True love has to be an end in itself, not a means to a selfish end. So, you’re in the early stages of your marriage. Love is present all around. But something seems to be changing. Your spouse has always shown lots of affection and even adoration for you. These traits are part of the reason you fell in love with them. Who doesn’t like being showered with love and affection? But now, it’s different. Your spouse is more demanding of your time and attention. They’re just more demanding in general. Is this the end of the “honeymoon phase,” or could it be love bombing in your marriage? 

Have you been love bombed?

Love bombing can sometimes be mistaken for the honeymoon phase of a marriage. There are stark differences, though. Psychoanalyst Babita Spinelli, L.P.1, says, “in the honeymoon phase, love is shown by a desire to focus on what the other person is interested in. Gestures tend to be thoughtful and not with an intent to impress.” The difference between genuine love and love bombing lies in the intent. Love bombers shower their partner with affection while expecting something in return. Love bombing is about control.

How do you know if you’re being love bombed? 

Here are some red flags therapists and counselors have identified.2,3

  • Your gut tells you something isn’t right. Pay attention to your gut. Do you feel confused or uneasy?
  • They buy you extravagant gifts. Over-the-top gifts are a hallmark sign of love bombing. Their true purpose is to make you feel like you owe your spouse or they own you. A healthy relationship can’t be bought.
  • They overwhelm you with compliments. There’s nothing wrong with compliments, but constant flattery is a red flag. Love may help us see the positive in our significant other, but no one is perfect.
  • They communicate non-stop. Love bombers want all your attention, 24/7. In our digital world, it’s normal to communicate frequently. But love bombers not only communicate unceasingly but get frustrated when you don’t respond immediately. 
  • The relationship feels unusually intense. Love bombing is a manipulative technique to make you feel indebted to the love bomber. You may feel overwhelmed by them in the relationship. 
  • They demand all of your attention. They want all your time and attention. To be in love is to enjoy each other’s company, but it’s also to respect that you are both individuals. You have friends, family, and colleagues with whom you enjoy spending time. Love bombers want you all to themselves.
  • They do not like any boundaries you establish. Boundaries are a barrier to them getting what they want. They will often stomp on your boundaries and blame you for pushing them away.
  • You feel uneasy with their level of affection. Your spouse should respect your boundaries when it comes to affection. Some people don’t like being showered non-stop with gifts, hollow praise, and physical love. They need space. A love bomber will push their affection on you.
  • You feel like you owe them. Love bombers want you to feel indebted to them. Their grand gestures are often a way to cover up their inconsistencies or bad behavior.
  • They know a lot about you, but you know very little about them. It’s a common practice for love bombers to learn as much about you as possible to manipulate you. They often only reveal superficial information about themselves.

Love bombing may be a sign of narcissism.

Both narcissists and love bombers use “love” as a tool to manipulate their partners. They control their spouse and boost their own ego by showering them with gifts or flattery. This can be a form of emotional abuse. Click here for warning signs of the narcissistic abuse love bombing cycle. Click here for counseling resources.

What to do if you’re being love bombed in marriage.

You’re not alone. Don’t feel like you have nowhere to turn. A study on individuals living with pathological narcissism found these individuals had difficulties maintaining healthy close relationships.4

Let loved ones in on your relationship.

They may already see the signs of the love bomber but don’t know how to approach the situation. Find a close friend who you can confide in about your feelings. They may be able to identify patterns you don’t see.

Reflect on these questions:

Does your spouse…

  • Frequently “leverage” gifts, flattery, and other expressions of “devotion” to control, manipulate, or belittle you?
  • Express their “love” in ways that make you feel misunderstood, indebted, or smothered? Is your spouse’s love selfless or selfish
  • Seem to “keep score,” and you’re always behind?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to have a conversation with your spouse. Here’s how. (And check out this blog to learn more about narcissism.)

Let your spouse know how you feel.

You might not know where to start the conversation, but here are some great places to begin.

  • I appreciate the gifts but feel they may be a little too extravagant. I don’t need lots of gifts to know you love me.
  • I would like us to work out a schedule to spend time with our own friends. They are so important to each of us.
  • I appreciate your loving texts, but I can’t respond during work hours. Know that I love you and will read them and respond when I can.

One of two things may happen. They may realize they’re unintentionally hurting you and ask how they can love you in more meaningful ways. (They genuinely care about your feelings and desire a healthy relationship.) Or, they will try to make you feel like you’re the problem. They aren’t doing anything wrong. How can you be so ungrateful? (Now, what?)

Talk with a therapist.

No matter how they respond, it might be wise to seek counseling about how you feel. If your spouse blames or shames you, you may need to speak to a counselor on your own. If your spouse desires a healthy relationship, you can seek counseling together. 

The difference between love bombing in marriage and healthy displays of love is your spouse’s motivations and intentions. Love and affection with strings attached may be love bombing. Have a conversation with your spouse, set appropriate boundaries, and seek help if needed.

Sources:

1Moore, A. (2022, April 30). What is Love Bombing? 12 Signs in a New Relationship. MBG Relationships. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/love-bombing

2Gillette, H. (2022, March 10). Spotting Narcissistic Love Bombing: What It Is – and Isn’t. PsychCentral. https://psychcentral.com/disorders/narcissistic-personality-disorder-love-bombing

3Andersen, C.H. (2021, June 30). What is Love Bombing? 11 Ways to Spot this Relationship Red Flag. The Healthy. https://www.thehealthy.com/family/relationships/love-bombing/4Day N.J.S., et al. (2020). Living with pathological narcissism: a qualitative study. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40479-020-00132-8

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