Everything you need to know about love bombing
In the beginning, it all seems perfect. They are everything you have been dreaming of. Kind, attentive, generous. They shower you with compliments and gifts, check in all the time, because they need to know you are safe and want to spend every moment with you.
You have this bizarre connection, you like the same things, you have the same background, values, dreams and ambitions. It’s scary how similar you are.
Within two weeks, they tell you they love you, cannot live without you, and it’s you and them against the world…together forever.
But is it a genuine display of emotion, a love at first sight moment, or are you experiencing love bombing? Displays of love in a relationship make us feel safe and secure, but unfortunately, they can also become the perfect manipulation tactic in the hands of narcissists, abusers or con-people. And the term given to this behaviour is love bombing.
What is love bombing?
Love bombing is a manipulative tactic used by narcissistic and abusive individuals to quickly obtain the affection and attention of someone by presenting an idealised version of themselves.
It can manifest in different forms of behaviour, including repeated and intense demonstrations of attention, affection, gifts and compliments; mirroring who you are, your likes and dislikes, values and dreams, quickly wanting to commit and always needing to know where you are.
At first, the attention can understandably feel great – that’s the whole point of it – but the behaviour is manipulative and driven by a need for control, so over time, it can begin to feel overwhelming and suffocating.
Early in the relationship, it is often used to pressure you into some form of commitment quickly, increasing the level of control they have over you. This fast acceleration of the relationship breaks down emotional barriers, rapidly building trust and dependence, as they slowly take control of areas of your life, often under the guise of ‘helping’ you.
Love bombing can also continue throughout a relationship, and the perpetrator may revert back to it after an incident of abuse, to try and ‘make up for it’, confusing the victim further and stopping them from seeking help.
What are the signs of love bombing?
Love bombing will not always look the same in every situation and can take many forms, but there are key red flags to look for, including:
- Constant complements, affection and gifts
- Mirroring what you say, your likes, dislikes, past and future dreams
- Texting, calling and messaging all day
- Always wanting to know where you are and who with
- Wanting to spend all their time with you
- Making you feel guilty for making plans with others
- Offering to help – for example, with financial difficulties
- Quickly wanting to commit and talk of a future together – saying you are their soul mate
- Share intense feelings of connection and love
If you spot these signs in your own or a family member / friend’s relationship, it’s important to seek help from someone you trust, or get support from a domestic abuse charity. You’ll find some useful contact details at the end of this article.
Why is love bombing dangerous?
A form of emotional abuse, narcissistic and abusive individuals commonly use love bombing. By presenting an idealised version of themselves as a partner, they quickly obtain the affection and attention of the person they are pursuing.
However, once they feel they have won over that person and are secure in the relationship, the mask will slip and they switch into the difficult, abusive and manipulative person they are – revealing their true colours.
For the other person, this once adoring partner starts to devalue and abuse them. They may hurl insults, gaslight them to make them feel confused, and question their instincts, dismiss them and disregard their feelings.
Or they may withdraw through stonewalling (silent treatment) and even end the relationship, knowing they can come back and the cycle of abuse will continue.
By then, though, the targeted person is often hooked on the love bomber, and it is normal for people to feel a strong attachment. Many survivors of love bombing talk about how they thought their partner was the first person to ‘get them’, who truly saw them for who they are. The relationship, however controlling, provided the acceptance and validation they have always craved.
In many abusive relationships, love bombing is not just isolated to the beginning. It can often show up after explosive arguments, abusive incidents, or attempts to leave the relationship to hoover the survivor back in.
And the impact is devastating and far-reaching. Love bombing is a form of coercive and controlling behaviour that frequently interlinks with other forms of domestic abuse, such as physical violence, sexual violence, emotional, economic and technology-facilitated abuse.
How is love bombing different to falling in love?
People fall in love quickly, and not all grand displays of affection are love bombing, so how do you tell the difference? Trust your instinct in those early days – if it is a genuine connection, you are more likely to feel positive and receptive to it, whereas love bombing is very intense and can make you feel uncomfortable.
It also violates your boundaries and your needs, making people feel excessive guilt or unsafe. If you feel these emotions, question them and think with your brain, heart and gut, about the behaviours in the relationship. If it feels too good to be true, it usually is, so be curious of those early red flags and don’t dismiss them.
What can you do if you think you are being love bombed?
If you have identified with some red flags in this article, are worried about your partner and their behaviour, or your instinct is telling you things are not ‘right’ it can help question the relationship and how it makes you feel.
- How do you feel about the pace of the relationship? Is it moving too fast for you?
- Are you comfortable with the volume of communication (messages/calls) between you?
- How do they react if you make plans with other people?
- How do they react if they cannot contact you straight away?
- Do your shared interests and values seem genuine on their part?
- How do they speak about previous partners and relationships?
This list is not exhaustive, but can be a good place to start. It can also help to write things down, so you can see all your responses in one place, and then take time to read over and consider things further.
If you are concerned, it is important to remember you are not alone, and there is help and support available.
Get advice and support
Love bombing and domestic abuse can happen to anyone, and it is never your fault. You cannot change an abuser; they are responsible for their own behaviour.
If you are in an abusive situation or unsure if your situation is abusive, there are specialist domestic abuse services here to support you.
If you are in immediate danger, contact the police immediately on 999.
Or you access support at the following:
National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
Mankind Initiative support for male victims – 01823 334244
The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
Galop, National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
Respect information for people worried their own behaviour is abusive – 0808 8024040
NSPCC confidential advice if you are worried about a child – 0808 800 5000
Refuge National Domestic Abuse – 0808 2000 247
Samaritans Helpline: 116 123
You can find out about local support and up-to-date information about domestic abuse support services across the UK at the Women’s Aid directory