Love bombing is a phrase that you may have heard thrown around in the context of relationships; it’s a relatively new phrase but not a new concept. Love bombing is frequently described as a narcissistic strategy using overtly romantic gestures and calculated manipulation techniques, to pursue someone and eventually subject them to emotional abuse and discard. It’s an abusive technique used across all gender couplings, but most commonly seen in heterosexual relationships between men and women. Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Doctor Ramini says that ‘Narcissists use love bombing to attract and trap’. Love bombing is a power act, which feeds the ego of the narcissist and emotionally and mentally destroys their victim. The victim often doesn’t realise that they’ve been love bombed until they are discarded and left with the labour of emotional repair.
Love bombing is not a linear concept, there are multiple ways to be love bombed. A number of psychologists have identified different types of love bombing; here are four ways to spot it:
The grandiose love bomber
This is the most common type of love bombing and often a hard one to spot, as it blurs the line between the fairytale love story and emotional abuse. Acts of grandiose love bombing see the victim being showered with excessive gifts, grand gestures, and affection in the early stages of dating. This is not to be confused with genuine romantic gestures, because love bombing on a grandiose level is an intense and consistent lavishing of gifts, compliments and affections to the point of overwhelming the victim. In the book, Mask Off: Masculinity Redefined by JJ Bola, he writes ‘This thinking is played out in TV shows, romantic comedies and other mainstream media; that the man who is persistent eventually wins the woman (rather than just being the man who has worn her down – which sounds far less romantic and ideal)’.
When a love bomber texts and calls their victim consistently and at short intervals throughout the day, it is often to keep tabs on a person. It initially masquerades as checking-in, but if the victim begins to feel uncomfortable then this is a sign of being controlled and shows insecurities in the person doing the love bombing. An example is seen in the first scenes of the movie Sister Act 1, where Deloris Van Cartier is love bombed by her boyfriend Vince LaRocca with jewellery and fur coats (sadly, Vince happens to be married yet insists on keeping tabs on Deloris). The grandiose love bomber is also known to make declarations of love within a few days and weeks of meeting a person, using phrases such as “I’ve never met anyone like you… I don’t want to be with anyone but you… I can see us being married.” These are major red flags to look for as they are a manipulation tactic to get the victim to become emotionally invested.
The self-righteous love bomber
This person has a much tighter grip on their money and is less likely to spend on extravagant gifts. They display an air of superiority in portraying themselves as responsible and mature in managing finances when they’re actually stingy. This person rarely showers their partner with love, attention, or affection. The self-righteous narcissist is often judgemental of others, even when their own character does not measure up to a good standard.
People who have experienced inconsistency in their life or been deprived of love, either in romantic relationships or family dynamic, may be drawn to the self-righteous love bomber because of their initial outward maturity. An example of such person is seen in the movie I, Tonya which is also based on a true story. Having seen an absence of outward displays of love in her upbringing, Tonya Harding married at the age of 19 years old to a man that initially seemed consistent, but eventually ended up abusing her.
The neglectful love bomber
This person may present as loving in the introductory moments, but later reveals themselves to be emotionally unavailable; they are rarely physically present and offer the bare minimum in affection and time. This form of love bombing can be hard to identify, especially if you didn’t see the neglectful characteristics from the onset. A classic example is the character, Karl Mayer from the TV show, Desperate Housewives. A character known for neglecting his wife and daughter and being unfaithful in his marriage. The neglectful love bomber is emotionally abusive in ways that cause their victim to believe it’s their own fault that they have been neglected. The victim often tries to work for the attention and affection, but at this point the love bomber has already discarded them.
The communal love bomber.
This person hides behind the mask of doing good to others or finds ways to help their partner with practical things such as DIY or their career, however, the good deeds are often only done for public recognition and reward. In the Netflix movie, Always be my Maybe, the character Brandon Choi fiancé to Sasha Tran is an example of someone who wants to do good and simultaneously be at the centre of attention for doing said things. This person appears empathetic towards other people and devotes a lot of time to doing so. Author JJ Bola writes, ‘Men should not be rewarded for doing the basic, fundamental thing of treating women, people, as human beings’. It’s important to step back and look at how the person treats you when they’re not receiving constant praise for it.
A common trait in all narcissistic love bombers is that they will eventually begin to devalue their partner by minimising and gaslighting them. Once they have exerted their dominance and swindled their victim into bonding with them, they discard of them and quickly move onto another person. In many cases the victim will try to remain in the partnership, holding onto the idyllic moment in time when the love bomber claimed to love them and show affection. Whenever a person finds themselves begging for the love and attention of their partner, it’s a sign to step back and evaluate whether the relationship is beneficial. If the decision is made to walk away, remember to lean on your support network to help you heal and trust again.