Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) holding a boombox outside of Diane Court’s (Ione Skye) in Say Anything. Mark (Andrew Lincoln) professes his love to his best friend’s wife (!) Juliet (Kiera Knightly) holding up cue cards that read, “to me you are perfect, and my wasted heart will love you until you look like [a desiccated mummy]” in Love Actually. Robbie (Adam Sandler) serenading Julia (Drew Barrymore) about growing old with her on an airplane in The Wedding Singer.
If TV and movies have taught us one thing, it is that nothing says “I love you” like grand romantic gestures.
Is it true, though? Does the act of giving someone an elaborate gift or staging an outlandish event really equal big love? The answer is no, according to psychologists. In fact, there is a name to describe when a person showers you with over-the-top attention, praise, and admiration: love bombing – and experts say that it is one of the biggest red flags when it comes to romantic relationships.
Love bombing is characterized by an excessive display of attention and affection, usually with the goal of manipulating and influencing another person. In the beginning, being on the receiving end of love bombing can feel really good, since it makes you feel special, needed, loved, and valued. But in many cases, this is the beginning of an abusive dynamic in which the love bomber gains control over the other person by intermittently showering them with love and then purposely withholding affection for their own gain.
We all like being loved and appreciated, so much so that sometimes it can be tricky to identify when we’re being love bombed until the abuse starts becoming more and more obvious. If you’re still not quite sure what love bombing looks like, here are 7 signs to watch out for:
Some people enjoy giving people gifts – it’s even one of the five love languages proposed by marriage counselor Gary Chapman back in 1992. But when your partner keeps giving you expensive, lavish gifts that feel too over-the-top – and always finds ways of letting you know how much money they spend on you – you might be being love bombed.
It’s normal to want to spend lots of time together at the beginning of a relationship. However, a partner that’s love bombing you will always try to get you to cancel your plans with other people, skip work or school, or miss important events to be with them. They may also guilt trip you or get downright upset if you choose to spend a little time apart.
Compliments are great, and some would argue, even necessary for a relationship. But when your partner overwhelms you with compliments and makes you feel weird about receiving them, this is a surefire sign that you’re being manipulated.
Saying “I love you” too soon, wanting to move in together ASAP, and talking about kids and marriage extremely early in a relationship are all signs of love bombing. Relationships take time and nurturing to grow. If it feels too soon or too good to be true, it probably is.
“I like to check in on you because I get worried,” is a common excuse of love bombers and abusers, and it is a huge red flag that they may be trying to control you through constant communication. This is particularly true if they are always demanding to know where you are, who you are with, and what you are doing.
Love bombers are usually narcissists, and narcissists often look to isolate their partners from everyone else – particularly their friends and family – as a way of exerting control. If your partner is often telling you that no one but them understands you and tries to turn you against the people that you love, consider it a sign that you should get out of that relationship ASAP.
One of the biggest red flags that you might be in a relationship with a love bomber (that’s also becoming abusive) is that they make you feel bad about setting limits or boundaries. They may also try to gaslight you and make you believe you’re the one responsible for their lack of boundaries, that you’re misinterpreting the situation, or that you’re taking things out of context. Visit https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/love/ to read more about healthy relationship boundaries.
The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.