Dating a narcissist is a minefield, not least for the fact that you rarely know that’s what’s happening until the relationship has got going. There are definite toxic behaviors that make it easier to track what is going on, and one of the most dangerous of these behaviors is a practice known as love bombing. Along with gaslighting, love bombing is a sign of a narcissistic partner, which can quickly become dangerous. As we will see, it is a very sophisticated way of exerting control over a partner and one which is cropping up more and more often. But what is love bombing, and how can you tell that you are at risk from this behavior?
What to Know About Love Bombing and Signs to Look Out For
Love bombing: A definition
As a term used by psychologists, love bombing is relatively new, but the signs are age-old. A fair definition of the term goes as follows:
A process of lavishing attention and affection upon a person, particularly with the goal of exerting influence and control over them.
Love bombing is a classic manipulative trick. The perpetrator turns up the grand gestures and statements of love with the aim of overwhelming their target, with the intention being that their quarry will be so grateful that they lower all of their defenses. The influence and control that is gained from a successful effort will then be used to keep a partner from acting on their own initiative, spending time with friends and potentially even leaving the perpetrator. As we will see, the behaviors used to achieve this are many and varied.
How do you recognize love bombing?
Love bombing usually materializes in the early stages of dating, and – by design – it looks a lot like simple infatuation. It might ring a few early alarm bells because it feels like too much, too soon, but let’s face it, we’ve all felt a strong attraction to someone. It can be pretty intoxicating to see someone be too attentive especially if you are used to the opposite. The signs that you need to be cautious of are when someone employs the following tactics:
This can mean excessive giving of gifts – when they bring you something new almost every day or even more often – or the giving of excessive gifts. They might surprise you by buying you a new car, or by booking a lavish holiday when you’ve just started dating. It’s also common to send gifts to you at work; a public gesture of affection which can both claim ownership of you and make your co-workers see how lucky you are.
When we’re first dating, hearing that we have a text can be an enthralling little dose of dopamine, we may spend hours on the phone and also swap messages on social media. We’ve all been there. But it’s a red flag when they’re sending you several messages without reply, asking where you are, calling you on your work phone or very late at night/early in the morning.
It’s often said that you can’t see a red flag through rose-tinted glasses, and everyone likes to be paid a compliment. But there is a difference between “You make me feel so happy” and “You’re the only person in the world I want to spend time with”. If a compliment makes you feel like they’re putting you under pressure, it’s a bad sign. This is particularly concerning if they do it after showing anger or exasperation towards you.
Demanding your attention
It’s natural to want to spend time with the object of our affections. But one of the classic red flags is for a partner to show impatience or dissatisfaction when you are spending time with friends or talking to them on the phone. They want you to give your undivided attention, and to be the only one giving you attention, forcing you into a codependent relationship and isolating you from other loved ones.
Wanting 100% commitment
If a partner is talking about moving in together, getting married, or even having a family together after just a few dates, it’s a warning sign. The kind of love that sustains a marriage is built over time, through shared experience, and is tested by stressful times including time apart. If they want your undying commitment so early on, it’s not because they can’t live without you – it’s that they don’t want to think about being alone.
All of the above, and any actions which display an excessive sense of neediness, which make you feel overwhelmed or pressured into feeling the same way they do, are signs that someone is love bombing you. Speak to friends, family and if necessary a therapist, and be careful about when and how you speak to your partner. If you are concerned, insist that you have a friend present when you speak to them. In any relationship, you should always feel appreciated, cared for and – above all – safe.