What is 'Love Bombing' and how to recognise the signs?

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What is ‘Love Bombing’ and how to recognise the signs?

‘Love Bombing’ is a form of psychological and emotional abuse that is disguised as excessive flattery. The criminal courts have extended the definition of controlling behavior, which is a criminal offence, to include love bombing. This means it will be taken seriously.

Love is a complicated thing, and it takes time to build. When it comes to love bombing at the beginning of a romantic relationship, it is intense, fast-moving, and as the term suggests; like a bomb of ‘love’ entering your life at once. If it feels too good to be true, this is often an indication that there is something going on. No matter how good it may feel, it is important to trust that gut feeling you may have.

Isn’t it nice to be loved?

Genuine love allows a person space and time to build a relationship and respects boundaries. Love bombing isn’t real love, it is often the first sign of an abusive relationship. 

The ‘love bombers’ main aims are;

  • To get you to fall in love with them 

They want you to be head over heels in love with them, as the sooner you are the sooner they are able to gain control over you and the patterns of abusive and toxic behavior begin. Nobody ends up in an abusive relationship with someone who showed those signs from the beginning, the abuser wears a mask consisting of flattery, false love and a mirror of everything they believe will make you fall in love – as soon as possible.

  • To make you believe that they love you

As well as making you fall in love with them, they also want you to believe that they love you, that they are a good person, that their intentions are genuine. This creates a very negative cycle for the victim and causes them to stay in the relationship and stick through the abuse, often with the hope that the person will go back to being who they met at the beginning.

This will never be the case, as this wasn’t really them. There may be glimpses of this person throughout the relationship, but this is used to make the victim stay in the relationship and to enhance the control they have over them. 

Love bombing signs

When you are in the cycle of love bombing, it can be hard to see it as a negative. Here are some common signs to look out for in your own relationships or in family or friend’s relationships.

  1. They rush the relationship.

People who 'love bomb' tend to move very quickly.

  • Early declarations of love (you’ve just met)
  • Claims of being soulmates (“when you know, you know”)
  • Idea of commitment comes early on (“why wait?”)
  • Want to introduce you to family early on and/or meet yours
  • Talks about the future very early on (moving in, getting engaged, having kids etc)

Before you know it, you may be in a very serious relationship with someone you don’t truly know.

Every relationship moves at different paces, and some can move quickly, however with love bombing it is alarmingly quick and there is a real dismissal of your boundaries. Ask yourself “does this person know me enough to feel like this?”

  1. Intense declarations of ‘love’

Examples include:

  • Shower you with gifts/promise future gifts – this can make you feel guilty and that you have to stay with them because of all they have done for you/given you. 
  • Intense and frequent compliments – putting you on a pedestal.
  • Excessive flattery and praise.
  • Early, intense conversations about your future together.
  • Public display of affection early on – posting you on their social media or asking you to do so.
  1. Want to be with you all the time.

The 'love bomber' will want to be with you (or at least in contact with you) at all times. 

  • Very needy and want to be around you all the time.
  • Inviting themselves along to things you are doing (or manipulating you to invite them).
  • If they are not with you physically, they will often be in frequent contact (constant messages, phone calls to check-in).
  • Turning up (disguised as romantic or caring) to workplace, outing with friends etc.

Over time, as the relationship builds, this often turns into jealousy, anger and being demanding of your time. For example, they may start to make you feel guilty or become annoyed if you don’t answer their phone calls or messages straight away.

This also turns into you slowly becoming isolated from those around you. This may be more covert such as planning a special date on a night you were supposed to be seeing friends and making you feel guilty if you don’t go on the date. 

  1. Presenting themselves as a victim

The 'love bomber' often makes you feel sorry for them very early on and may share very personal information about their life at very early stages of the relationship. This is to force intimacy, closeness and connection.

  • Sharing deep childhood traumas when you’ve only met a few times.
  • Stories about ex partners (eg: they cheated on me, they abused me etc).

Of course, the above can also happen in normal healthy relationships, but if it is happening along with the other signs of love bombing, it is often used to further manipulate and exert control over you. If you see them as a victim, they are able to gaslight you into believing that they don’t mean to abuse you;

  • “I just get jealous because my ex-partner cheated on me.”
  • “I don’t mean to be like this, I think I just have issues from my childhood.”
  • “I’m a good person, I just have had a lot happen in my life.”
  • “I don’t mean to get angry and shout at you, it’s just how I cope.”
  1. Mirroring

You may feel that this person is your person and that it is “meant to be”, they are everything you have been looking for. It is important to know that often the person love bombing will be ‘mirroring’ you and what you are looking for. They often ask lots of questions in the early stages to really get to know you and what you want so that they can mirror this back to you. 

  • Mirroring you – they may appear to like similar things to you, have similar values as you, want the same future as you, agree on the strong opinions you have. 
  • Mirroring what you want – if you have expressed you would like a partner who compliments you often, they will do just that in excess. If you have said you would like someone who is career driven, they will do all they can to show you that this is them, even if it isn’t who they truly are.

How to know if its love bombing?

Although all the signs above may apply, you still may be doubting if this person is love bombing you or if it is just genuine affection. If you are in this position, we would advise setting a healthy, normal boundary and see how the person reacts.

Let’s say you tell the person that you feel uncomfortable with the number of gifts they are sending you.

Do they;

A) Respond with anger, become defensive or make you feel guilty or ungrateful.

B) Seem to take what you are saying on board and fake respect for your boundary but continue to send you gifts anyway (“I couldn’t help myself, I just wanted to treat you.”)

Both of these are red flags and clear indicators that this person is love bombing you. In a normal, healthy relationship dynamic the person will take your feedback, respect it and change their behavior moving forward.

So, what happens next?

The period of time that this stage lasts ultimately depends on how quickly they can manipulate you. As soon as they feel you are reeled in, the bigger red flags begin to appear.

  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Gaslighting
  • Anger
  • Constant arguments
  • Jealousy
  • Fear and intimidation
  • Threats to leave the relationship
  • In some cases, physical abuse

This may not happen all at once, but overtime you will start to realise that you aren’t in a healthy relationship and may even come to the conclusion it is abusive. However, at this point, the love you feel for them makes it very difficult to leave.

Because of the fast-moving relationship, you may also feel dependent on them in various ways (living together, financially dependent, have a child together etc).

Is this relevant if nobody listens?

Recent guidance in the criminal courts, (which means the family court is likely to follow the same guidance), has extended the definition of controlling behavior, which is a criminal offence, to include love bombing. This means that it will be taken seriously.

Any form of controlling or coercive behavior can become dangerous for the person on the receiving end. What may start as “minor red flags” can often escalate quickly and beyond control. Doing nothing and hoping that the behavior simply passes is not the best option.

But what can I do?

Being in a controlling relationship can be scary, and it can be even more frightening to leave it. Domestic Abuse organizations/charities will be able to help you make a plan to leave and provide you with support in respect of your options.

It is important to not blame yourself for the abuse or feel embarrassed that you fell for this person. This behavior is becoming increasingly more common, and it is in no way your fault.

If you recognize signs of love bombing in your own relationship or the relationship of a friend/relative, then you may initially make an application under Clare’s Law. This enables you to see disclosure about the other person and find out whether allegations of domestic abuse have previously been made to the police about them.

You can inform the police and make a statement. Police investigations can take time but there are various orders or conditions that the police can consider.

Our family law team can help you and discuss all options to include making an application for a Non-Molestation Order. This is an injunction the Family Court can make to protect you from future behavior. A Non-Molestation Order often prohibits the other person from coming to your home and contacting you, even by social media. A Non-Molestation Order is given to the police and logged by them, as it is a criminal offence to breach it. The Order can also be enforced in the Family Court if appropriate.

If you are unsure of what to do next, click here to contact one of our experienced, friendly team of Family Lawyers across Wiltshire to book your free initial consultation.

If you have been affected by any of the above, you can find out more information on getting help, support and advise here: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/getting-help-for-domestic-violence/ 


Cindy Ervine

Partner and Head of Family Law

Contact a member of the team  

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