Love Bombing: Manipulation, Dependence and Control

Love Bombing: Manipulation, Dependence and Control

Love bombing is a form of manipulation characterized by one person showering another with excessive attention, affection, and gifts. 

This display of affection may sound pleasant enough. But there’s a key difference between love bombing and genuine affection: the intention behind it. 

Genuine affection occurs through a desire to show love, care, and support for another person. It doesn’t ask for anything in return. In contrast, love bombing is driven by the intention to create an intense emotional bond that promotes dependence and control.

Being love-bombed can lead to feelings of confusion and overwhelm alongside dependence and control. However, it’s reassuring to know that by gaining a better understanding of love bombing, we can protect ourselves against it. 

To answer any questions you may have about love bombing manipulation, and how it promotes dependence and control, this article will cover:

  • What love bombing is
  • How love bombing promotes dependence 
  • How love bombing promotes control
  • Common love bombing manipulation tactics
Manipulation and Love Bombing

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Love Bombing:
How It Promotes Dependence and Control

Love bombing is a common phenomenon. Occurring particularly frequently among people who use dating apps, love bombing has been reported by approximately 78% of users. 

But what exactly is love bombing? And how does love bombing manipulation promote dependence and control

What Is Love Bombing?

Love bombing is a manipulative tactic some people use to gain control and influence over another person. It involves showering the “target” with excessive affection, attention, gifts, and flattery – usually quite early on in the relationship. This powerful display of affection often creates a strong emotional bond and dependence – which is the ultimate intent of the “love-bomber.” 

Love bombing can be used in any relationship, whether friendship, work dynamic, or familial. However, we most commonly associate love bombing with romantic relationships.

How Love Bombing Promotes Dependence

At first, love bombing behaviors may feel great. Such excessive attention and affection can make us feel loved and cared for. However, over time, this intense level of affection can create dependence between the love bomber and their target. The following factors interconnect to create this sense of dependence:

Love Bombing Gives the Target a “High”

Love bombing promotes dependence as it gives the target a natural “high”. The constant attention and praise associated with love bombing stimulates the reward center in the brain. Similar to what we experience when we achieve a goal, eat nice-tasting food, or engage in a pleasurable activity. 

Over time, the target becomes emotionally invested and reliant on the love bomber to deliver the adoration that triggers their brain’s reward center. When the target becomes dependent on the love bomber for this natural “high,” they may begin to ignore red flags and warning signs, like when the love bomber attempts to cross their boundaries or control them.

Love Bombing Gives Reassurance

Evidence demonstrates that people often perform love bombing behaviors as a way to seek reassurance from their partner. But reassurance-seeking behaviors in relationships are concretely associated with creating a sense of dependence. 

This dependence is forged through the love bomber giving the target excessive amounts of affection to strengthen the emotional bond. Once the bond is “strong” enough, the love bomber is reassured that the target cares about them and won’t leave them. In return, the target depends on the love bomber to continue to provide this level of affection – therefore, a cycle of reassurance-seeking and dependence is created.

Love Bombing Involves Almost Constant Contact

Someone showing love-bombing behaviors will often try to keep in constant contact with the target. The love bomber may do so to ensure their partner keeps them in mind and to reassure themselves that they still care about them. 

Mobile phones easily facilitate this need to keep in constant contact – and the pitfalls of such ease in communication are evident. For example, continuously contending for contact and dependence through texting or calling can result in a reduction in relationship satisfaction.

This reduction in relationship satisfaction arises from the target feeling like they have to choose between staying connected to the love bomber over their own autonomy – which restricts their privacy and freedom. In essence, the target is ensnared or entrapped in the relationship. Once again, dependence is created.

How Love Bombing Promotes Control

Dependence is only one piece of the love bombing puzzle. Once the target is dependent on their love bomber, the love bomber then may begin to assert power and control over the target. 

The Target Feels Like They Owe Their Love Bomber

When someone gives you lots of attention, affection, and gifts, you may begin to feel as if you “owe them one.” In this way, love-bombing behaviors can trigger thoughts such as:

  • “They’ve been so kind to me; the least I can do is text them while I’m at work.”
  • “I don’t want them to be upset with me, so I better give them what they want.”
  • “Do I really need time on my own? They just want to spend time with me.”
  • “I don’t want to lose this feeling. I’ll do whatever it takes to make them happy.”

Therefore, love bombing promotes control because it can causes the target to go against their initial, natural instincts and instead choose the option that benefits the love bomber.

Love Bombing Creates an Intense Emotional Bond

Love bombing also promotes control by creating an intense emotional bond early into a relationship. The love bomber establishes this bond by providing constant adoration, which can be challenging for anyone to refuse – let alone someone who craves it, such as those with an insecure attachment style

Insecurely attached people typically have a low sense of self worth due to how their emotional needs were catered to in their early years – so they often strive to have these needs met. Therefore, if the partner of someone with an insecure attachment style is showering them with affection and attention, it tends to make the insecure attacher feel fulfilled as well as gives a boost to self esteem – strengthening the emotional bond even more. 

Unfortunately, the strong emotional bond love bombing creates can make it difficult for the target to leave the relationship. The love bomber then has the power to manipulate and control the target by threatening to withdraw affection. Additionally, the love bomber may assert control by making the target feel guilty for not giving the love bomber what they want. 

Manipulation Techniques Used in Love Bombing

Being a target of love bombing can harm our emotional health, well-being, and self-esteem. Due to this, it’s important to be aware of the manipulation techniques love bombers often use. 

Being aware of the signs can help us avoid falling prey to love-bombing behaviors in the future and encourage us to seek help if we suspect we’re a target of love bombing. 

Some of the most common love bombing manipulation tactics are:

The love bomber may try to isolate the target from friends and family to control and limit outside support. The love bomber may not directly say, “I don’t want you to see X.” Instead, they may do so in a more subtle way by undermining or picking out negative qualities in the target’s loved ones. 

Excessive attention and affection
The love bomber showers the target with excessive attention, affection, compliments, and gifts to create an emotional bond and dependence.

Using guilt and shame to control
For example, the love bomber may make the target feel guilty for not spending enough time together or not being affectionate enough. 

The love bomber may manipulate the target by denying their feelings, lying, or twisting the truth to maintain control and create confusion and doubt in the target’s mind. 

The love bomber may use threats of withdrawal or abandonment to control the target. For example, they may say, “I don’t see how we can carry on in a relationship if you choose X over me.” Threats can be particularly powerful for people with an insecure attachment style, who may already fear abandonment. 

Love-hate cycle
The love bomber may alternate between showing excessive affection and then withdrawing this affection to create unpredictability and emotional instability. 

A Note for People Who Have Experienced Love Bombing: 

It’s important to acknowledge that the emotions you may experience if you are, or have been, a target of love bombing can be confusing and intense. It’s normal to feel a mix of euphoria, confusion, dependence, guilt, shame, insecurity, anxiety, and fear. It’s also very acceptable to feel angry at the person who love-bombed you.

Yet, if you’re comfortable doing so, it can also help to consider why people show love-bombing behaviors. Understanding the underlying reasons for a love bomber’s behaviors can help you process your emotions and make an informed decision about your well-being. 

In many cases, love bombers aren’t intending to act maliciously. Instead, these love bombing behaviors often stem from the love bomber’s own attachment experiences and unmet emotional needs. As a consequence of these early experiences, love bombers may have struggled to form healthy relationships and may now be seeking a sense of security and control in their current relationship. Which may go someway towards explaining your ordeals within a relationship with a love bomber – but, still, doesn’t detract from the consequences for you.


Love bombing is an emotionally harmful behavior that can leave the target feeling confused, emotionally unstable, and overwhelmed. It’s reasonable to feel anger towards love bombers, but it may also help to understand that most love bombers act this way to seek reassurance or satisfy unmet emotional needs.

Regardless of the motivation behind love bombing, these behaviors can promote dependency and control by triggering the target’s reward system and creating an intense emotional bond that makes it difficult for the target to end the relationship. 

Recognizing the common love bombing manipulation behaviors like: isolation, gaslighting, threats, and guilt-tripping, can help us protect ourselves from experiencing love bombing and encourage us to seek support if necessary. 

Girme, Y. U., Molloy, P. R., Overall, N. C. (2016). Repairing Distance and Facilitating Support: Reassurance Seeking by Highly Avoidant Individuals is Associated with Greater Partner Support. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42, 645-661.

Hall, J. A., & Baym, N. K. (2011). Calling and texting (too much): Mobile maintenance expectations, (over)dependence, entrapment, and friendship satisfaction. New Media & Society, 14(2), 316–331.

Katz, J., Beach, S. R. H., & Joiner, T. E. (1998). When does partner devaluation predict emotional distress? Prospective moderating effects of reassurance-seeking and self-esteem. Personal Relationships, 5(4), 409–421.

Strutzenberg, C.C., Wiersma-Mosley, J.D., Jozkowski, K.N., & Becnel, J.N. (2016). Love-Bombing: A Narcissistic Approach to Relationship Formation.

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