- Love-bombing, or when a partner showers you with attention, love, and gifts early in the relationship, is a manipulation tactic, therapists say.
- Two women told Insider how ex-lovers love-bombed them, like saying "I love you" after just starting to date and constant communication.
- One woman said her relationship also had physical abuse.
- For more stories visit www.BusinessInsider.co.za
Three days after Gabriella Lee met her boyfriend, he said he loved her.
Lee was 17 at the time and thought her first real relationship was supposed to feel all-consuming.
As soon as they started dating, he left her notes all over the restaurant professing his love, Lee told Insider. They also launched into conversation about the life they would build together.
But two months later, his grand gestures became his way of apologising for physical and verbal abuse, Lee said. Once, when Lee didn't answer his texts for a few hours while she was in school, he screamed and called her names over the phone, Lee said.
"The next day, he turned around with sending me flowers, writing new love notes, and saying how he's so sorry," Lee, who is now 31, told Insider.
She ended up staying in the relationship for four years. Today, Lee said she believes she was a victim of love-bombing.
Love-bombing, when a person showers their new partner with love, gifts, and attention right away, could be a sign they'll try to manipulate that partner later on, Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and narcissism expert, previously told Insider.
Examples of love-bombing include lavish vacations and presents, saying "I love you" after a few weeks, and constant communication, according to Durvasula. Later, someone could mention these gestures in an attempt to control what their partner wears, who they spend time with, or when they leave the house, Durvasula said.
Women who say they were love-bombed told Insider they felt overwhelmed and anxious in their relationships despite moments of great affection.
'I felt like there were red flags probably from the first date'
Mora Adeyi, a 33-year-old from New Jersey, said a Tinder match's love-bombing was immediate.
"I felt like there were red flags probably from the first date, but I ignored them initially," Adeyi told Insider. She said her love-bombing ex was her first real relationship, and the attention felt nice at first.
She remembers her ex saying their first date was "the best day he ever had." From then until their relationship ended, Adeyi said she and her ex spoke on the phone every morning and lunch break she had. If she missed a call from him during lunch, he became upset, she said.
After one month together, Adeyi's ex said "I love you."
"I remember him getting upset that I didn't say it back and in my head, I was like, 'I don't know if I love you cause we've only been dating for a month,'" Adeyi told Insider. She felt anxious and suffocated in the months that followed, she said.
Adeyi said when her ex started to criticise the time she spent with her friends and family, she couldn't ignore his behavior any longer. She pushed back against his wishes and screaming matches would ensue in the car, in public, or wherever they were, said Adeyi.
Using gifts to repent for fights
After fights, Adeyi's ex gave her gifts like money, teddy bears, and chocolate, she said.
Adeyi said she broke up with her ex four months into the relationship, after a fight where he refused to let her out of the car. She said she feared the next argument could become physically violent, so she ended the relationship the next day.
For the next 9 months, Adeyi's ex continued to text her, send gifts, and write comments on her blog posts. A few times, he showed up at her house, Adeyi said. She never responded, and eventually he stopped.
Low self-worth and misunderstanding love contributed to love-bombing, victims say
According to Adeyi, her love-bombing experience was her last unhealthy relationship. Now, she's engaged.
"I spent a lot of time with my therapist talking about what caused me to be attracted to this person," Adeyi told Insider.
She said she realised she had low self-worth and wanted to be loved so badly that she was willing to overlook manipulative behavior. After being love-bombed, Adeyi said she's spent the last three years rebuilding her self-image, which helped her find a healthy partnership with her fiancé.
Lee, who has now been married to someone else for 7 years, says her past relationship made it difficult to trust future partners, but therapy helped.
She said her lack of dating experience as a teenager contributed to her belief that the love-bombing was normal at the time.
"I felt like, 'Well, if you're in love, you just say it quickly, and you're obsessed with each other, and you do everything to be together,'" Lee said.
What to do if you think you're being love-bombed
If you think your partner is love-bombing you, leave the relationship as soon as possible, Durvasula said.
"The best thing to do is to cut your losses, once you sense the red flags in the early days of the relationship — get out before you have too much of an investment in it," Durvasula previously told Insider.