can you love someone truly after just a couple of weeks? ‘The One’, ‘soulmates’, ‘never having love like this’, all of these are subtle manipulations to convince you that the stars have aligned and you’ll never need anyone else. Unfortunately, if you are being love-bombed, then these sweet nothings are exactly that- ingenuine and tactical.
You can’t buy happiness, and the same rule can be applied to love. Gifts alone aren’t indicative of a love bomber, but when gifting goes to excess it’s a sign that this love is transactional. You become indebted to your love bomber whether you want it or not, and this debt will have to be repaid. ‘Excessive’ gifting is that jumbo teddy instead of normal size, expensive events for no reason, several bouquets of flowers when a single rose would be enough- anything that screams ‘can’t you see how great I am?!’
In line with being controlling, the modern ability to be in continuous contact tends to be abused by love bombers as a means to keep tabs on you. Contact is used by love bombers in three main ways;
to make the relationship move faster by ‘getting to know’ each other quicker,
to have more control as they know what you’re up to constantly,
to be missed if the contact stops.
This last one is an aspect of the love bomb drugging effect- you consciously notice an absence when there isn’t this regular contact, so are more inclined to reach out, thereby feeling like you do have control.
You feel uneasy
TRUST YOUR GUT. If you feel uneasy, whether before reading this or not, trust your gut and re-evaluate your relationship. If you feel uncomfortable at any stage due to your partner’s behaviour it’s a sure sign to look at whether the relationship is more harmful than healthy. Love, romance, partnership- none of these should grate upon your conscience or make your stomach turn.
And now, to return to our Godfather of love-
‘I know no ways to mince it in love, but directly to say ‘I love you” (Henry V Act 5)
There is nothing better than true love, the unconditional kind that won’t be manipulated or abused. Yes, there are love bombers out there, but they are the minority amongst genuine people who can bring you true joy. Tread carefully in your search for romance, but even armed with the truth of love bombers don’t tread fearfully; love is scary and complicated, but finding someone who enriches your life makes it all worth it.