What Is Love-Bombing? (And How To Tell If It’s Happening To Your Teen)
There’s been a lot of social media buzz lately about a practice that is impacting teens and young adults. It’s called “love-bombing.” This term may be new to you, but the concept will sound familiar.
A 2017 University of Arkansas study described love-bombing as “excessive communication during the early stages of a relationship to gain control and power.”1 In 1992, a study described this type of behavior as the “Charm Tactic,” or being heavy on the charm to initiate a relationship or keep it going.2 These two studies, done 25 years apart, paint the same picture of someone who overwhelms another with charm, gifts, and adoration to win them over and control them. Does the concept sound familiar now?
As parents, we are responsible for ensuring the safety of our children. This goes beyond physical safety to include emotional and sexual safety as well. Being love-bombed can be damaging to your teen. But there are signs that you can be on the lookout for.
If you see these signs, ask questions to learn more and help them know what’s happening. I don’t have to remind you, but your teen probably thinks they know better and doesn’t want you involved in their relationships.
Signs of Love-Bombing
*This list isn’t all-inclusive3,4, nor does someone have to exhibit all of these signs to be a love-bomber. Love-bombing tactics can vary.
1. Excessive compliments
Who doesn’t love compliments? There’s nothing wrong with compliments, but constant praise can be a red flag. Suppose your teen is embarking on a new relationship, and their significant other is already expressing intense love for them. In that case, it’s time to ask some questions. If you hear them say things like, “I’ve never met anyone as perfect as you,” or “I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone,” ask your teen how that makes them feel.
2. Expensive gifts
Love-bombing often includes trying to buy someone’s love with expensive gifts. The purpose is to make the love-bombed one feel like they owe their gift-giver something. A healthy relationship can’t be bought. So if your teen frequently receives gifts like new AirPods or Beats headphones, shoes, or clothes, those are red flags.
3. Consistent texts and messages
Love-bombers want all your attention. In this digital age, it’s normal to communicate, especially early in a relationship, but calling, texting and messaging 24/7 is excessive. And if your teen doesn’t answer or respond quickly, their significant other may get accusatory.
4. They want all your teen’s attention.
If your teen isn’t with them, they become angry. They may try to invite themselves anywhere the family goes. You may also see your teen withdraw from other friends or social activities to appease this new relationship. In a healthy relationship, each person respects the other’s interests.
5. They try to convince your teen they’re soulmates.
While you can meet your soulmate as a teen, someone shouldn’t be trying to convince your teen they’re soulmates. If they are trying to convince your teen that their relationship is like that in a romantic movie, raise a red flag. They may be trying to pressure your teen into a relationship they aren’t ready for.
6. They get upset with boundaries.
Love-bombers don’t usually like boundaries. They want all of a person’s time, attention, and affection. When your teen establishes boundaries regarding their time or access to technology, the love-bomber may get upset.
If your teen tries to slow down the relationship, they may also turn up the manipulation.
7. They are needy.
Whatever time your teen gives them is never enough. They want all of it. You may notice your teen getting less and less excited about talking or spending time with their boyfriend or girlfriend.
If you notice any of these signs in your teen’s relationships, your teen may be the victim of love-bombing. They are young and may not see any of this as an issue. But, what do you do?
Don’t attack their partner.
This may isolate your teen and prevent them from confiding in you.
Don’t say, “You’re not allowed to date them.”
Did that work for your parents? It didn’t work for me. That may just make your teen want to stay in the relationship.
Ask questions from time to time and respect their responses. Ask them how they feel about their relationship. Find out what they gain from it as well as what they give.
Establish dating rules.
If you feel that the relationship may be unhealthy, establish a rule that their partner must come to your house to spend time together.
Give them plenty of time and positive attention.
Sometimes our teens will enter into unhealthy relationships because they crave attention.
Talk about what a healthy relationship looks like.
Make teaching your teen about healthy relationships a regular part of your conversations. Look for examples of healthy and unhealthy behaviors and talk about those.
If you think your teen is being love-bombed, help them see the signs of manipulation before it becomes abusive. Help them see their self-worth and to love themselves for who they are. If your teen needs it, don’t be afraid to seek help from a counselor.
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1Strutzenberg, C. C., et al. (2017). Love-bombing: A Narcissistic Approach to Relationship Formation. https://scholarworks.uark.edu/discoverymag/vol18/iss1/14
2Buss. (1992). Manipulation in Close Relationships: Five Personality Factors in Interactional Context. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.1992.tb00981.x
3Lamont, C. (2019, December 16). Love bombing: 10 Signs of Over-the-Top Love. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/love-bombing
4Laderer, A. (2022, February 9). 9 sinister signs that you’re getting love bombed, according to relationship therapists. Insider. https://www.insider.com/guides/health/sex-relationships/love-bomb