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8 Ways to Protect Yourself From Love-Bombing

Learning ways to guard against love-bombing can save you time and energy.

Source: OlegMemo/Shutterstock
Source: OlegMemo/Shutterstock

Love bombing occurs when someone expresses excessive praise and affection at a rate that is disproportionate to the current stage of their relationship, in an attempt to manipulate the person they’re dating into committing to them quickly.

A study conducted with a sample of 484 participants found that love-bombing behavior was correlated with people who have low self-esteem, exhibit narcissistic tendencies, or have an insecure attachment style.

Love bombing may initially appear as if someone is excited about getting to know you and may feel alluring, especially if you’ve been struggling with dating inconsistent or emotionally unavailable people who are not on the same page as you about commitment.

Love bombing can set you up to overlook red flags and fall for someone who is creating a false illusion. Yet sooner or later, the rug will be pulled out from underneath you when the mask starts to slip and their true colors begin to show.

Whether love bombing is something you’ve encountered before or something you’ve never experienced but want to protect yourself from in the future, consider the following 8 tips next time you’re dating someone new:

1. Keep a steady pace. Love bombing is a sped-up version of dating that creates the illusion of closeness. In order to recognize the warning signs, it’s important to keep a steady pace when you’re getting to know someone new—no matter how tempting it is to throw all caution to the wind.

A steady pace means continuing to maintain your hobbies and investing energy in other areas of your life outside of this relationship that are important to you. A love bomber will often try to dominate your time early on by keeping in constant contact and pressuring you to see them more often than you’re comfortable with.

Love bombing is not the behavior of someone who is simply excited to get to know you better; it’s a pattern of behavior designed to get you attached to them as quickly as possible. Since love bombers can be impulsive and impatient, keeping a steady pace during the initial stages of dating has a high likelihood of deterring them.

Keeping a steady pace also means that during the initial stages of dating, you are taking your time getting to know someone before committing to exclusivity, planning future activities that are 3-6 months out, and seeing them daily.

2. Practice saying no or setting boundaries early on and observe the response. Love bombers are focused on getting you attached as quickly as possible so they are typically impulsive and impatient. They may test your boundaries by acting as if you’re already in a relationship even if you’ve said you’re not ready to be exclusive or expecting constant communication, even when they know you’re out with friends or engaging in other activities.

If they are trying to rush the physical or emotional connection before you feel ready, practice setting boundaries and observe their response. If you express that you wish to slow down the pace of the relationship, pay close attention to how the other person responds to you. Are they receptive or defensive? Their response can tell you a lot about their intentions; will they take your needs into consideration or are they only focused on a relationship that is on their terms?

Someone who truly cares about you and is an emotionally mature partner will prioritize your comfort and try to work with you on a solution, rather than becoming defensive.

3. Observe whether their actions consistently align with their words. A love bomber will initially engage in what's known as "future faking" and make lots of empty promises to get you hooked on the potential of the relationship. In order to prevent yourself from primarily focusing on the potential, it’s important to focus on the present and observe whether their actions align with their words over time.

People who frequently engage in love bombing also have a tendency to withdraw their love and give you breadcrumbs of affection once they recognize that you are fully invested in the relationship. This can set the stage for you to begin suppressing your own needs in order to win back their affection and validation. This is another reason why observing whether their actions are consistent with their words as you get to know them is important.

If you’re noticing an inconsistency between someone’s actions and what they’re telling you, continue to check in with yourself. Ask: What story are this person’s actions telling me?

4. Check in with yourself regularly. Your intuition is your dating superpower. A common tendency for many people is that when they start falling for someone, they turn down the volume on their intuition and any initial misgivings or feelings that something that doesn’t feel right. It can be easier to ignore red flags early on when you are the recipient of love bombing simply because the emotional connection is on super speed, which can make slowing down and checking in with yourself a rare occurrence.

Whether it’s a subtle whisper or a loud alarm bell, take your time to slow down and listen closely to what your intuition is telling you. Reflect on how your body feels in the presence of this person, how you feel about the developing connection, and whether there are any concerns you have that would benefit from further discussion and questions.

5. Be mindful of not confusing chemistry for compatibility. The hallmark of love bombing is strong chemistry and being swept off your feet. While chemistry is great, it can easily be mistaken for compatibility and cause you to miss initial warning signs that someone is love bombing you.

One way to protect yourself from confusing chemistry for compatibility is to learn the other person’s core values and whether they align with yours. Your chemistry may be off the charts—but if your core values don’t align, your relationship will not be sustainable.

Another way to check in with yourself is to imagine you had to attend the next date with your eyes closed and no physical contact. If you couldn’t see this person and physical contact was off the table, would you enjoy talking to them? The answer is telling.

6. Ask questions and consult trusted support if needed. A lot of people often fear “rocking the boat” during the early stages of dating and end up not asking important questions due to fear of judgment or scaring the other person away. It’s easy to get swept up in love bombing—it can feel like a fun and exciting fairytale.

Because love bombing often leads to a fast-paced relationship and you may become attached quickly as a result, it can feel harder as time goes on to ask those important questions that don’t feel so fun. Whether you are wondering about something that didn’t sit right with you, you’re curious to learn more about a comment that was made, or you want to learn more about the person’s dating intentions, it’s important to ask those questions to determine compatibility as well as how receptive the other person is to having honest conversations. While someone can lie or be disingenuous, you want to pay attention to your intuition and how you feel about the way they answered the question.

While you want to build trust with yourself and be able to make decisions that are aligned with your best interest, it can also be helpful if you’re feeling stuck to consult with friends, family, or a therapist whom you trust and can give you honest feedback without trying to control your decision.

7. If people who care about you are expressing concern, reflect on why. When you’re excited about someone new, it’s easy to have blind spots and dismiss other’s feedback. You may rationalize concerns from friends or family, thinking that they don’t know this person as well as you do so they don’t have an accurate read on the situation.

The key to considering other’s feedback when you’re dating someone new is to only consider feedback from those whom you trust and know they have your best intentions in mind. If you are receiving similar feedback from multiple people you trust about your relationship, that is your cue to slow down and reflect on what they’re saying.

8. Pay attention to how they discuss past relationships. Someone who frequently engages in love bombing often leaves a trail of fast-paced relationships that burn out behind them, with little room in between relationships for growth or learning from past mistakes.

Observe how they describe their past relationships. Do they use derogatory language or label all their exes as crazy? Do they take any accountability for their role in the demise of past relationships or do they consistently blame each ex for why it didn’t work out? Do they have adequate space and time between relationships or seem to jump from one to the next?

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute professional or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or another qualified health provider with questions regarding your condition or well-being.

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Strutzenberg, Claire & Wiersma-Mosley, Jacquelyn & Jozkowski, Kristen & Becnel, Jennifer. (2017). Love-bombing: A narcissistic approach to relationship formation. Discovery Journal.

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