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Family & Domestic Violence

Love-bombing: What It Is And What You Can Do

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Love-bombing is a chew you up and spit you out kind of dating and relationship plan. It’s a dangerously orchestrated and purposeful tactic to ‘get’ you. Love-bombing is simply the hook. What comes next — and it will — is the scary part.

The intention behind love-bombing is to manipulate the victim. This can come in the form of being overly affectionate, heaping too much attention onto a person and being influential to get what they want. Love-bombing is recognised in the cycle of violence, where perpetrators of family and domestic violence manipulate, confuse and abuse their victims.

Love-bombing Started In A Cult. Well, That Can’t Be Good

Psychologists did not propose the idea of love-bombing. Instead, it was devised by cult leaders as a means of recruitment and control. Pimps and gang leaders also use these same tactics for the very same reasons. Makes sense! Now, translate this behaviour to intimate partner relationships, and this is really scary stuff.

The Unification Church of the United States (aka the Moonies) started love-bombing as a recruitment tactic. They love-bombed to gain trust and convince recruits that they were loved, wanted, and secure. Then, when the hooks are in when trust and dependency are established, other abuses began.

Love-bombing is associated with the traits of a narcissist. Narcissists focus solely on their own needs regardless of the impact on others. So, love-bombing aimed at the person’s attention and affection is all about ego inflation.

While studies have revealed that men are more likely to demonstrate narcissistic traits than women, both genders are ripe for the picking when being the victim.

Let’s Define It

If you aren’t quite familiar with the subtle aspects of the love bomb, here we go. There is nothing healthy or real about it at all. There are plans and end goals to this behaviour: Control, manipulate and discard.

Psychiatrist Dale Archer identified these three phases of love-bombing.

1. Idealisation phase

  • You are showered with gifts to feel utterly unique.
  • There are declarations of undying love after a or so week of dating.
  • You are swept up in talk of elaborate, dreamy and whimsical plans for the future, e.g., flitting off to Italy for wine and cheese — and staying there!
  • There is a constant barrage of text messages, phone calls or contact on social media.

2. Devaluing phase

  • You hear putdowns and name-calling.
  • The love bomber will project their insecurities onto you. You are called needy or smothering when the love-bomber ignores you for no reason.
  • You experience first-class gaslighting. You are told you are crazy when you confront a sudden behaviour change.
  • There is hot and cold behaviour. One minute the love-bomber is all over you, the next minute they don’t want a bar of you. Affection may be withdrawn altogether.
  • The love-bomber will randomly disappear out of your life for a while, making no contact and keeping you guessing.

3. Discarding phase

  • Your boundaries are constantly challenged or ignored. What you say doesn’t matter, there are no boundaries for the love-bomber.
  • You are cheated on, perhaps multiple times. The love-bomber will continuously seek new ways to inflate their ego, at your expense.
  • Ultimately, you are ghosted. You will one day not exist to this person and be left wondering why.

Love Bombing Is Just The Hook

This is not just about lots of attention and too many flowers. There is a big difference between attention and affection and being on the receiving end of behaviour that feels yuck. We are talking about the motivation to use people for the love bombers’ own needs, then discard you when they are done.

There is no intention to create a long-lasting, meaningful relationship. However, you are given the impression this is exactly what happens. Relationships that start with control are on a slippery slope to further abuse.

Emotional abuse aims at power and control to throw you off centre, causing you to feel vulnerable. This is why the situation is so confusing. The very person who once showered you with promises and undying love now turns cold and backs away.

This behaviour sets the scene for further abuses. Manipulation and control from love-bombing can escalate to other forms of abuse. Notably, these traits and behaviours mirror other abusive tactics commonly found in a domestically violent relationship and the risk of escalation, that’s what is dangerous.

It’s Just Not Real

This behaviour is confusing and sold to you as love. The abuser tries to make you believe that love looks like this. However, the love-bomber will take that love away when you do something that is displeasing to them.

You will be punished. Soon you will be seeking to know what you did wrong. Inevitably, the love-bomber will give you many reasons why all of the behaviour is your fault — classic gaslighting.

Of course, you want the relationship to go back to the way it was at the start. He showed a side of himself that was caring and thoughtful and made you feel wonderful. But it wasn’t real. What is real is what is happening right now.

Things can’t go back to the way they were because this was simply a tactic to get you and then discard. This can never end well.

What Can You Do?

Staying emotionally safe in your relationships is knowing the warning signs, trusting your instincts, and trusting yourself that you can make good choices. Here are ways you can keep safe.

1. Spot it and run!

When you are the victim of anyone who is manipulative or abusive, nothing good can come of it. As much as it hurts to be the victim of manipulative behaviour, just know that you are much better off making a run for it now.

Make a clean break knowing that the manipulation can continue as a means of dragging you back into the idealisation stage of the cycle.

2. Stay objective

Eyes wide open! Go into new relationships with a healthy and robust sense of curiosity and questioning. It’s easy to get swept up in a whirlwind of niceties but remember this is the very point of the love bomb. Remaining objective will allow you to keep at bay those rose-coloured glasses and be better able to see the behaviour for what it is.

3. Trust your gut instincts, and yourself

You know that feeling where things aren’t sitting, right? Trust that. It is spot on. To ignore this feeling, psychologists call this motivated perception — basically, we see only what we want to see.

In this case, we only see the lovely compliments and potential future with this seemingly fantastic someone. We don’t want to see that this person has a different agenda, boundary issues and a dangerous motivation.

If it feels yuck — it is yuck.

4. Learn from it and move on.

This is not about you and everything to do with the love-bomber. Take it on the chin as a bad experience, learn from it and move forward. It is not healthy to take ownership of this behaviour, to blame yourself, or ‘try to be better’ to regain the feeling of love and whimsical again.

Cut your losses and be thankful you trust yourself and get out early.


Being proactive in your relationships takes an eyes wide open approach. It takes a conscious effort to be aware of and open to the possibilities that all are not as they seem. It is okay to question, be curious and have a healthy dose of scepticism.

You will look after yourself in the long run by being open to the possibility that everything is not all roses and feel-good fuzzies.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000.

Photos by

Dương Trí on Unsplash

Ian Taylor on Unsplash

First published in An Injustice, Jan 12 2021

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