Protective or controlling?
These are almost opposite characteristics whose limits blur when you try to define that person you've shared everything with.
Caring or possessive?
These antagonistic words seem to merge when you're involved with a toxic person who plays with your mind through manipulation.
Sympathetic or manipulative?
Both terms come to your mind when you think about their reactions and your decisions.
Mature or authoritarian?
It's hard to accept the latter when you try to describe your partner, but it's really necessary.
What is love bombing?
The aforementioned questions come to the mind of a person who suffers from "love bombing." It's not a psychological term, but an idiom that was first used referring to a church in the United States and how the members of that congregation were behaving. All of them, besides having their own problems, were always smiling because their leaders were bombing them with "love." It's a manipulation technique that started as a method to convince people to join their church through condescendence, attention, and affection. The strategy soon became a tactic used by parents to educate their children through praises and constant displays of care. In that way, "love" became a weapon to control others: through nice words, warm hugs, and cheesy actions that lead the other person to feel and behave as the other expects them to.
A "love bomb" works as a power mechanism based on over-the-top displays of affection and attention. Once the manipulator convinces the other that they are the perfect companion –a hopeless romantic and an unconditional partner– the victim believes this might evolve into an ideal relationship. For this technique to work, the first stage of the relationship must be perfect; in other words, after cuddling, displays of trust, encouraging words, demonstrating support and patience, passionate nights, and great plans for the future, the bombs start to detonate.
How does it work?
What started as ideal demonstrations of tenderness and adoration turn into an extreme, exacerbated domination. Texts, phone calls, and 24/7 details are transformed into accusations and spying routines. The main issue of those who get involved with "love bombers" is that once they've received huge amounts of attention and affection, they find it hard to live without those doses of praises and considerations. Once the victim has become dependent, the controller takes advantage of their insecurities to manipulate the person, and any situation, in their favor.
Who practices it?
The love bombing paradox is that those who practice it tend to be very insecure people with low self-esteem. That's why they need to bewitch their partners through the perfect lie, so they can metaphorically shackle and control them forever. For these manipulators, shooting love bombs decreases the possibilities of being abandoned by others.
Apart from that, most of those who use this technique are good looking and use their looks to their advantage. They're also people who set firm goals and don't rest until they achieve them. That's why when a manipulator tries to seduce someone, most of the times they succeed. In fact, they convince the other that they're meant to be because their methods and insistence are unusually extreme.
Why does it work?"Love bombing" is a cycle hard to escape from due to the chaos that is built around the idealization of the relationship. The notion of "soulmates" plays a fundamental role in it, so once the victim believes they've found "the one," accepting that the other is a toxic controller is almost impossible.
What are the phases of this cycle?
-Idealization: everything begins as a dreamlike wooing that dazzles the other person to the point of blindness. Each word and action lures them into a pit where they'll eventually fall. At this point, it's almost impossible to notice that it's all a scheme.
-Devaluation: after a perfect stage of the relationship, the attention and love turn into oppression, anger, disapproval, punishment, pressure, and threats. This is part of a psychological conditioning with which the manipulator seems to become the owner and dictator of the other's feelings, thoughts, actions, and decisions.
(Before entering the last phase of the cycle, the relationship repeats the first stages over and over again until a major conflict takes place).
-Letting go: after many cases of abuse, in which victims neglect their own lives and accept to distance themselves from their families, get rid of their friends, and abandon their activities to avoid conflicts, they finally come to the last phase of the cycle (or at least to a pause of it). The breakup can be the result of many situations. One can be that the victims get tired of being pressured and manipulated, then they start asking for a decent treatment (that, of course, manipulators will refuse to grant them). Another reason is that the ones bombing their couples plan the breakup to confuse them and later come back with more bombs of affection to get them back. In that way "love bombing" starts from scratch.
What are the signs?
Detecting a love bomb and its perpetrator is easy once you're familiar with this manipulation technique. Firstly, if the manipulator has excessive love gestures, even if you have just met, it's most likely a potential controller. "I know we've just met, but we're perfect together," is a classic line they'd use.
Apart from that, those who throw these irrational affection bombs know how to identify a vulnerable person. If on a first date, you mention that you've recently ended a relationship, the other person starts acting extremely attentive or becomes a better listener and adviser. This is a tactic they'll use to control all your movements.
Finally, if the person you just met tells you repeatedly how excited and convinced they are about your "future together," you must be careful. No one honest and sane opens their whole life to a stranger, or mentions these thoughts immediately.
How to overcome an affective bomb?Once you managed to end a destructive relationship with someone who just wants to control your life, you must avoid any contact with that person. Then, try to get back your support network, that is, your friends and family. Finally, you must accept that it was a major form of abuse. Therefore, you need time to heal and get your confidence back. The most important thing is that you don't blame yourself for falling into the hands of a manipulator. Be glad that you managed to end this situation.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards