It was a November that was getting colder by the day. It was my first date (of the week). He suggested we go for coffee, and then catch up with his best friend and her boyfriend. Red flag number 1: First date and he’s introducing me to his best friend? I was very new to the dating scene, didn’t think much of it, and just went. It was a great date. We didn’t feel like we’re meeting for the first time. Red flag number 2: no one’s ‘staring into your eyes comfortable’ on the first date.

Suddenly, we were exclusive — a decision he made — and I went along with. We were hanging out with his couple friends, we never met any of mine. I was being told how I “light up” his life. He wanted to go for road trips too. I hung out when he could, I spoke to him when he could. Red flag number 3: He wanted to continue being on dating apps while we were “exclusive” because hey, it’s the same as meeting new people on social media. Yeah… no, it’s not. So naturally, when I pointed out what didn’t work, suddenly I wasn’t the light bulb of his life. I was the person who was expecting too much, and maybe it’s better if we call it off. I still don’t know what “it” was. I wasn’t even interested in an “it”

I had been love bombed. Love bombing isn’t a loosely thrown around dating term coined during the age of dating apps, it’s a psychologically established form of emotional abuse. Love bombing is the practice of overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction right in the beginning of a connection itself. A love bomber will make you feel like you’re on the top of the world, and a person being love bombed will sometimes feel guilty for not being entirely comfortable with the overshowering of affection, but will go on to reject their own thoughts of discomfort as “cynicism”. And in comparison to what it can be like for those in long-term relationships with love bombers, my experience almost feels inconsequential to me. But it’s not. I just got lucky, and out in time.

I’m not saying every person whispering sweet nothings in your ear is a freak. Of course, there are people we all have met and just clicked with, but eventually grown apart. There have also been partners for whom we’ve genuinely felt like doing romantic gestures, and they’ve done them for us. But love bombers use grand gestures to manipulate and gain a certain control over you. And the worst part about being subjected to this kind of appreciation is that the minute it doesn’t work for them, they will rip you off the same affection they so generously bestowed. The same partner, who wanted to go on a trip during the first week of your connection, suddenly makes you feel like you’re “invading their boundaries.”

So how do I know that what said love bomber did wasn’t genuine romantic gestures but love bombing? And how do I identify the red flag? Well, the first sign is your own discomfort with it that you disguise and go with the flow, because you don’t want someone to feel embarrassed. I just wanted to chill, I didn’t want to become a “thing”. But I kept quiet and stayed. The second is to understand that no matter how introverted or extroverted we are, everyone takes time to warm up. I was speaking to a match recently who sent a bunch of roses to me after one normal coffee date and insisted we “date”. I felt uncomfortable by this unnecessary expression of affection that doesn’t even make sense, and stopped it in its tracks. There, the red flag was spotted, thanks to previous experience

I’m aware that this peaking interest might feel amazing. But here’s the thing: they have to know you a little bit to “love you” like that. So if her taking you on a getaway on the first weekend you’re dating feels rushed to you, you’re right. Because people know people, and none of us are that nice.