Love bombing can be subtle or bold. It's most often associated with romantic love but can also show up in friendships, family situations and yes, even coworker dynamics. Whenever people are struggling with their own sense of belonging and value, love bombing is used to secure a sense of unity in an unsafe world. Since many individuals feel unsupported by life, it’s not surprising how often love bombing flies under the radar in both personal and professional relationships.
What is Love Bombing?
According to Wikipedia; Love bombing was first coined in the 1970s as a recruiting method used by cults to lure in new members with flattery, seduction, and attention. It floods the individual with the instant companionship they so desperately crave.
While today’s modern definition of love bombing is associated with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD); this labeling is often incorrect. An NPD diagnosis is only established through a qualified healthcare professional via a clinical interview. It’s also important to note, most narcissists with a DSM-5 diagnosis are high functioning individuals driven to succeed, not really your selfish ex or self-absorbed friend.
It’s true that vulnerable people do practice self-absorbed behavior, but it’s rarely NPD. In reality most people display selfishness when hurting. This is why a lot of people are practicing love bombing without even realizing they are doing so.
Let’s take a deeper dive into this hot topic and cover some not so obvious signs.
Five (Not so Obvious) Signs of Love Bombing
- Constant Reassurance - a love bombing cycle or narcissist love bombing?
- Grandiose Plans - how can I tell if this is love bombing?
- Easily Triggered - what are the triggers in love bombing?
- It’s Always Something - the manipulation of love bombing.
- Trust your Gut - love bombing is a form of gaslighting.
Q: What is the Difference Between a Love Bombing Cycle and Narcissist Love Bombing?
A: Constant Reassurance
Let’s just say this is a little of column A and a little of column B. Your love bombing person will declare life is meaningless without you. They will flatter and fawn over your most menial accomplishments. They say you are the only one who understands them. They will forge a fast connection with you. They may say things like “you get me” or “I can’t imagine doing this (life) without you.”
Each of you are secretly thinking you hit the relationship jackpot. "Finally! Someone who appreciates me!"
Now this may seem pretty spectacular in the beginning. You’ll be thrilled that someone wants to spend time with you and appreciate your gifts. In romance, you may become intimate very quickly and in friendships you may suddenly be tied at the hip. However, this instant companionship has a dark side. Both participants come from a place of extreme vulnerability. These vulnerabilities are most often hiding deep unaddressed wounds or fear of stepping into autonomy.
What’s so bad about that you may ask?
First, neither of you really know each other. Your person has no idea who you are, they know extraordinarily little of your history or if your core values align. This is why love bombing is most often labeled narcissistic. Your person only sees what you can offer them and by default, you’ve made yourself the most available option. You are now the effigy that represents the fulfillment of their needs and who you are as a person isn't often considered. A clear sign you're stuck in a love bombing cycle is when you can’t walk away.
Second, you are now responsible for your person's welfare. This becomes a self-created dependency. While your person managed to function before they met you, now it seems you are the only person to comfort them.
This is meant to inflate your own sense of value and purpose. Your brain says wow, they need me! That feels oh so good. Ask yourself, is this really what I’m meant to do with my life?
Whether you're making fast friendships or fast intimacy the outcome is the same: the need to latch on quickly is part of a love bombing tactic designed to keep you stuck in an unhealthy cycle of codependency. Before you know it, you’re in a worse situation than when you started.
Q: How Can I Tell if This is Love Bombing?
A: Grandiose Plans
Your person almost instantly starts talking about big plans with you. In romance, it’s whisking you off to Paris for a romantic getaway or talking about a spectacular wedding in some fairytale location. They want to buy a house with you, get a dog, and settle into domestic bliss. This can seem oh so tempting for someone who feels love has given them the short end of the stick. In addition, no relationship can stay in the honeymoon phase forever. When the excitement wears off, are you truly compatible with your person?
This type of love bombing can also show up in workplace dynamics. You may forge a fast friendship with a new coworker who suddenly starts talking about launching a unique business venture with you. You become excited about the prospects on offer. Plans are taking a long time to develop. This is basic carrot dangling. Your workplace friend just wants to keep you locked into a codependent relationship based on false promises.
A lesser version of love bombing is rescuer syndrome. A leader or benefactor who claims to promote your success yet preys on your insecurities. They unconsciously start to hinder your growth through sabotaging behaviors. This is because rescuers have a burning need to save or fix you. They believe they are doing good and sometimes that good comes at your expense.
How can you spot these variants of love bombing? After all the flattery dies down, you find career opportunities drying up, and you no longer feel any real ambition to succeed.
Q: What Are the Triggers in Love Bombing?
A: Being Easily Triggered
People who are struggling with self-esteem or self-worth often participate in negative attention seeking behavior. They need others to validate or regulate their emotions. They latch on to those who will cater to their emotional volatility and mood swings.
We tend to match the emotional intelligence of those closest to us. If your person has problems regulating their emotions, chances are you do too. While all humans feel insecure from time to time, those who are chronically struggling with self-esteem issues are looking for emotional caretakers.
When your person is struggling with emotional regulation, everything will seem to trigger them. Simple tasks cause frustration, anger is easily triggered, and basic life challenges cause them a lot of stress. Most of this attention seeking behavior is designed to make you feel responsible for their emotional well-being. They expect you to over function for them by giving the appearance they can’t function. Yet, if we give people the task of making us happy, we also give them the power to make us unhappy. This sense of powerlessness is a perfect breeding ground for love bombing.
Needing reassurance is a healthy requirement of interdependent relationships but if you find your person is constantly displaying negative attention seeking behavior; you may want to take a deeper dive into the reasons why.
Q: What is the Manipulation Behind Love Bombing?
A: Well, It’s Always Something
Another subtle form of love bombing is when your person is always expressing lament. No person has a constant state of bad luck or good luck. Life ebbs and flows with all sorts of opportunities and challenges. Yet, every time you connect with your person, they have another complaint. This is to stir up a sympathetic response. They save all their troubles for your ears only. This can make you feel quite special. However, your person has learned to manipulate your empathy and compassion.
Your person gives the impression they’re on a path of healing, yet they are never truly healed. In addition, they may be holding on to some very deep emotional trauma but refuse to seek professional help. Instead, they place the burden square on your shoulders to be their “therapist.” They further manipulate by saying things such as: “I can only share this with you” or “you’re such a good listener” or “when I talk to you, I feel better.”
If you lean back and observe this form of love bombing, you’ll soon realize your person is stuck in a negative loop. How can you tell this is love bombing? It’s a rinse and repeat cycle that keeps your empathy for them on high alert. Constantly focused on soothing their wounds. Wounds that have been around longer than the duration of your relationship. Given enough time, you will soon be on the receiving end of all their unresolved resentments.
Q: Is Love Bombing is a Form of Gaslighting?
A: Trust Your Gut
At the end of the day, you need to trust your inner compass when it comes to your interpersonal relationships. Whether a lover, friend, family member, or coworker, if you feel something isn’t quite right, you’re probably right. Those who use love bombing do so in order to control others. This is the only way they know how to secure the attention they crave. They often use gaslighting as a form of manipulation. Gaslighting techniques are meant to confuse you and make you second guess yourself. When in doubt - trust your gut!
Show Up For Yourself
While love bombing is romanticized in music, art, literature, business and even sports; it’s not something to admire. Once the seduction period is over, all that attention quickly fades into anger, neglect, rejection and finally abandonment.
It’s important to examine our relationship patterns with a compassionate eye. Honestly reflect how loving bombing may be seeping in when connecting with others or even ways we may have unknowingly practiced love bombing. In doing so, we can be more mindful of how to show up for ourselves by forming healthy relationships that are both authentic and genuine.