Cosmopolitan Middle East
This scary, cultish dating trend has gone mainstream
Yes, sometimes “too good to be true” is a very real thing.
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.