What Is Love Bombing and How to Detect It

Love bombing causes us to get emotionally hooked on toxic and unbalanced relationships. Find out what it is and how to avoid it here.
What Is Love Bombing and How to Detect It
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 02 April, 2023

When we are getting to know someone romantically, or starting a new relationship, emotions are intense. Everything is lived with illusion, passion and enthusiasm. It is normal that both show a desire to conquer the other and to spend a lot of time by his or her side. However, in some cases these attitudes are extreme and do not respond to a genuine love that is emerging, but to an attempt at manipulation. This is what is known as “love bombing”.

Also known as love bombing, it is a strategy widely employed by cults and coercive organizations to capture and gain power over their followers. Unfortunately, it is also very present in relationships, especially in those established with a narcissistic person.

Since its consequences for mental health and emotional well-being are severe, it is useful to know what love bombing consists of in order to protect ourselves and flee in time.

What is love bombing?

A person love bombing via their phone.
Grand gestures of love at the beginning of a relationship can be a wake-up call.

Love bombing is an emotional manipulation tactic that narcissists use to seduce and dominate their victims. It consists, as the name implies, of bombarding them with constant displays of affection, flattery, attention and approval in order to hook them emotionally.

We all crave to feel seen, loved and valued. Emotional connection and belonging are inherent human needs. Therefore, when that need is great, we can be easy prey for these types of individuals who are experts in playing on our weaknesses.

Love bombing begins practically the moment the two people meet and makes it seem as if the relationship is flowing quickly and magically. There are constant messages, compliments, displays of affection, gifts…. The person can appear at any time in your home or wherever you are with the excuse of wanting to spend more time with you, can send flowers and letters to your workplace.

In short, it is completely overturned in the conquest and makes you feel so special, so important and so loved that the natural thing is that you give yourself completely to this link without thinking much. Especially, if your self-esteem is low or you are not going through your best moment.

Love bombing: A three-stage process

However, this apparent idyll does not last long and sooner or later you move on to new dynamics that are no longer so satisfactory. Let us bear in mind that the objective is to cajole and conquer the victim in order to make her surrendered and manipulable. Thus, the process actually takes place in the following three parts.

Idealization of the relationship

In this first stage, the relationship that is emerging seems idyllic. The victim feels that she has found her perfect match, someone who truly loves and values her. She feels happy and excited about how well everything is flowing, and about the love and attention she is receiving.

Disapproval and punishment

Once the person has surrendered to the relationship (due to that convenient initial love bombardment), the narcissist begins to gain control. At this stage, whenever the victim exhibits any “inappropriate” behavior, she will be punished with disapproval and hostility from her partner.

Everyday acts such as meeting friends or family, having a particular hobby, or using her freedom and autonomy without her partner will be met with anger, disdain, and a withdrawal of affection. When the person apologizes, the idyll and displays of affection return.

Thus, the victim learns (consciously or unconsciously) to behave as his or her partner wants. She begins to limit herself, to modify her lifestyle and to always act to please her partner. He gives up all his power, abandons his limits and isolates himself to keep the one who already dominates him completely happy.


Despite the emotional attachment generated by the bombardment of love, it is frequent that sooner or later the victim gets tired of the manipulation or mistreatment. At this point, she may decide to end the relationship for good and get out of this dynamic, but most often she falls back into the partner’s tricks and deception, and the cycle starts all over again.

How to detect love bombing

Bombardeo de amor: ¿qué es y cómo detectarlo?
Open your eyes to be able to detect love bombing in excessive romantic gestures.

It isn’t easy to detect love bombing from its beginnings. As we have said, excitement, enthusiasm, and intensity are common at the beginning of any relationship. However, there are some things to look out for:

  • Things move very fast. The person bombards you with affection, compliments, gifts or gestures. And, these do not correspond to the level of trust or commitment you have. He seems to get ahead of himself and it may seem magical. But, if you reason it you will notice that it is forced.
  • His attitudes at certain times generate anxiety or rejection. He doesn’t feel like a love-starved person trying to please you, but more like someone trying to gain control over you.
  • You can see little manipulations behind that apparent love. With everything he gives you, he makes you feel indebted, and expects you to repay him with surrender and “obedience”. He may use victimhood and guilt to manipulate you when you try to have an individual life beyond the relationship.

Avoid falling for love bombing

Experiencing a relationship based on love bombing can end up destroying your self-esteem, self-confidence, and emotional health. Therefore, it’s important to prevent it from happening to you and to be able to detect it in time.

It is essential that you work on your self-love. You must also take care of your own “emotional voids” instead of expecting for others to fill them. Don’t expect affection at all costs, or someone will offer it to you at a very high price.

At the beginning of any relationship, be alert, and don’t disconnect from your logic and reason. Pay attention to the other person’s attitudes and try to identify red flags early. Also, remember to listen to your intuition and your feelings, and don’t overlook discomfort or anxiety that may arise; these are important signals.

A healthy relationship is usually progressive. Trust and love are built, and each person’s individuality is always respected. When someone assaults you with love and exaggerated gestures, be suspicious of their intentions and protect yourself.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Strutzenberg, C., & Wiersma-Mosley, J.,  Jozkowski, K., & Becnel, J. (2017). Love-bombing: A narcissistic approach to relationship formation. Discovery Journal.
  • Vázquez, M. & Valbuena, F. (s/f). La pirámide de necesidades de Abraham Maslow. Recuperado

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.