What is love-bombing? Here’s what you need to know about this manipulative tactic

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who rained compliments on you all day, every day? Did they text you all hours of the day (and night) and ask what you were doing every time you were away from them? While some people might think these are sweet gestures being done by a partner who is “head over heels” in love with you, these acts can actually be prime examples of a narcissist love-bombing, a psychological tactic all about manipulation.

But how do you exactly know the difference between when a S.O. is trying to manipulate you or just proclaiming their undying love for you in an overbearing (but non-toxic) way? We connected with two relationship experts to find out why love-bombing is bad, why narcissists do this, and how to heal after you’ve been in a relationship with a person who love-bombed you.

What is love-bombing?

“Love-bombing usually refers to inundating a partner with (grand) gestures or expressions that are framed as loving, but ultimately, are used to gain control or manipulate a partner,” says Toronto-based sexologist Dr. Jess.

According to Dr. Jess, some of the more apparent ways an S.O. might choose to love-bomb you include manipulating you into doing something they want after they buy you a big purchase; sending you intense love text messages and then disappearing without explanation for days; surprising you randomly at work or when you’re with your friends to pressure you into spending more time with them or isolating you from others, and showering you with compliments, but then berating you when you don’t go along with their desires.

“Oftentimes, the supposed expressions of love come early in the relationship and may not align with the level of commitment. For example, perhaps they bring you a generous gift on the first date,” explains Dr. Jess. Experiencing any of these kinds of things early in the relationship may indicate that your partner is a narcissist and they’re trying to control you. If you believe this is the case, it might be best to slow down, take a step back, and examine what’s happening before you pursue the relationship any further.

Why do narcissists use this tactic? What benefits do they gain from love-bombing their S.O.s?

While manipulative behavior comes in many forms, according to Dr. Jess, it’s often used as a tool to gain power and control.  “They may believe that showering you with adoration, gifts, and/or attention will allow them to dictate how you behave or with whom you socialize. They may believe that spending time with you and planning fun and exciting outings will help them to control your schedule. They may use generous gifts to manipulate you into feeling beholden,” she explains.

Most narcissists want their S.O.s to believe that the only source of love they can receive is from them and them alone. This is why they’ll isolate their partners from their loved ones, belittle their achievements, or tell them they are the only person who makes them feel loved. “This type of abuse serves their goal of ‘winning’ or gaining control,” says Dr. Jess.

This is dangerous because the love-bomber only truly cares about their own needs and will do everything in their power to feel in control of the relationship, even if it’s at the expense of their S.O. “It’s natural to feel good when you’re adored and loved, but if this love and adoration is contingent upon doing as they say, adjusting your boundaries to meet theirs or falling in line with their specific expectations (e.g. socially, sexually, practically, financially), it may not be founded upon mutual affection,” says Dr. Jess.

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