What is love bombing? About the toxic dating trend and the signs to look out for

Love bombing is a worrying new relationship behaviour that can be incredibly manipulative and dangerous...

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Just when we thought toxic trends like negging and ghosting might be behind us, a new one has emerged to take its place. The dangerous trend in question, sweeping across the dating world, is called 'love bombing'—and you may recognize it from Netflix’s Tinder Swindler documentary.

So what actually is it—and what signs should you be on the lookout for in order to recognize it in a potential partner?

Love bombing: what is it?

Love bombing refers to someone showering you with affection, compliments and even gifts, largely via online messages, but sometimes in person. It may on the surface seem like the individual is just really really into you, but it can swiftly start to feel too much—and it can often be manipulative, acting as a way to distract you from their other red flags.

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Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with someone you like showing you lots of affection or falling for you fast. But the difference with Love-Bombing is that it is too fast. Those who 'love bomb' you will likely come on very strong, and start saying all these lovely things sooner than you would expect, in order to lure you into a false sense of security.

According to boundaries expert and life coach, Michelle Elman, author of The Joy of Being Selfish, Love bombing is essentially, “a manipulation technique, where someone bombards you with romantic sentiments, gifts, and affections but has no intention of following through. They are trying to hook you in.”

Why is love bombing so toxic?

This new, over-familiar trend, often practised by narcissists, can get suffocating fast, and can leave you feeling very confused and vulnerable, because as Elman explains: “The person doesn't know you well enough to be that in love with you, and as much as it can boost your ego and make you feel loved, it's important to remind yourself that it is not real.” Love bombing can be confusing, as it can make it unclear whether the person is being sincere.

The sheer level of affection being thrown at you can make you feel trapped and guilty for not feeling the same way—hence why it’s an incredibly manipulative and toxic tactic. In extreme cases, it can lead to a cycle of abuse—making it something you need to be very wary of.

The aim of 'love bombers' is to win over your affection so much that you are essentially within their control, and feel you have to do whatever they please. This, of course, can be incredibly harmful—does the name Simon Leviev ring any bells?

How to recognize if you’re being ‘ love bombed’

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Elman explains that ‘intensity’ is the biggest warning sign. Be cautious if the person you’re newly speaking to or dating wants to indulge in elaborate future fantasies, claiming that you’re the one and wanting to discuss things like marriage and babies. Of course, this behaviour is a little less suspicious once you are in a serious relationship, but in a new one, it's worth noting as a bit of a red flag.

Another sign, that we see yet again in the Tinder Swindler documentary,  is someone being overly generous with gifts—as this begs the question of what are they overcompensating for?

Often, people who are love bombing will soon use this love, affection, and their compliments to bend you to their will. They may ask you to do things for them 'to save your future', or similar. Any time someone makes any unreasonable request of you—no matter how much you believe they care for you—it's worth questioning.

How to set boundaries against love bombing 

It’s important to remember that just because one person is saying intense things—it doesn’t mean you have to reciprocate or mirror their enthusiasm. Don’t let them rush your feelings or force you to feel any kind of way.

Elman adds: “Remind yourself that this is a stranger and if it is moving at a pace that is too fast for you, tell the person that you need more time to feel the same way, that you need them to slow down and that exaggerated sentiments, whilst lovely gestures, are overwhelming as it will take time to earn your trust.”

Most importantly, don't hesitate to cut off romantic connections if they feel too intense or pressurized—it's important to remember that a healthy relationship will never leave you feeling distressed or manipulated.

Naomi Jamieson
Lifestyle News Writer

Naomi is a Lifestyle News Writer with the Women's Lifestyle team, where she covers everything from entertainment to fashion and beauty, as well as TikTok trends for Woman&Home, after previously writing for My Imperfect Life and GoodTo. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but lept into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing and earned her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ.

Before working for Future Publishing’s Lifestyle News team, she worked in the Ad production team. Here she wrote and designed adverts on all sorts of things, which then went into print magazines across all genres. Now, when she isn’t writing articles on celebs, fashion trends, or the newest shows on Netflix, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping.