What is Lovebombing?

Modern dating can seem like it comes with a vocab quiz β€” are you a sneaky link or situationship, are you being gaslit or simping? One term you may see in both memes and serious mental health contexts is “lovebombing.” What does lovebombing mean, and is it something you have to worry about?

What’s lovebombing?

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As the name suggests, lovebombing consists of “over-the-top displays of attention and affection” that have the intent of influencing or manipulating someone. Lovebombing may not feel abusive β€” in fact, it may feel great at the time β€” but can set the state for emotional abuse at worst and an unhealthy relationship at best down the road.

What isn’t lovebombing?

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If you wake up to texts from the person you’ve been on three dates with saying “good morning, beautiful! Can’t wait til the next time I see you,” should you be worried? Not necessarily.

It’s normal to try to be your “best self” in the first few months of a relationship β€” even if we know it’s best to be emotionally authentic, we often try to avoid being messy in the beginning. Flirting, compliments, and a concerted effort to get to know the other person are normal parts of courtship. Even a heightened level of attraction, affection, or thinking about the other person to the exclusion of all else, in a way that makes others roll their eyes, isn’t necessarily abnormal β€” that’s often just new relationship energy.Β 

All that to say, you don’t need to let caution about lovebombing make you paranoid about someone’s interest or affection for you. It’s normal and desirable to have your date be into you!

What makes lovebombing different than just being nice?

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So what should give you pause? While it’s normal for your date to want to make you feel good, there are a few hallmarks of lovebombing that escalate it to something else.

Extreme and inappropriate emotional intensity

Someone who’s lovebombing you doesn’t just shower you in compliments and attention, although they will likely do this. A sign to watch out for is someone who professes not just being interested in you, but developing extremely strong or committed feelings for you almost immediately. This could look like:

  • “You’re my dream partner, you’re exactly who I want to spend the rest of my life with, I can’t believe you’re dating me”
  • “I just know you’re the one.”
  • “I know it’s still early, but I think I’m falling for you”
  • “All my friends say you’re perfect for me, they say I should lock you down as soon as possible”
  • “What do you think about the future? Can’t you see us getting married?”
  • “Maybe it’s too soon, but I’m already in love with you, I can’t help myself”

None of these are bad sentiments in and of themselves, but they’re appropriate for a longer, serious relationship β€” not someone you just started seeing.

Lovebombing like this is often effective even on people who know they don’t want to get too serious, because the lovebomber usually tells us it’s because of something special and different about us that’s causing them to fall so hard so fast. It’s hard to spot something that we might recognize as fishy in other contexts when we’re being told it’s because our date has recognized something special, unique and valuable about us.

Attempts to “move too quickly” in a relationship

Adding too much emotional intensity to a relationship too quickly can be accompanied by pressure for commitment or intertwining of resources in a way that might put you in a difficult situation. Especially if this person is telling you they already know you’re going to be together forever and they foresee a whole life with you, it might feel more reasonable to consider:

  • Giving them a key to your place, or even moving in together, asking you to U-Haul
  • Lending them money or giving them access to your bank account
  • Extending some personal favor, like getting them a job at your place of work
  • Lending a car or other major resource
  • Inviting them to form a relationship with your closest friends or family
  • Even getting married or extending some kind of legal status, like putting them on your insurance policy or sponsoring someone for residency/citizenship

Again, none of these are inherently bad things to do β€” in the course of a long term relationship, you may want to do some or all of these things in a completely healthy way. However, these aren’t normal or healthy things earlier in the relationship, and if someone is bringing them up consistently, that may be a warning sign. One aspect of lovebombing as a strategy is that it can lead to you making major commitments while your date is still in the early lovebombing phase, and then left high and dry when your date no longer treats you as if you walk on water. By then, they’re already in your apartment, working at your job, or friends with all of your friends β€” it’s become much more challenging to simply walk away from them, which is what they’re counting on.

Gifts or compliments that instill a sense of obligation

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It’s possible that someone lovebombing you with the intent to become difficult to disentangle from your life won’t be as obvious as asking to move in or get married. Instead, they may create a sense of obligation or guilt through first overwhelming you with gifts or grand gestures. This could look like:

  • Expensive or big-ticket gifts or trips, like a weekend away together or a very expensive item you mentioned wanting, bought without asking you first
  • Public declarations of affection or commitment in front of your social groups, like a speech about how much they love you at a dinner with friends or family
  • Making a dramatic and labor-intensive gesture of affection, like driving a long distance overnight to see you, especially as a “surprise”/without your consent
  • Intense social media attention, with lots of posts about how much they adore you and how important your relationship is to them
  • Taking on major bills, like rent or medical payments, or offering cash when you’re in a tight spot
  • Doing a significant favor for a friend, family member, or loved one, like offering resources, connections, or a couch to crash on

These things may be very welcome β€” and even crucial β€” in the moment, but can also be a manipulative strategy designed to make you feel like you “owe” the lovebomber β€” both for any material resources offered and because they must care about you so much to have done these things. It may be a tactic to make you less likely to leave if, in the future, they don’t treat you as well β€” or a way to make you feel obligated to agree when they ask you for something or want some kind of commitment you aren’t comfortable with in the future.

What should you do if you think you’re being lovebombed?

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If you think you may be being lovebombed β€” or even just experiencing the intensity of early affection that you aren’t entirely comfortable with β€” there are a few ways to handle it.Β 

One is to respectfully push back and tell the other person that you’d prefer a different dynamic β€” saying something like “Thanks! I like a slow burn in dating β€” let’s only see each other a few times a month/let’s not text every day/let’s wait to meet each others’ friends/I’m not ready to say ‘I love you’ yet.”Β 

The way a date responds to this β€” or the imposition of any kind of boundary β€” is instructive. If the person you’re dating takes this news well, and changes their behavior and expectations accordingly with good cheer and appreciation for you sharing, that’s a good sign: it means their goal is your happiness and comfort. If they respond poorly to your asking to slow down β€” lashing out, guilting you, playing the victim, or performatively over-apologizing to the degree where you feel the need to comfort them β€” it may be time to exit the dynamic. They may be attempting to lovebomb you; even if they aren’t, reacting poorly to setting a basic boundary during the early days of dating bodes poorly for how they’ll react to any other needs or boundaries you have.

Another option is to simply end the dating dynamic if you feel there are signs of inappropriately intense emotional overtures β€” either because you want to avoid lovebombing or because you think that regardless of intent, this signifies an unhealthy emotional tenor.

Recommended Books:

Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist by Ramani S Durvasula Ph D

Lovebombing-How To Avoid Narcissist and Scammers and Unlock The Treasures of Self Love by Mara N. Hall

For More Articles Check Out These Recent Posts:

Learning to Say No

Should My Partner and I Break Up?

Three Things To Do at the Beginning of a Relationship to Keep It Healthy

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