Love Bombing-The Hooking Technique Part 1

Love Bombing-what is it?

Psychologists describe this best. There are hundreds of sites that detail this process but two sites (given at the bottom of this post), made me continually stop reading, as they had the ability to evoke so many ‘ahh moments’. I had obviously never heard of ‘Love Bombing’ but now recognise it as a major part of the Catfish grooming technique, whether used by a personal catfish where this process maybe natural to them, or as a script by the financial fraudsters. Most of this content is detailed from these, as they are the experts.

It seems that this term was first spoken about by members of the Unification Church of the United States (sometimes known as “Moonies”). In the 1970s, their founder and leader Sun Myung Moon said:

“Unification Church members are smiling all of the time, even at four in the morning. The man who is full of love must live that way. When you go out witnessing, you can caress the wall and say that it can expect you to witness well and be smiling when you return. What face could better represent love than a smiling face? This is why we talk about love bomb; Moonies have that kind of happy problem.”

Well known 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 use love bombing to encourage loyalty and obedience as well.

Some have tried to use it in a positive way and in some respects, research has shown it can be. 

But here we are looking at it in a relationship situation, and more importantly, as part of the grooming technique for Catfish.

How Love Bombing Works

Love bombing is the act applied to influence another person with displays of attention and affection. We’re not just talking about romantic gestures, like flowers or gifts. Love bombing invariably includes lots of romantic conversation, long talks about our future.  It’s the combination of words and actions that makes love bombing so powerful. We can be in touch 24/7.

Love bombing works because humans have a natural need to feel good about ourselves. It’s in our make up. There will always be times when we don’t. Sometimes the reason is situational, brought on by something like the ending of a relationship or job loss. Other times, it can trace back to childhood. Whatever the source, love bombers are experts at detecting low self esteem, and exploiting it. 

Psychologists have described Love Bombers themselves:

The paradox of love bombing is that people who use it aren’t always seeking targets that broadcast insecurity for all to see. On the contrary, the love bomber is also insecure, so to boost their ego, the target must at least seem like a ‘great catch’. Maybe she’s the beautiful woman, who’s lonely because her beauty intimidates people, or he’s the guy with the great career whose wife left him for his best friend, or she’s the hard-nosed businesswoman, who’s avoided marriage and motherhood because her childhood was so traumatic.

On Adelyn Birch’s brilliant site ‘psychopaths and love’   she discusses Dr Rhonda Freeman, a clinical neuropsychologist, who thinks that ‘the high’ the bombers demonstrate can be genuine, they can get intrigued and stimulated. Does this make it feel more genuine to the victim? She continues “Unlike the excitement they have, the grooming component is intentional. It is tailored to set the victim up for future use.”

It isn’t the target’s fault they are love bombed. Love bombers are manipulators who seek and pursue targets. They’re like emotional vampires, because they use attention and affection to build trust, as a means to maintain control, and end up sucking the emotion and joy for life right out of their partners. In fact, “drained” is a common term the victim will use.

I feel it is important always to put  judgements aside. It may seem to the ignorant, that people who get caught  by these individuals are ‘stupid and desperate’. The psychologists confirm that’s a fallacy. Every human being has had a unique life with experiences that shape them as individuals and will ultimately define how they react to every situation they are faced with.

‘No one knows the hidden battles or experiences that people are going through or have been through. Be kind always.’

The cycles always starts with intense courtship and idealisation over a very short period of time. Idealisation is when partners see each other as “meant to be,” or “soul mates.”

Adelyn explains: Love Bombing reinforces power beliefs about ideal love; fosters trust, loyalty, relationship investment and a positive image of the abuser; creates deep bonding and emotional dependence; and sets the stage for disbelief of the manipulators misdeeds when the eventually and inevitably come.

They also make you feel so positive about yourself. My Catfish was the first man that ever managed to break through my self doubt. Others had tried, but it always remained. He managed this in that idealisation phase. It made it all the more devastating when I realised he was a fake.

The Phases of Love Bombing: Idealisation, Devaluation, Discard 

The key to understanding how love bombing differs from romantic courtship is to look at what happens next, after two people are officially a “couple.” If extravagant displays of affection continue indefinitely, if actions match words, and there is no devaluation phase, then it’s probably not love bombing. That much attention might get annoying after a while, but it’s not unhealthy in itself.

This is classic psychological conditioning at play here. Idealisation is the positive reinforcement (you do what I want, and I’ll shower you with love), the devaluation is the negative consequence (you did something wrong, so I’m punishing you).

 Our Catfish, used not contacting me, or only a few words in one text a day as a way of making me feel I had done something wrong, to devalue me and some of the other women too. He had first sent, in the idealisation phase, hundreds and hundreds of messages, never letting me be out of his thoughts or him mine.

These manipulators use devaluation to control romantic partners. No matter how confident they might appear, they lack self-esteem and use others for validation.

Our Catfish seemed to need a constant supply of adoration from different women to feed his ego. New relationships generally give that honeymoon phase. It’s why one night stands weren’t enough for him. He needed the illusion of the longterm meaningful relationship, his phrase when constantly grooming and idealising our relationships.

Devaluation becomes a tool to keep the victim dependent. They tear you down to solidify power over you.

When I gave in and messaged again, to my unanswered messages, he felt more powerful and in control, and when I pushed back or defended myself saying I deserved more than this from him, he felt threatened and would go silent sometimes to make me think I was losing him, or he would beg me not to leave him or give up on us, which made me feel bad.

Most couples involved in this toxic cycle will go through multiple rounds of idealisation and devaluation. Of course the Catfish is never actually in a ‘real relationship’ they are merely using this behaviour and technique to draw you in and control you as a way of getting what they want, so sometimes these phases are all short and not repeated. 
The final phase in the love bombing cycle is the discard, which usually happens for one of three reasons:

1. The devalued partner no longer supplies what attracted the love bomber in the first place. Seeing his partner as exhausted, broke, depressed, or less attractive, the bomber discards her for someone shiny and new.

Our Catfish had several women in place (face to face) at the same time and was still constantly grooming for the next online.

2. The devalued partner gets fed up and starts pushing back, demanding reciprocity for sacrifices or defending boundaries, making it clear she refuses to be manipulated anymore. Feeling exposed, the love bomber discards his non-compliant partner for one who doesn’t yet see behind his mask of phony perfection.

Some of our Catfish’s relationships were short because after the idealisation phase, his lack of ability to see them at weekends or more in the week due to his work situation i.e. as he needed to be seeing other women, became too much. They saw the mask slip when they pushed him on this.

3. The love bomber uses the discard as part of the manipulation, fully planning to reconnect in the future. Think of it like devaluation on steroids. He disappears, sometimes without warning, leaving the victim feeling devastated and confused. Then days, and sometimes months later, he reappears, out of the blue, professing undying love and promising to change. Curiously absent in many cases is an apology. Instead, the return is a test of his power and control, a challenge to see if his discarded partner can be conned into another round of abuse.

No matter how these manipulators do it, the discard comes as a shock. Even for the partner in scenario #2 who pushes back. How could this happen, especially after all the sacrifices to make him happy? Aren’t soul mates supposed to stay together forever, no matter what?

Our catfish did this with us. Whether he got replies or not, every few months he would send messages to all of his past victims to dangle a carrot or test the water, while continuing to see the current victims and grooming for others.

In part 2, how to spot Love Bombing.

Psychology Today can be read here