Cosmopolitan Middle East

This scary, cultish dating trend has gone mainstream

Yes, sometimes “too good to be true” is a very real thing.

- By TAYLOR ANDREWS Additional reporting by LAUREN L’AMIE

Let’s say you met someone and they seem great. Like, everything-you’ve-been-manifestin­g-for-months great. Gives-you-more-compliment­s-than-you-get-in-the-bar-bathroom-line great. Makes-plans-to-bring-you-to-a-friend’s-wedding-in-five-months great. Never-leaves-you-on-read great.

And it’s only been a week!

But before you start imagining sending out your own Save the Date, I have some news: All this greatness may be part of a manipulati­on strategy used by… actual cults. It’s called love bombing, and it’s a form of emotional abuse that happens when someone showers a partner with excessive affection in an attempt to control them.

The term was allegedly first coined by members of the Unificatio­n Church of the United States, a famous cult known as the Moonies. They love bombed people to encourage them to join their fellowship. Experts say other famous cults like NXIVM used a similar method to manufactur­e feelings of intense unity and loyalty in new recruits. And now it’s possible that this type of behavior has infiltrate­d your dating apps.

Obviously (and hopefully!), most people you meet online won’t go to cultlike extremes, but any love bomber’s goal is generally the same: to enhance their ego by gaining power over you or anyone they’re pursuing, says psychother­apist Ami Kaplan. As you can probably guess, this is often a symptom of narcissist­ic personalit­y disorder. Many love bombers have a lack of

empathy for others, an inflated sense of selfworth, and a need for attention. They unearth other people’s deepseated insecuriti­es and exploit them.

The confusing thing is that this is largely a subconscio­us behavior, says Kaplan. Your dates aren’t necessaril­y setting out to manipulate you. And because love bombing is disguised as, well, real love, things can get extra tricky—before they get extra tough.

Because once someone is interested/ connected/has shared their deepest darkest secret, “a love bomber no longer has any use for their partner and will begin withdrawin­g from the relationsh­ip,” says Lori Nixon Bethea, PhD, owner of Intentiona­l Hearts Counseling Services. At that point, “they may hurl insults,

If they drop the words “soul mate” after one or two dates, hi, yes, it could be time to run.

make disparagin­g remarks, gaslight, and cause their partner to feel invalidate­d and devalued.”

Okay, whew. Deep breaths. This does *not* mean that you should fault yourself for wanting to feel loved and appreciate­d— and it’s not always a red flag if someone compliment­s you or knows your Starbies order by heart early on. It just means that you can proceed with a bit of caution—and keep the red flags at right handy—while dating.

If you have just started seeing someone and aren’t sure whether they’re love bombing you or just majorly crushing, have a convo with them and express how you feel. You can say something as simple as, “Hey, this seems to be moving pretty fast. Maybe we should discuss it or set some boundaries.” If they respect that, great. If they get angry, the best course of action is simple: Dump them, unfollow them, and move on.

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Don’t fall for the pretty flowers, friend.

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