Spot the warning signs of love bombing early and recover faster with these tips.
“Lisa,” a 30-year-old patient, came to see me regarding a tumultuous relationship: Two years prior, she had met the perfect man, “Jake.” This was a guy who called every day, sent flowers, planned romantic getaways, and was so thoughtful and understanding about everything. After just a few weeks, Lisa was head over heels in love and thought, “This must be my soul mate!”
Then one day, Lisa got a call from an out-of-town college girlfriend, who wanted to go out, have a few drinks, and catch up. She made plans to go, but rather than say, “Have a great time!” Jake became very angry. How dare she spend time with a friend without his permission? He started screaming, “You don’t deserve me,” and stormed out.
Lisa was in shock. How could this loving man, who had been attentive, caring, thoughtful, and considerate in so many ways, suddenly get so angry over something so trivial? Distraught, and desperate to put a positive spin on it, she decided his anger was further evidence of his tremendous love for her; it was protective, not controlling.
Over time, a pattern developed. Whenever Lisa tried to spend time away, Jake got angry. According to Mr. “Soul Mate,” she was being “selfish.” Any desire to maintain past friendships simply proved that their relationship wasn’t enough, and wasn’t meant to be. During these times, he would belittle her and say she would never find someone like him again. Eventually, he would break up on the spot and disappear.
Then, after spending some time apart — usually about as long as it took Lisa to stop feeling devastated — the “perfect” version of Jake showed up again, flowers in hand, professing his love, saying they had to make it work, and this time would be different.
This pattern repeated at least five times over two years. Somewhere in the middle of the craziness, driven by confusion and frustration, Lisa came to see me for help. But despite being in therapy, it still took several more cycles before she took charge of the situation and ended things for good.
The first people to use the term “love bombing” weren’t psychiatrists; they were members of the Unification Church of the United States (sometimes known as “Moonies”). In the 1970s, their founder and leader Sun Myung Moon said:
Unification Church members are smiling all of the time, even at four in the morning. The man who is full of love must live that way. When you go out witnessing, you can caress the wall and say that it can expect you to witness well and be smiling when you return. What face could better represent love than a smiling face? This is why we talk about love bomb; Moonies have that kind of happy problem.
Notorious cult leaders Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and David Koresh weaponized love bombing, using it to con followers into committing mass suicide and murder. Pimps and gang leaders use love bombing to encourage loyalty and obedience as well.
Love bombing works so well, some have tried to use its powers for good. In 2010, British author and psychologist Oliver James recommended love bombing as a technique for parents to get their troubled children to behave better. A reporter for The Daily Express tried the technique with her son and reported:
It’s not rocket science that showering a child with affection will impact positively on their behavior but what surprised me was how much my behavior changed. Love bombing enabled me to see my child through a fresh lens, my disposition towards him softened and he seemed to bask in the glow of positive attention.
Though it has a long history, this article covers love bombing used as a manipulative technique, to maintain power and control in a relationship.