Unmasking Love Bombing: Recognizing the Early Signs of Emotional Manipulation
Updated: Oct 18
What is emotional abuse
Emotional abuse is one of the most common coercive behaviours in an abusive relationship. It can be difficult to identify because, often, these behaviours are masked by other positive actions by the perpetrators.
While physical, verbal and financial abuse are recognisable because of their tangible aspect, emotional and psychological abuse often fall mistakenly into the category of a ‘’difficult relationship’’ or ‘’difficult personality’’.
What the law says about love-bombing
Section 76 Serious Crime Act 2015, focused on creating the offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship, which shaped a better tangible idea of emotional abuse.
In April 2023, the Crown Prosecution Service announced how ‘’love-bombing’’ and other manipulative behaviours were considered when charging controlling offences.
This is a step forward towards making emotional offences more tangible, in fact, if there is a label for that particular behaviour, it means recognising its existence and taking a step towards ensuring it is challenged and punished accordingly.
As explained by the CPS, an abuser will take several steps to minimise the likelihood of detention, punishment and general consequences that could negatively impact his/her behaviour.
Therefore, their action-consequences will often be balanced out by what they appear to be loving acts. One example could be physical abuse followed by a gift or offering very early in the relationship to cover costs such as a car or a new mobile phone.
How to recognise love-bombing
Recognising and making a distinction between an abusive relationship where love-bombing is present as part of emotional abuse, and a healthy relationship where two people are simply in disagreement over certain aspect of their affection is challenging but not impossible:
Love bombing appears in the very early stages of the relationship, examples of it can be: receiving expensing gifts, being showered in compliments or praise and receiving exaggerated declarations of love. It can also be pressuring someone into a commitment with the promise of an idyllic life together and an unbreakable bond.
The above-mentioned tactics often allow the victim to fall quickly into a relationship that they believe to be safe, this allows the abuser to gain more control as the victim feels there is always space for love or reconciliation.
A perpetrator will use tactics such as isolating the victim from friends and family with the excuse of protecting their relationship and preserving their unbreakable bond.
Often an abuser will convince the victim that they cannot find a better partner or relationship. This is a myth that needs to be demystified: no one ever deserves to be in an abusive relationship and it is always useful to keep in mind that everyone is able to rebuild their life and relationships in the future.
What to do if someone is a victim of love-bombing
Slow down the relationship: if the victim feels the relationship is developing too fast, it can be slowed down, asking questions to understand whether the pace of the relationship makes someone comfortable can also help to prevent being a victim of coercive control behaviours.
Putting the relationship into perspective: again, inviting the victim to reflect on what they share in common with their partners, for example, if there are common interests or activities. Invite the victim to reflect on how comfortable they are texting every day or sharing personal information such as phone passwords and social media accounts. What is their reaction when you propose to make different plans?
Speak out with family and friends: let the victim know that their concerns and doubts are serious and believed. Invite them to share as much as they feel comfortable and let them know you are present for them should they need help.
Counselling: Seeking the help of experts can strengthen the willingness to overcome abusive tactics and can help further the victim’s understanding of how love-bombing works as a coercive controlling behaviour.
Recognising and comprehending coercive control and emotional abuse in relationships is pivotal in addressing domestic violence, this also requires a multifaceted approach that combines awareness, empowerment, support and transformation.
It is not only about acknowledging the existence of these destructive behaviours but also equipping victims, survivors and society as a whole with the essential knowledge ad tools to break free from the devastating grip of love-bombing and emotional abuse.
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