Beware The Love Bomber
I was in my late teens when I met him. At first everything was perfect. He seemingly adored everything about me and constantly showered me with compliments. After only a few weeks of dating, he told me he loved me and invited me to go on a vacation with him to another country. Looking back, all I see are giant red flags. However, as a young adult without much relationship experience, I told myself that it was totally normal that we were moving this fast.
About a month into our relationship, the fairytale started to disintegrate. My ex began to criticize my appearance and my personality, until eventually this became an everyday occurrence. Before I knew it, he was telling me how to dress and which friends to spend time with. I always felt like I was walking on eggshells; desperate to get back to how things were in the beginning, but unable to do anything right in his eyes.
I now know there’s a word for this guy’s behaviour: Love bombing.
“Love bombing is a manipulative behaviour that is typically inflicted on an unsuspecting potential partner through an overabundance of flattery, adoration and showering of love,” says Chris Vitale, a relationship expert and senior manager for Peoplelooker.com, an online background check service. “Love bombing can include flattering comments, tokens of affection, love notes, flowers and gifts and a growing number of text messages and calls. It may include surprise appearances designed to manipulate you into spending more time with the love bomber and less time with others or on your own,”
It’s easy to fall for love bombing because it feels good – at least at first.
However, it often escalates into a more serious form of psychological control and even abuse, explains Dr. Marni Feuerman, a licensed psychotherapist and author of, Ghosted and Breadcrumbed: Stop Falling for Unavailable Men and Get Smart about Healthy Relationships.
As Feuerman explains, love bombing is connected to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). “Narcissists are manipulative by nature. This is the best way they know how to get their needs met. They use love bombing as a means of ultimately building up their own ego. They are looking to gain your trust, attention, and adoration quickly. They do this early on in the relationship before the object of their love bombing sees through the smoke and mirrors,” she says.
My ex-boyfriend had the Jekyll and Hyde personality of a textbook narcissist. He could go from cruel and rage-filled one minute, to dropping a love bomb full of compliments the next; leaving me in a perpetual state of emotional confusion. I began to view him as both my torturer and my redeemer – and according to experts, that’s the point.
Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW is a NYC psychotherapist and interfaith minister who specializes in the treatment of narcissistic abuse syndrome. As she explains, “when one has been love bombed and seduced to believe they are ‘the one,’ it is traumatic and surreal when reality kicks in and the narcissist segues into playing insidious games designed to shake the target’s confidence and distort the target’s perceptions.”
By the time my ex and I broke up, my confidence was shattered and I was unsure whether I could live without him (even though he was clearly the worst). Heller says this is also common. Targets of love bombing may show signs of Stockholm Syndrome, a form of traumatic bonding in which victims are pathologically attached to their abuser.
While getting away from this kind of relationship isn’t easy (Heller likens it to going through symptoms of withdrawal), the first step is to end all contact with the person. Experts also suggest seeking help from a professional who can help you release this person and develop new healthier relationship patterns and attachments.
Lastly, don’t blame yourself. As Vitale shares, “While you may feel burned, just know that self-awareness and knowing the signs (of lovebombing and narcissistic abuse syndrome) can help stop it from happening again. The most important sign to be aware of is any whirlwind romance that moves at the speed of light.”
Thank you Rev. Sheri Heller for this excellent article!