It was straight out of a fairy tale.
Flowers. Fancy dinners. Proclamations of how special our connection was.
I was on cloud nine. Sold. I’m in. All in.
Until the messages were less frequent. Then the effort to make plans started to wane.
I found myself crawling out of my skin, waiting with bated breath for him to return my texts, see me, show me that he still cared. I started replaying our interactions if I did something wrong.
Maybe I showed too much interest? Maybe I texted too much? Was it my outfit from the last date? It must be me.
After two weeks of feeling completely anxious, I decided that it must be over and that I had lost my chance with Mr. Perfect. It was time to move on. I stopped texting or trying to make conversation.
And right when I began to pull away, guess who came back in full force?
It was like no time has passed. He was back, dying to see me. Showered me with sweet messages about how happy I made him, how much he missed me.
I was on cloud nine once again.
Until this cycle of hot/cold repeated 7 more times. I now recognize – I was love bombed.
What is love bombing?
Love bombing is the use of excessive affection, grand gestures, and promises for the future as a manipulation tactic. But right when you’re feeling high from all the love and attention, it’s followed by a period of withdrawal, avoidance, or abuse. You are then left wondering what you did wrong or get obsessive about getting that old feeling back.
Love bombing is used by narcissists, who feed off your validation. Once they get their fix – of attention, sex, affection, resources – whatever it is that they’re hungry for, they become cold, distancing, or even mean.
Signs you’re being love bombed
1. The intention is not about authentic connection, it’s to get something from you.
Love bombers use their romantic targets to give them their fix of validation and attention and to gain power over them. The difference between healthy romantic overtures and love bombing is that the latter is used as a manipulation tactic. The intention is to exert and maintain control and power over you.
2. It’s not love at first sight; it’s projection at first sight.
During the first few dates, it’s impossible for someone to know you enough. The whole point of dating is to build trust and connection over time and experience. There’s no shortcut to that. Someone who barely knows you and makes statements about how you’re the one, or they make grand promises about your future together is a red flag.
3. They are hot and cold.
They come on strong, often with grand gestures such as lavish gifts, fancy dinners, and romantic words. But then they get cold, the daily communication wanes and sometimes they disappear completely. Then, right when you’re about to give up, they come back strong again to reel you back in the cycle of intensity.
4. They treat you like a “Conquest.”
I talk about the concept of ‘conquesting’ in my book, Breakup Bootcamp. I came up with this theory to describe when someone has a plan in their head, perhaps it’s to get a trophy partner, or they really want to get married by X age. They meet you, and if you check enough boxes, they plug you into their plan. You become a means to an end. In the process, they dehumanize you because you’re an object that they plug into their master plan. It’s not about connecting, getting to know you as a human – faults, and flaws included.
How to stop love bombing
1. Use boundaries to stop love bombing in its tracks.
If you’re starting off in a relationship and you notice they are coming on very strong with the romantic overtures, do not just react to the pace they are setting. Have a conversation to let them know that you want to slow things down, and get to know each other through time. If the person is invested in creating a healthy connection – they won’t try to rush you or pressure you into it.
2. Do not make them the center of your world (and schedule) before trust is built.
Don’t cancel on your friends. Don’t change your schedule around to see them. If you don’t have a schedule where you’re doing things that make you feel connected and grounded – you will be more susceptible to filling in the empty spaces with your new love interest. Instead of seeing someone on a healthy cadence, you start to see them 5 times a week. Before you know it, you’re consumed with all things to do with your beloved.
3. Do not outsource your validation to this person (or any romantic partner for that matter).
Yes, it feels amazing when someone sets eyes on you and makes you feel like you’re special, especially if they make it seem like they’re choosing you out of all the other options. The hunger to feel special and gain a sense of self-worth is candy to a narcissist.