What is ‘lovebombing’ and why it’s more dangerous than it sounds

Ever dated someone who acts like a character from a ’90s rom-com? Big gestures. Early declarations of love. You could be dating a ‘lovebomber’. This sounds like the ideal scenario, until you understand what’s ~really~ going on. Psychologist Briony Leo explains. 

Everyone loves to be loved, right? But what about when the affection you’re receiving from your partners feels just …. a bit too much? You could be on the receiving end of something called ‘lovebombing’ – a term that sound quite enjoyable but it can have more sinister effects on you, your sense of self, and your relationship.

We asked psychologist and relationship expert Briony Leo to explain exactly what this kind of behaviour entails, why it’s can spell be bad news for your fledgling romance, and the telltale signs it’s happening to you.

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What is lovebombing?

Lovebombing is something that can happen at the beginning of a relationship and can be quite destructive – it basically involves showering your new partner with compliments, gifts and affection. Someone who is lovebombing might be talking about soulmates and creating a really intense emotional bond with you, early on in the relationship. While it is normal to focus on our new partner and give them affection and attention, lovebombing is different in that it can be (sometimes) done with the intent to control or manipulate the person, and create an emotional intensity and bond really quickly.

Often people with attachment issues might do this without being aware (because they want so much for this relationship to work), or those with a narcissistic personality might do this intentionally, with the aim of creating dependency and control.

You might know you’re being lovebombed because your new partner is behaving like someone out of a romantic comedy and going over the top in their gifts and attentions – possibly with the aim of making others jealous, possibly with the aim of ‘winning you over’ and leading you to fall for them as the ‘perfect’ partner.”

Why is lovebombing dangerous?

“Lovebombing itself isn’t too dangerous – after all, who doesn’t like compliments and gifts?! However the impact on a relationship is significant. If your partner starts out with this kind of behaviour and then, over time, starts to feel more secure and behave more normally, it can feel quite deflating – the benchmark was set high with attention and compliments, and to find out that this was more a strategy to win you over, rather than something that will be part of the relationship, can be a real challenge.

On a more sinister note, for those who use lovebombing strategically to ‘win’ a partner and hurry along the ‘falling in love’ part, it can be incredibly challenging for someone to see clearly in the midst of this. They may be in a toxic or unhealthy relationship but it may be hard to acknowledge this, since their partner is doing so many nice things for them and they are under the impression they are soulmates. Lovebombing creates an intense emotional bond and can ‘dazzle’ us so we can’t see the relationship for what it is – and some people are aware of this and use it to their advantage.”

How do you know if you’re being lovebombed?

“Gut feelings are a good way to know. If things feel like a bit much to you, or if you notice that there is a lot of emotional intensity and romantic gestures at the beginning of the relationship. For some people, lovebombing is just how they roll, and they might not even be aware of the down-side – they’ve watched too many shows from the ’90s where this kind of thing was the ultimate way to win over a new partner, and haven’t yet realised that it is a bit inauthentic and (sometimes) creepy. If this is the case, it might be useful to gently have a conversation with them about it and explain that you’d like to get to know the real them, and have things unfold over time and build up an emotional connection through shared experiences.

For the more sinsiter lovebombers who are using it strategically, you might notice that they are doing this with the intention of making others jealous of them, or gaining something from you – so it might feel like a transaction. If something feels off, talk to someone you trust in your life and see if you can work out what is happening. These people might get angry if you ask them to step back a bit, and might not understand that this is not a great experience for you. That might be a sign that they’re viewing you as an object to be won, rather than a person with real feelings and desires – which is a good red flag to be aware of. “

Briony Leo is an Australian psychologist, currently based in New York City, with specialist training in EMDR, neurofeedback, schema therapy and ACT therapy. You can find here here.