There are a handful of new-age therapy terms that have made their way into people’s everyday vocabulary in the past decade, and love bombing is perhaps the most famous example. You’ll hear it from your friends, from the TV, and every 10 seconds on social media. But what exactly is love bombing? And what makes it so widely discussed?

The answer to both is: that it’s complicated. Like anything to do with human behavior, there is a tremendous amount of grey area. Affection is something people seek and cherish, but also poses a huge risk to your emotional well-being, especially when it is being weaponized against you.

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How to identify love bombing

As the name suggests, the rough outline of love bombing is a partner using a burst of affection and attention to keep you present in the relationship. It could be a big gift, a romantic gesture, an apology, or some combination of those things (and more), but it will be something aimed at quelling your issues with the relationship and minimizing your concerns.

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It can happen deep into a marriage or even during the first couple of dates as it’s an easy manipulation trait that people repeatedly fall back on. If a problem in a relationship, like commitment issues, or even other kinds of abuse, would cause you two to fall apart, a focused avalanche of love that buries all of your concerns is likely to keep you confused enough to stay.

When will love bombing occur?

Your first question might be, what separates love bombing from the affection and intimacy expected of a long term partner? Of course, you can’t dive into your partner’s head every time they compliment you to check for authenticity, but the context surrounding it might give you some good information.

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If you are only ever feel cherished and adored when you feel yourself pulling back from the relationship, during or after a big fight, or it seems conditional upon some kind of “correct” behaviour, you are probably being love bombed. It does not foster the same kind of secure attachment that unconditional love is known for.

Why does love bombing work?

It can seem ridiculous from the outside looking in, but this is the case with many complex and abusive relationship dynamics. We all like to think we could spot a genuine compliment, or can tell when somebody is being sincere, but the simple fact of the matter is that love completely circumvents the brain and thus all logic.

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It can take victims of abuse a total of seven attempts to leave their partner, precisely because of how powerful love bombing can be. The heightened emotional state of abuse, the fight or flight instinct, will cling onto anything that makes that feeling go away, such as a sudden outpouring of love, devotion and promises to change.

How to deal with love bombing

If only this complex social conundrum could be solved by an online article! It’s a shame the advice “keep your wits about you” must extend to love, but so is the cost of being human. Be wary, especially early on, of what is clearly an attempt to draw you in with excessive devotion.

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Remember their promises, and see if they are taking any concrete step to implement them, or if they were just hollow words. Probe deeper into somebody’s intent before trying to pursue them. You’re not crazy for reacting negatively to affection, the fact it rings as ingenuine is your gut telling you something isn’t right.