Are You Loved or Love Bombed?

Malinda Fusco

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Photo by César Abner Martínez Aguilar on Unsplash

A boyfriend of mine once wrote me a three-page love song…a week into our relationship.

Ever since narcissism came under the spotlight, the concept of “love bombing” has exploded as well.

Love bombing is when someone showers you with affection in the form of words, actions, or behaviors…in order to manipulate you. Sounds scary? That’s because it is. Chances are, once you heard of love bombing you started questioning some of the relationships in your life. It’s like when you Google your symptoms and then worry that you’ve stage 5 of something terrible.

“Anyone is capable of love bombing, but it’s most often a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder,” according to Ami Kaplan, LCSW.

You may be asking yourself, “When is my bae’s behavior the toxic love bomb or true love?” Good question.

It can be difficult to see the differences. After all, they are very similar on the surface. Both are displays of love and affection. Both can feel good, at least for some time.

The difference lies with intention. Intention is a tricky beast since you can’t see it. However, there are some tell-tale signs to determine if your lover’s intentions are genuine or not.

Love bombers prey on the “love at first sight” fantasy.

That boyfriend who wrote me the three-page love song? Let’s call him Jay. Jay wrote that love song (which detailed how much he loved me) a week into our relationship.

When a relationship’s new, it feels like you’re on top of the world! This is the infamous honeymoon stage. It’s exciting. Your partner is still super mysterious. They can do no wrong. All those love hormones are being rapidly produced. So it’s only natural for your partner to be excited and affectionate. However, love bombers take the “honeymoon” stage to the next level.

Loved: My current boyfriend waited six months to tell me he loved me. According to him, he wanted to say it in one month (eek!), but thank god he had enough sense to wait. After Jay, that would have sent me running. Nowadays, my boyfriend tells me he loves me multiple times a day and treats me very well. We consistently speak each other’s love language out of respect and adoration. However, we’ve been dating more than a few years at this point.

Love Bombed: They shower you with affection and extravagant measures of love early. They do this because they want to snag you in their web as quickly as possible. Love bombing makes the victim feel important and valued. But think about it…relationships take time to grow. There’s lust at first sight, but not love. Love bombers prey on the “love at first sight” fantasy. Now, there’s no clear timeline on when it’s appropriate, but if your bae is treating you a little too good too early, it can be a sign that they’re trying to manipulate you instead of romance you.

Ask yourself: How long have we been dating before they started showering me with love and affection?

Love bombers will razzle-dazzle their victims.

In addition to love songs, Jay would put a lot of effort into being hyper affectionate. He was a fan of big public displays of affection. We’d be hanging out with friends and his hands would be all over me. He would get me flowers multiple times a week. He would want to talk to me 24/7.

There’s a time and place for big shows of affection. Grand gestures do have their place, but more often than not, love is in the small things. However, love bombers like to razzle-dazzle their victims.

Loved: Affection is normal in a loving relationship! After all, you want your partner to feel good, right? Often times, if your partner is trying to show you some love, there are ways for them to do it in a less showman, genuine way. They’ll focus on what you like, instead of what makes them look good. For example, if you adore spending time together, yet your partner tries to win you over solely with flashy gifts…there may be a disconnect or something more sinister at work. That’s not to say that grand romantic gestures are always a sign of love bombing, but they can be if they couple with the other red flags.

Love bombed: Is the affection subtle or bigger than life? Often times, when you’re being love bombed, the gestures are HUGE. Instead of, “I care about you,” you get “I love you more than anyone in the whole world.” Instead of a thoughtful present, you get dozens of roses delivered to your workplace. They’re showy to impress you and let everyone else know how great they are. Narcissists are all about creating illusions. They want people to acknowledge how freaking fantastic they are. That way, you’re less likely to question their odd behavior.

Ask yourself: Are they thoughtful, small gestures or grandiose ones?

Love bombers try to control you.

Jay didn’t like it when I’d prioritize my mental health over him. I wanted some time to myself? It was unacceptable to him. He’d whine and ask why I didn’t want to spend time with him.

How do you respect your partner’s desires and time while still voicing your needs?

Loved: In healthy relationships, communication thrives. If your partner’s enjoys quality time, and they communicate that with you, they aren’t coercing you into spending all of your time with them. They’re letting you know that they value your time. Perhaps they take some initiative and schedule dates to spend more time with you, but they’re considerate. They make sure you don’t have other plans first. They don’t demand all of your attention. They let you have your alone time.

Love bombed: When they’re love bombing you, they’ll do things to control you. You had plans with friends? Well, your love bombing partner went ahead and planned and planned an extravagant night out. Oh, you wanted some time to yourself? Too bad, your partner will nonstop text you and make you feel guilty for not replying because they’re being so “loving.” Love bombers try to control you. It’s manipulation at its finest.

Ask yourself: Is my partner respecting my plans and my life away from them?

Okay, I might be a recipient of love bombing. What now?

When I realized that things didn’t feel right with Jay, I finally asked my friends about him.

“Oh, you mean your stalker?” my best friend asked.

“He’s not a stalker! He’s just passionate,” I defended.

“Uh-huh.”

Yeah, we were dating. But Jay’s behavior was clearly an issue.

Sometimes when we’re close to the situation, it’s hard to see it. After all, love is blind, right? We justify actions. We ignore our gut. If your intuition is telling you something is off, confide in a friend or family member. You’re the best judge of your relationship, but trusted friends or support groups can give you another perspective.

When I tried to justify Jay’s actions, it was my friends who were able to give me some tough love about the situation.

“Love bombing is largely an unconscious behavior,” Kaplan says.It’s about really getting the other person. Then when they feel like they really got the person and they feel secure in the relationship, the narcissist typically switches and becomes very difficult, abusive, or manipulative.”

I dated Jay for a while longer, and the longer it went on, the worse Jay got. Once he felt like he had all of my attention, he kept the demands up but stopped showering me with all of that “love”.

The love bomber’s whole purpose is control. That’s why they’re love bombing you. They want you to fall in love, rely on them, and then put you back down again. It’s how they feel powerful and how they isolate you so that you have no one except them.

We dated on and off for a while, until I broke up with Jay for good.

Healing can feel like going through withdrawals.

Healing can be difficult. Love bombers give their victims an excessive amount of attention. All of a sudden, that attention is gone. That “love” is gone. Even if you know it was just a manipulation tactic, you may crave it like an unhealthy addiction. You may be tempted to rebound. You may not be satisfied when you meet normal (aka non-narcissistic) people. I know I wasn’t. It was part of the reason Jay and I were on and off for a while — I went crawling back to him too many times.

The two things that really helped my healing process were setting boundaries and focusing on myself. Note: In retrospect, I could have used some therapy too. I would encourage anyone dealing with love bombing or a narcissist to seek therapy from a professional.

Setting boundaries

I set boundaries. I set a lot of boundaries. Not only for future relationships, but also for myself. I set boundaries for what I would accept into my life moving forward, and how I would treat myself.

Focusing on myself

What was my identity outside of Jay? I had to reevaluate that, and it was harder than I thought it would be. All of the time that Jay would have spent demanding my attention? It was truly mine now. I just had to reclaim it. Once I did, I was able to focus on things that make me happy. I was able to pursue hobbies like reading and writing.

The bottom line

Unlike Googling illnesses, chances are if you’re Googling things about your relationship, your intuition is telling you something’s up. One red flag can be a coincidence, but multiple? No way.

Determining if someone is a love bomber can be hard. Jay came on fast with big, controlling displays of affection. I still needed to seek support from family and friends to help shed some light on the situation. Healing from that sort of “love” can be difficult. But if you set boundaries and focus on yourself you will heal.

Love bombing is not love. Real love isn’t something you will ever need to heal from.

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