There was catfishing, breadcrumbing and ghosting but the latest trend in online dating is perhaps the most dangerous of all – love bombing.
Despite all the ills that modern dating has unleashed upon the world, it has given rise to some brilliant names that describe the phenomena of the cowardly, the cruel and the down-right dastardly that walk or, more accurately, swipe among us.
The latest and most dangerous trend is that of ‘Love Bombing’, which describes an attempt to influence another person with over-the-top displays of attention and affection.
Love bombing involves making a conscious effort to show lots of affection right at the beginning of a relationship or flirtatious interaction, with the sole aim of getting attention and making the other person dependent on you. It includes lots of romantic conversation, long talks about “our future”, and long periods of staring into each other’s eyes.
The combination of words and deeds makes love bombing both powerful and easy to execute given that social media allows us to stay connected 24/7. And according to the New York Post and Business Insider, this manipulation tactic is on the increase.
Whilst ‘love bombing’ may not have been known in dating circles until recently, the term has been around since the 1970s by members of the Unification Church of the United States or “moonies” as they were called.
Their founder and leader, Sun Myung Moon said of his members, they “are smiling all of the time…What face could better represent love than a smiling face? This is why we talk about love bomb.”
Notorious cult leaders Jim Jones, Charles Manson and David Koresh weaponised love bombing, using it to con followers into committing mass suicide and murder.
Pimps and gang leaders later used love bombing to encourage loyalty and obedience as well.
As it turns out, the term has a long history and perhaps one more ominous than that which online dating presents now. But the fact is that love bombing has a significant psychological impact on people.
By our very nature, we all have a natural need to feel good about who we are. Whether situational or arising from a sudden event like job loss, stress or divorce, this desire can manifest itself in a need to find love and self-worth through another. And, not surprisingly, most love bombers are experts at finding those with low self-esteem or insecurity.
Unlike ghosting where an individual will slowly begin to pull away before being immortalized in our phone screens forever as they vanish into the abyss, love bombing doesn’t denote a gradual decline in contact. Instead, the accused lays it on thick before disappearing, leaving their victim pining for more.
As psychiatrist Dale Archer explains in Psychology Today:
“If extravagant displays of affection continue indefinitely, if actions match words, and there is no devaluation phase, then it’s probably not love bombing.
On the other hand, if there’s an abrupt shift in the type of attention, from affectionate and loving to controlling and angry, with the pursuing partner making unreasonable demands, that’s a red flag. The important thing to remember about love bombing is that it is psychological partner abuse, period. When one person intentionally manipulates and exploits another’s weakness or insecurity, there’s no other word for it.”
Love bombing follows the trajectory of idealization, devaluation and discarding (which is then repeated, whether it be on the same person or another victim).
“Most couples involved in this toxic cycle will go through multiple rounds of idealization and devaluation,” says Archer. “Each time, the devalued partner has to work harder to get back in the love bomber’s good graces, usually by sacrificing something that competes with him for attention.”
Consequently, Archer recommends taking things slowly at the beginning of any relationship to ensure that one is prepared in the event that it does turn out to be emotional manipulation. Whatever the case, love bombing is definitely a trend that we’ll be glad to be rid of.