Have you ever found yourself dating someone you really like as a person—but their dating style just turns you off? Like, maybe they’re too aloof, or too needy, or too communicative, or leave you on read, or make a lot of grammar errors in Gchat.
One of these styles is the “love-bomber.” Love-bombers—a real subset of people that researchers have spent time studying—are known to inundate a new partner with communication via all the methods. They constantly text, send messages on Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat, send emails and even call.
They do this not as much out of affection as out of insecurity— “in order to obtain power and control over another’s life as a means of narcissistic self-enhancement” early on in the relationship, University of Arkansas researchers studying the love-bombing phenomenon wrote in their paper.
They found that people who are narcissistic and have low self-esteem are more likely to practice unhealthy love-bombing behavior in their relationships, a growing problem in today’s dating world.
The term “narcissist” is one that gets thrown around a lot, particularly to describe people who seem to be really into themselves—but it’s actually a real medical diagnosis. Narcissism is defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as “holding beliefs about being special or unique and the assumption of only being understood by special or high-status people,” the researchers wrote.
Narcissism can show itself in a variety of ways, but one of them is a feeling of entitlement in relationships. Someone who experiences narcissism wants a partner who will improve their self-image as well as the image they project to others.
And narcissism is a growing problem, especially among millennials, according to Jean M. Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of “iGen” and “Generation Me.” She blogs about what she calls “the Narcissism Epidemic” for Psychology Today.
More and more people could be put in the narcissist category, and it’s hurting our relationships, the researchers wrote. We’re dating more people and having less significant connections, they argue. They even point to relationships issues due to narcissism as one of the reasons millennials are delaying marriage more than ever before.
A lot of us, apparently. In this study, 48 percent of the almost 500 people involved fell into that category, based on their responses to a questionnaire (eight true/false statements, including: “When past relationships have ended, I realized that I was more invested in the relationship than my partner was” and “I am insecure with the idea of being single”). The results “demonstrated that love-bombing behaviors are prevalent among young adult millennials,” the researchers wrote.
Who’s at risk for coming on too strong? The people who were identified as love-bombers were more likely to show narcissistic tendencies and have low self-esteem. They also were more likely to text their partners more than average and expect more text communication with their partners than average.
Love-bombing behaviors are linked with narcissism likely because of narcissists’ need for affirmation and control. This is also linked with low self-esteem—when narcissistic people are feeling down on themselves, they will aggressively seek out affirmations and praise, leading to over-communication with a partner, the researchers wrote.
Are you worried you’re love-bombing? Or that your partner is? If you’re concerned your self-esteem could be getting in the way of healthy communication in your relationship, have a conversation with your partner about it.
Regardless of what side of the love bomb you’re on, addressing the issue directly and airing your concerns early on will help you set boundaries and build healthy communication habits that can help both partners feel valued and comfortable.
Katie Moritz is Rewire’s web editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz and on Instagram @yepilikeit.