What Is Love Bombing? Examples And Dangers

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated May 11, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Being showered with love and affection during the early stages of a relationship can be exciting and flattering. However, while such gestures are sometimes sincere, they can constitute emotional abuse and be harmful in various ways if the individual performing them does so in order to manipulate their partner. If you’re in the dating world, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with the warning signs of love bombing so you can recognize it if it happens to you and defend yourself accordingly.

Mental manipulation can have a lasting impact

What is love bombing?

Love bombing is when one individual showers another with excessive amounts of affection, extravagant gifts, and/or grand gestures at the beginning of a romantic relationship.

Again, the difference between sincere and harmful displays of affection like these is the intent. When someone is love bombing, they’re doing so in order to mentally manipulate their new partner by distracting them from their character flaws, monopolizing their time and energy, establishing a toxic, unbalanced dynamic, and ultimately gaining control over their life. It can be thought of as a type of grooming: often innocuous-seeming in the beginning, but with the expectation of getting something in return eventually.

Warning signs of love bombing

At first, it may be difficult to tell whether someone is just excited about getting to know you or if they may be engaging in love bombing. Getting familiar with the warning signs below may help you recognize love bombing behavior, and checking in with your gut may also be useful. The feeling that someone seems “too good to be true” early on or that something just feels “off” is usually worth examining.

Excessive flattery

Being showered with praise and compliments usually feels nice, and receiving these forms of affirmation don’t represent a warning sign in every case. It’s when the flattery feels excessive, extreme, or happens too soon that love bombing may be at play. For example, language like, “I think you’re my soulmate” or “I’ve finally found what I’m looking for” that occurs after a first or second date could be a form of love bombing, as could saying “I love you” early on. Someone who love-bombs may also inundate their target with flowers, expensive dinners, and other gifts to an excessive degree.


Excessive time demanded

Part of the approach of a love bomber is usually to make you dependent on them so they can come to control your life and decisions. So if someone is demanding a lot of your time—especially early on—it could be a warning sign. For example, they might want to meet up again the day after your first date because they say they miss you or can’t stop thinking about you. Or, they could inundate you with frequent text messages and calls, expecting a lot of your time even when you’re apart. If their presence in your life seems too significant for how long or how well you know them, it could be love bombing.

Encouraged dependency

The endgame of most people who engage in love bombing is to get their target to become emotionally dependent on them—and sometimes financially or in other ways as well. That way, the abuser can soothe their own fears of inadequacy by being needed, and they can more easily continue to manipulate their partner as time goes on. Declarations of confidence in the relationship, proclamations of love, and attempts to isolate the person from friends and other sources of support are some moves that they may employ to foster dependency. 

Mistreatment of others

The manner in which someone who loves bombs treats other people can provide a clue as to their true character. They may be impatient, ill-mannered, rude, or even cruel to people outside the relationship—such as acquaintances, colleagues, service employees, etc. The stark contrast between this type of behavior and the sweet, affectionate behavior they display toward their new partner could indicate love bombing or the potential for other forms of abuse.

Potential effects of love bombing

Love bombing can cause serious emotional turmoil in the person experiencing it. For one, it’s not unusual for love bombers to suddenly disappear from the life of a new person they were showering with affection and grand gestures. A person may receive cards and flowers and go on an amazing date or two with this person only to abruptly never hear from them again. This can cause them to wonder if they did something wrong and may lead to feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, and even low self-esteem when it’s likely that the person either realized they weren’t an easy enough target or because they wanted the rush of control.

Over time, the effects of love bombing can be even more insidious. This grandiose, loving behavior may be interspersed with cruel, callous, or abusive behaviors, leading to a push-and-pull dynamic that causes the subject of the abuse to constantly seek their abuser’s approval but only receive fleeting, unreliable glimpses of it. It can also result in their deep reliance on the abuser and a sense of helplessness in the face of their powerful manipulation tactics. Over time, it may become increasingly difficult for the individual to leave this person, even though they’re being actively harmed and may or may not wish to stay.

Mental manipulation can have a lasting impact

The psychology of love bombing

Someone who loves bombs often displays narcissistic traits—either independently or due to narcissistic personality disorder—typically rooted in low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.

As a result, they may engage in this type of behavior because of their own deep need for reassurance. The overabundance of grand, romantic gestures that they may heap on their partner can act as an artificial way for them to “earn” the love and trust of another person. Since they’re so dependent on this validation, they’re likely to then do anything in their power to ensure that it remains a part of their life. 

Recovering from love bombing

The time and effort it takes to recover from being subjected to love bombing typically depends on the duration and intensity of the experience. Removing yourself from the harmful situation is typically the first part of the journey toward healing, utilizing resources and support from others if needed. Next, beginning to regain your independence and sense of self can be helpful. For example, you might reconnect with friends that your abuser drove away and pick up hobbies that they never allowed you the time to practice. Rebuilding your self-esteem if it was damaged can be important too.

As one study reports, those who have been in narcissistic relationships often experience mental health concerns such as difficulty trusting, decreased self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. It also indicates that therapy can be a helpful tool in the process of addressing these concerns.

How therapy can help

If you’re looking for support in healing from a love bombing experience, including all of the above as applicable, you may want to seek the help of a supportive, compassionate therapist. They can offer you a safe, nonjudgmental space where you can express and process your feelings about the relationship. They can also guide you through the healing process, whatever that may look like for you. For example, they might teach you strategies for building your self-esteem and help you learn how to set boundaries and recognize warning signs of potential abuse in future relationships. If you’ve developed symptoms of a mental health condition like depression or anxiety as a result of your experience, they can also support you in addressing these.

Some people find attending in-person therapy sessions to be difficult due to a busy schedule or a lack of providers in their area, for example. In cases like these, online therapy can provide a viable alternative. Research suggests that virtual therapy is “no less efficacious” than traditional, in-office sessions, and the option of engaging in it from the comfort of home makes this format more convenient for many. If you’re looking to get started, you might consider a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp. You can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can speak with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the challenges you may be facing. See below for client reviews of BetterHelp therapists.

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While love bombing can seem innocuous or even feel good at first, it can become a problem if it’s used as a manipulation tool. In this case, love bombing is a form of emotional abuse that can be deeply harmful to the person experiencing it. A therapist can be a helpful tool in the process of recovering from a relationship characterized by love bombing. 

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