What is love bombing? The dangerous form of emotional abuse seen on The Tinder Swindler

Why people love bomb and the signs to watch out for

Saman Javed
Monday 21 February 2022 16:11 GMT
Love bombing is a form of serious emotional abuse
Love bombing is a form of serious emotional abuse (Netflix/iStock)
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Picture this: You’re swiping through Tinder one afternoon when you match with a man you’re instantly attracted to. After just one brief date, he tells you he thinks you have a special connection and he’d like you to accompany him on his private jet. Over the next few weeks, he lavishes you with gifts and expensive dinners, all the while declaring his love and affection for you.

If you’ve seen Netflix’s The Tinder Swindler, then you know how this story ends. You know that Shimon Hayut (aka Simon Leviev) used a dangerous manipulation tactic, known as love bombing, to win the trust and affections of at least three women before extorting them for hundreds and thousands of dollars.

We’ve seen potential examples of love bombing elsewhere too. Take Julia Fox and Kanye West’s short-lived relationship. In a post for Interview magazine at the beginning of this year, Fox described meeting West at a New Year’s Eve party in Miami.

The pair then flew to New York City, where West took her for dinner at her favourite restaurant. Here he directed a photoshoot of her while diners cheered them on. To her surprise, he also booked out a hotel suite and filled it with racks of clothing for her, all within their first week of meeting.

At the time, experts told the Independent they believed West was “100 per cent” love bombing the actor. But what exactly is love bombing, and what are the signs?

What is love bombing?

Love bombing is a dangerous form of emotional abuse in which a person uses grand gestures, gifts and proclamations of love to win someone’s trust and affection.

Honest, healthy connections take time to build. During love bombing, affection, grand gestures and proclamations of love are given without truly knowing the other person.

Why is love bombing so dangerous?

Dating coach Hayley Quinn says part of the danger of love bombing is how great it can initially make the recipient feel.

“It can feel incredibly validating when someone ‘sweeps you off your feet’ but beware this version of romance often works out a lot better in the fairytales,” she says.

“When someone moves your relationship forwards at lightning pace, they’re skipping over the process of actually getting to know you. In fact, they don’t ‘love’ you at all, at best they love the idea of you, and over time this fantasy image will inevitably fall apart.”

Love bombing is short-lived, and once a perpetrator believes they have won your trust and affection, they will withdraw. In some cases, as seen in The Tinder Swindler, this can have monetary consequences as well as wreaking havoc on a victim’s emotional state.

“You could find yourself shut out in the cold, as the love bomber cruelly and quickly withdraws their affections. This could be particularly damaging if they’ve already taken up so much space in your life that you’ve become distant from friends and family, or if they’ve convinced you to make a financial investment in the relationship,” Quinn says.

What are the signs of love bombing?

The most obvious sign of a case of love bombing is when someone behaves as though they are in love with you without really knowing you, says relationship expert Kate Mansfield.

“Too much too soon is the main thing to watch for. If it feels too good to be true, it probably is,” she says.

“Excessive compliments, declarations of love and gifts or offers of help that feel excessive for how well you know them are a red flag.”

Mansfield likens love bombing to an emotional scam, as it seeks to trick a victim into a state of dependency and weakness, so that they find it difficult to leave the relationship.

In between the grand gestures and declarations of love, love bombers attempt to undermine victims’ confidence or distance them from other people, such as by asking them for commitment too early.

“Whoever you date should always respect your time, and not expect you to drop everything at a moment’s notice for them,” Quinn adds.

“They should also respect your space, not turn up knocking on your door, respect your existing commitments, and not get in the way of your work, or other social relationships.

“Love bombing will feel incredibly flattering...but bear in mind that it takes a long time to get to know someone.”

Why do people love bomb?

While there isn’t a clear-cut reason for why someone might engage in love bombing behaviour, experts believe it is a product of insecurity.

A person who has insecurities about a romantic partner leaving them may love bomb so that their partner becomes dependent on them or is manipulated into falling in love with them. In the case of Hayut, he won women’s affections for his own financial gain.

“The person love bombing is desperately trying to get you hooked in order to feel secure, but beware – once they get you, they will lose interest,” Mansfield says.

“These people do not have the skills and self-esteem needed to have a real relationship, or to handle long term commitment.”

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