On special occasions like Valentine’s Day or anniversaries, abusers can shower their partners with overt shows of affection as another chance to use coercive control. This is known as love bombing, the abuser’s romantic words and actions are soon replaced with intimidating behaviour and other forms of abuse.
What is love bombing?
Love bombing is where an abusive partner is bombarding ‘love’ onto their victim and is part of emotional abuse and coercive control. It could include excessive affection, excessive compliments, declarations of love, gifts and praise. It may also be wanting to move quickly into a commitment because they ‘can’t live without you’, showering of gifts or lavish treatment, and promises of a perfect life together.
Love bombing can be part of early signs of abuse in a relationship. It can also be used in the ‘buy back’ phase of the abuse cycle, especially after an incident of abuse.
— Blog author —
Love bombing becomes an effective tool for abusers, as they exert coercive control over a partner. This quick acceleration of romance can disarm any barriers that the victim/survivor may have built up. It increases confusion and feeds a sense of hope in the mind of victims/survivors, as it ‘promises’ a future with them that she could enjoy.
This strategic affection and declarations of love are often shown at the very beginning of the relationship or when the abuser feels they are losing their control, that the victim/survivor may be wanting to flee or to make up for an abusive incident.
Identifying love bombing and coercive control
An abusive person is rarely abusive at the beginning of a relationship, as very few women will get involved with someone who is abusive from the very start. In this way, some abusers need to charm their victim in order to ensnare them. There has to be a hook. Healthy excitement at a new potential partner is good. However, here are some warning signs of an abusive relationship that you can look out for:
- Fast relationship progression –the abuser can be intense and seek early and premature commitment
- Constant affection and gifts
- Speaking very soon about relationships, soul mates, marriage, moving in together.
- Jealousy or always wanting to be with you or in contact with you.
- Lots of compliments but little real conversation or listening
- They get upset when you put boundaries in place.
- They get annoyed when you have other plans or get the ‘hump’
- Trying to “take over” the woman’s life, for example by offering to solve her accommodation, child or work-related problems
- Try to disable women through the support that they offer, stepping into the decision-making process and encouraging reliance on him/her very early on
These gradual attempts to isolate women and gain control over them by using charm and jealousy/possession disguised as care sets the picture for an abuser to begin using behaviours in order to keep the woman under their control.
How it feels to experience love bombing
Although everyone’s experience of abuse in a relationship is unique, here are some of the common effects of love-bombing.
- It breaks down a victim/survivor’s walls and makes her invest in the abuser as he is ‘too good to be true’. She is flattered into love.
- We often hear women saying it all felt ‘too good to be true’ and use terms like ‘he seemed perfect at the beginning’, ‘I was the apple of his eye at the start’ or ‘he was the dream man’.
- It keeps the victim/survivor hopeful when it all goes bad (the reconciliation part of the abuse cycle).
- It can give victims/survivors false hope of a real loving relationship and an incentive to stay with the abuser.
- It sometimes makes victims/survivors feel guilty to leave as they owe the abuser another chance due to kind behaviour.
- It gives the abuser something to look back on, ‘we started too well, let’s get back to that’, which is called ‘retrospective trauma bonding’.
- It can leave victims /survivors feeling confused, isolated and exhausted
If you have concerns about your relationship, are feeling uncomfortable or are worried about some of the ‘red flags’, remember you are not alone and there is support available to talk things through and you can get it if you need to.
— Blog author —
Listen to yourself and ask yourself some questions about your relationship – if things feel ‘off’ then try talking about it with someone you trust or
- How does the pace of the relationship progression make you feel?
- Do you like texting/speaking to them all the time?
- Ask yourself questions about genuine connection, shared interests.
- It’s ok to want to be loved because it feels good, but love bombing isn’t obvious. We often do not see the signs as our abusers don’t want us to.
- What have they been like when you’ve made plans with others?
Everyone has the right to feel safe and comfortable in their relationship. If you want to get some advice and help please contact 24hr National Domestic Violence Helpline - 0808 2000 247