When you advertise the fact you’re looking to date, there’s always the possibility of attracting a narcissist and a lot of the time, the whole sorry tale begins with love bombing, one of the narcissist’s most pernicious forms of manipulation.

What is love bombing?

Love bombing is when someone overwhelms another person with adoration and affection. Think constant (apparently legit) compliments. Little gifts and surprises at every turn. Love notes. Flowers. You get the idea.

Love bombing is intoxicating—and the narcissist knows that. We all love to be told how special we are by someone who we think is special. That’s where the danger comes in, though. That’s why it can be hard to recognize that your partner is actually showering you in attention only for their own emotional gain. As they keep your focus trained on them at all times—to the point that you’re obsessing over them even when you’re not together—they’re making you more dependent on them for your own emotional wellbeing.

The narcissism arms race

Narcissists know from experience that there’s no going back once their partner has seen through the facade. Then it’s time to move on to the next unsuspecting hopeful romantic. That’s why, pretty much by definition, a true narcissist simply cannot have an equal and mutually satisfying relationship.

However, people who end up dating a narcissist are often precisely the kind of people who struggle to recognize an unhealthy relationship. The narcissist has clocked this blind spot early on, and love-bombs the apparent object of their affections to build up their own ego. They know they’ll always have an adoring fan to fall back on when they need a pick-me-up.

However, if a narcissist tries love-bombing someone with a little more emotional grounding—or someone who’s just had more experience of narcissists—that person will likely catch the red flags and switch off – they’ll be neither flattered nor turned on. Unfortunately, this only makes the narcissist up the charm and further refine their twisted approach to dating. It’s an arms race.

Is it love, or manipulation?

It’s not always a case of  “when something’s too good to be true it probably is”—but it often is. So whether you’re new to dating or you’re emotionally vulnerable, perhaps because you’re lonely, you’ve been single for a while, or you’re recently out of a long-term relationship, it’s good to be aware that narcissists exist—and to watch out for the love bombing.

Of course you also need to learn the difference between genuine acts of affection and those that mask an ulterior motive. Naturally this isn’t a call for distrust, skepticism, or suspicion of new love interests, only a cautionary reminder to be in touch with yourself and your own intuition. If a new partner is building you up to extraordinary heights, gifting you in ways that seem extravagant and only for show, or coopting your time for activities they want to do while drawing you away from your loved ones—well, the relationship probably isn’t as balanced as it should be. And even if that’s the case, you might not be dating a narcissist, but simply someone who’s a little too keen, a little too bombastic, but who has a good heart and is trying their best. However, if they don’t heed your concerns—if they downplay your protestations about their smothering as overblown or even imaginary—you might just be dating a narcissist.

If in doubt, now’s the time to elicit the wisdom of friends and family. Be willing to listen to advice. After all, the perspective of an outsider who has no stake in the game other than your best interests is the most valuable perspective of all—and probably far more objective than your own.

Maclynn is a boutique, multi-award-winning introductions agency with offices in California, New York, New Jersey, and London. We’re world-renowned for bringing together highly compatible singles within our vast network of attractive, intelligent professionals, and our matchmakers are relationship experts in their own right. Get in touch today, and prepare for genuinely meaningful dating—just like you deserve.