What is love bombing? Experts explain signs of ‘manipulative’ relationship tactic and what to do about it
The Crown Prosecution Service has issued guidance on the relationship trait amid concerns about abusive partners
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Love is one of the most powerful feelings in the world, and the desire to love and be loved unites us all. Feeling love from another human being can make us feel extremely happy and special, but there are times when that feeling may not be all it seems. Sometimes, people are the victims of love bombing, a manipulative relationship tactic which is not always obvious but could be a warning sign of an unhealthy and even harmful connection.
It’s become commonly associated with romantic relationships, but it can also occur between family members and friends also. The Crown Prosecution Service has also just added the tactic to a list of things that people may do to control their victims and weaken a criminal prosecution.
So, it’s important for everyone to be aware of the true meaning of love bombing, the signs of it and know what to do if they think they are on the receiving end of it. That’s why NationalWorld has spoken to three experts to get answers to all of these questions so you have all the information you need.
What is love bombing?
Love bombing is a manipulative tactic used by some people, often in romantic relationships, to gain control over their partner, according to relationship psychotherapist Dipti Tait. She explained to NationalWorld it involves showering the other person with affection, gifts, attention, and compliments - but in an “overwhelming and intense way”. She added: “This can make the recipient feel loved, special, and wanted, but it can also be a red flag for the beginnings of an unhealthy co-dependency and potentially dangerous relationship.”
Alex Mellor Brook, an internationally certified matchmaker and relationship coach, told NationalWorld that he believes the best example of love bombing is the romantic comedy genre. “It’s an aspect of love at first sight, which we know is nowhere near as common as Hollywood pretends,” he said, so if you’ve just met someone and they are making you feel as though your romance could be a film script it may not be the best thing.
Mellor Brook, who is also a dating expert at dating agency Select Personal Introductions, added that if a person you are dating immediately declares you’re ‘the one’ and inundates you with gifts, affection and messages - it makes it difficult to step back and realise what’s going on because it seems like such a lovely thing to do on the surface.
He explained: “It’s a common behaviour in those who are insecure and narcissistic, but that it’s insidious because all the behaviours they use look fantastic - until the mask slips.” He said that when a person then naturally starts to show that you have other interests, and spend time with other people the love bomber will turn on their love interest, saying they’re selfish, uncaring and that the relationship is all one-sided, even though this is not true.
What are the signs of love bombing?
Serena Novelli, certified intimacy, love and relationship expert, told NationalWorld there are usually four stages or cycles that a love bomber follows. They begin with showering gifts and expressing love during the first stage and this will then be followed by a stage where affection is withheld and instead they may become aggressive, manipulative and even aggressive, and could even begin gaslighting a person.
The third stage is where they disregard the relationship altogether, possibly disappearing for some time or calling things off. This will lead to a feeling of shock for their love interest as it wasn’t long ago that they were declaring their unconditional love for them. The fourth stage is where they then reconnect and start back at stage one again.
There are five main signs of love bombing to look out for, according to Tait.
- Intense flattery and compliments
The love bomber will shower you with compliments and flattery, often telling you how amazing, beautiful, or talented you are, and how lucky they are to have you in their life.
Rapidly escalating the relationship
The love bomber may push for the relationship to move quickly, declaring their love and commitment early on, and wanting to spend all their time with you.
Excessive gifts and gestures
The love bomber may shower you with gifts, surprise visits, and romantic gestures, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and indebted to them.
Isolation from friends and family
The love bomber may try to isolate you from your friends and family, either by criticising them or making it difficult for you to see them. They may also try to monopolise your time and attention.
Control and manipulation
The love bomber may try to control your thoughts, feelings, and actions, manipulating you into doing what they want by using guilt, fear, or shame.
What should you do if you think you’re being love bombed?
If you suspect you are being love bombed, it is important to take action to protect yourself from this. Here are some steps you can take, according to the experts.
Tait and Mellor-Brook explain what to do if you think you are a victim of love bombing.
Slow things down
If you feel like the relationship is moving too quickly, you should take a step back and slow things down, advise Tait and Mellor-Brook. It is important to take time to get to know someone properly before committing to a relationship with them and becoming too emotionally invested.
Talk to someone
If there are things in the relationship which make you feel uncomfortable or unsure, talk to a trusted friend or family member about your concerns. They may be able to provide a different perspective, confirm what you are experiencing and support you as you manage the situation, say Tait and Mellor-Brook.
Trust your instincts
One of the most important things is to trust your instincts. If something feels off or not quite right in your relationship then take action. Tait says you should always remember that you do not owe anyone your time, attention, or affection. Mellor-Brook adds: “If something feels too good to be true, it probably is. Your instincts are there to protect you, so don’t ignore them or any red flags you may notice.”
Set clear boundaries
Be clear about your boundaries and stick to them, suggests Mellor-Brook. Let the other person know what you are comfortable with and what you are not, and if they do not respect this it may be a sign that they aren’t genuinely interested in the relationship.
Consider ending the relationship
Always remember that you deserve to be in a healthy relationship that offers mutual respect and trust, says Mellor-Brook. If your partner is not giving you this and showing signs of love bombing then you need to end the relationship.
Seek professional help
If you are experiencing emotional or physical abuse, Tait says that you should seek professional help immediately. You can call the Samaritans on 116 123 or the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 for free and confidential advice. If it is safe to do so, you can download the free Bright Sky mobile app which is for anyone experiencing domestic abuse, or who is worried about someone else. If you are in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police. If you can’t speak and are calling on a mobile press 55 to have your call transferred to the police.
What has the Crown Prosecution Service said about love bombing?
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has published guidance on love bombing, stating that there are concerns it may be used by abusive partners as a way to control, confuse and upset their victim.
The CPS issued the guidance on Monday 24 April which urged lawyers to "closely scrutinise" the actions of people who are suspected of manipulating their partners to manipulate them. The guidance mentions love bombing specifically as a tactic which may be used to gain control over them.
Other tactics which may be used by the suspect which have been listed in the guidance are disrupting an investigation into their behaviour, accusing the victim of nagging them, exploiting the victim's vulnerability or altering their behaviour to present differently to others. The guidance also gives prosecutors help on how to identify these tactics, and also tips on how to speak to the victim to discover how these things have impacted them.