Yes, You Can Be Love Bombed By A Friend. Here's How To Spot The Signs

"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out," said 20th-century radio journalist, Walter Winchell. Although new seasons of life bring in a shifting cast of characters, true friends are precious as gold. And hanging out with friends is more than just good for your soul, it legitimately boosts your health. For any of us with a difficult family or romantic ups and downs, friends are our chosen family. This makes it all the more surprising that it's possible to get love bombed — by a friend.

You've probably heard of the romantic love bombing that can happen when two people are dating. It's the exact same dynamic between friends, minus the sex. You meet someone relentlessly charming, they ravish you with compliments, always spring for dinner, surprise you with over-extravagant gifts, and hustle you around town like a shiny new toy.

At first, you feel flattered by the attention. Yet something inside you questions their motives or you may feel like you owe them something. But you bypass this because friendships often move more quickly than a developing romance. If it turns out to be love bombing, know that it's a form of emotional abuse that initially makes you feel important but then quickly disintegrates. Here are the signs you need to watch out for.

Love bombing red flags, friend edition

The reason love bombing is considered a form of abuse is that after the so-called 'honeymoon' period of constant esteem-boosting attention, your friend's agenda is to assert control over you and the relationship. Psychologist Alaina Tiani, Ph.D. shared with the Cleveland Clinic that "Over time, those grand gestures are an effort to manipulate you and make you feel indebted."

Some significant red flags include you feeling overwhelmed at being rushed into the friendship, feeling like you've been forced to become dependent on them, and pressured to think or speak a certain way. After the period of elaborate (and inappropriate) gift-giving, your friend might use those gifts as a manipulative tool to get you to only hang out with them, they may need constant praise from you, and they may continue to be charming when you're out in public yet accuse you of being unsupportive in private.

It's as if they can't trust the normal pace of building a relationship. Instead, they squeeze regular friendship-building dynamics into a forced process and use expensive lures to ensure they hang onto you. They might see themselves as some sort of special authority and expect your devotion. They may want to isolate you, and if you assert yourself, you'll get reprimanded.

How to move forward

One of the most loving things we can do in all our relationships, including the healthiest ones, is stand up for ourselves and set boundaries. For some, this can be challenging. It can be easier to create boundaries in a work environment because the lines are more clearly defined, but when you share intimate life stories with a friend with whom you've established trust, it's a little harder to say no to disempowering behavior.

But telling someone they've crossed a line or having a heart-to-heart talk to let them know how their behavior is affecting you is the perfect test for a love bomber. If they get angry or threatening, they'll probably move on to someone else and the friendship will dissolve. It's normal to feel confused — after all, you liked this person. But when a conflict arises between two stable people, your friend will likely respect your boundaries and make an effort to change.

Although love bombing can initially be experienced as the real thing, trust your gut. If you're feeling twinges of doubt, honor that. A real friend won't manipulate you. Although not all love bombers have full-blown narcissistic personality disorder, they engage in narcissistic behavior. If you need to untangle your conflicting responses or feel unsafe, reach out for short-term therapeutic support as a form of self-care. One takeaway — we must get into the radical habit of re-evaluating our friendships as we grow and evolve.