DEFINITION OF LOVE BOMBING
Wikipedia says - ‘Love bombing is an attempt to influence a person by demonstrations of attention and affection. It can be used in different ways and for either positive or negative purposes. Members of the Unification Church of the United States (who coined the expression) use it to convey a genuine expression of friendship, fellowship, interest, or concern. Psychologists have identified love bombing as a possible part of a cycle of abuse and have warned against it.’
LOVE BOMBING OF CHILDREN
I admit that when I first came across the term, as the ex wife of an RAF bomber then fighter pilot, other more sinister concepts of bombing kept popping into my head. How pleased I was to subsequently be able to replace such images with much more positive ones. I came to equate it with a Vulcan bomber trip that was not an exercise in preparation for war, rather a charity mission. Our squadron in Cyprus used to support a children’s charity in Tehran, fund raising on their behalf. On one visit to Tehran, the Vulcan returned with its bomb bay packed with brass and copper chafing dishes, coffee jugs, trays made in the area. They were sold amongst military families to raise those necessary funds. Just about everyone we knew had at least one – a peaceful use for the good old Vulcan some years before its swansong of bombing the runway at Stanley down in the Falklands
Let me first of all emphasise that I really do not mean showering children with lots and lots of (often expensive) gifts. There are other words to describe this.
It is a concept that I (in my role as a special needs advisory teacher) shared with parents whose children were experiencing problems – in school and/or at home.
Sarah Ockwell-Smith has written an article in The Huffington Post entitled ‘Why You Should Love Bomb Your Child.’ In this she beings - ‘If you answer "yes" to any of these then there is a very high chance that love bombing is the answer to your problems. It may sound like a hippy hangover from the seventies, but love bombing is actually grounded in solid scientific theory - and it really works.’
She goes on to list some of the problems that mirror those experienced by the children with whom I worked, including a new baby, sibling rivalry, sleep issues, tantrums and a feeling of a poor connection between you as the adult and an older child or teenager. I would also include learning issues, other behavioural problems. The behaviour issues are often as a result of difficulties which they may struggle to explain verbally, especially if they feel that the adult is always too busy to really listen or may be upset by what they say. They may believe that the adult may no longer love them, or would take this stance if they really opened up to them. In fact, if behaviour problems have been a big issue, it can, at times, be difficult for the adult to feel love for a child who may be displaying very negative emotions very loudly. Not an admission many parents feel they can make. The child may be getting the message that whilst in theory they are being listened to, in fact, they are not being heard. It can be a real old melting pot of emotions for both adult and child. So, a good time to completely break that pot and introduce love bombing.
So what happens during adult – child love bombing? Basically, distractions of other siblings, phones, other perceived ‘priorities’ are shut away to allow a focus on re-connecting with the child or strengthening that relationship. Said adult is usually a parent, though a grandparent, other close relative or carer may be ‘the bomber’. Simply put, it is time to get together, doing what is pleasant – hopefully for both parties - and not costing a fortune. Include the child in a chat about what is going to happen – maybe give some options rather than ask what they would like to do as this could lead to options which won’t be conducive to any chatting taking place! A picnic – maybe in a nearby park, or garden area, preferably not one too close to home that may be filled with friends who may want to take your child away to play. Baking, painting at home with masses of paper, aprons, paints for you both to use. A nature based treasure hunt – with a list of things to be found, maybe including things such as a feather, a flower of a specific colour, etc. One child I knew asked if they could pick up litter in their local park – this worked really well as there was an additional layer of achievement built in - once health and safety issues had been discussed. Another asked if they could make biscuits and then sell them for charity. Basically, something that will last for part of, or a whole day. Time to positively reconnect for both parties and for the child to feel that they have had your undivided attention and love.
The feed-back from parents never ceased to surprise me. They so often discovered so much about their offspring that they really didn’t know. Our children really can surprise us in positive ways if we give the space and opportunity for this. It can also lead to a realisation that parental behaviour may be a trigger for the child’s negative behaviour. Something that can be hard to recognise simply by (reluctant) self reflection.
MICRO LOVE BOMBING
This involves re-connecting with a child if you have been away, especially if you had to miss something, such as a concert that your child was in. A Purple House Clinic article gives further details of this and further insight into love bombing for children.
LOVE BOMBING IN ADULTS
For many of us, that first flush of meeting someone who absolutely rings our bell is wonderful. To receive tokens of their affection adds to that ringing. It is a natural ‘courting’ behaviour.
However, there can be times when this goes way over the top – and moves into love bombing as the start of an unbalanced relationship based on control. The negative side of love bombing, of which I had first-hand experience. I met a guy and yes, I liked him and felt that I would like to begin to get to know him. However, following that first meeting, I began to receive over-effusive messages of love and flattery. Being someone who considers that she keeps her feet firmly land based, this made me feel uncomfortable, and I told him this. As there was only an increase in his expressions of love backed up by gifts.Westbrook in a Healthline.com article says “True love does not want all your time and energy focused on them alone.They respect other commitments, ideas, and boundaries.”
I went with my gut instinct and firmly stepped away with a ‘no thank you – but I hope that things work out well for you’. Fortunately, after a couple more exchanges of texts he accepted my ‘no’. Others can frequently be very persistent with their ‘appreciation’! Had I been more susceptible to such flattery or feeling vulnerable, I imagine that I could have been attracted by the behaviour.
I guess it’s back to that often used saying ‘If it appears too good to be true, it usually is.’
WHAT SORT OF PERSON CAN BE TAKEN IN BY LOVE BOMBING?
It can be someone who is vulnerable, who may have been struggling with ill health – physically, mentally or emotionally. They may have just been through a relationship break up or a divorce.
Someone who looks upon what an ideal partner as being out of a fairy tale, one in which they feature as the central character – the princess. Possibly someone who was treated in this way by parents, so it is what they have always been surrounded with.
Someone who lacks self-respect, self-confidence, or a positive self-concept. This usually means that they also don’t show themselves much self-care. The bomber seems to have all of these in spades, so can appear to make up for what is lacking in the object of their manipulations.
Someone who always seems to be a giver. For this to change and for them to receive so much, on one hand may feel rather overwhelming, yet, on the other it can seem like a huge gift suddenly coming their way.
WHY LOVE BOMB?
As Amanda MacMillan’s health.com article says – love bombing is a sneaky form of emotional abuse.
I guess it’s rather akin to our attitude to food. Yes, we all need food It’s down to degree. We can eat a healthy amount of nutritious food - or we can go to the extreme and binge, especially on those things that we can’t resist but usually aren’t really good for us. As for love, we can receive love in the form of words, tokens, actions, behaviour in a way that is reciprocated and therefore balanced. Or that extreme of love bombing which crosses the line to become dangerous - on a par with binge eating.
Of course, there are occasions when one person may actually, genuinely, fall hook line and sinker in love with you and use bombing to express these overwhelming feelings. We have to make a judgement call for what feels right, especially as a love bomber, having got their foot in the door, can go on to develop other forms of abuse within the relationship.
It could be that the love bomber feels inadequate at some level. They could be the one who has been struggling and desperately feels that they need someone to be with them. They proceed to go over the top in order to attract this partner for whom their feelings could well be very real and genuine, or to ‘big themself up’. This can lead to an unhealthy attachment with rejection being poorly accepted.
Then we have the narcissist – I intend to cover this aspect of love bombing in a following blog covering aspects of narcissism. Suffice it to say at this point that it is such bombers who can seek to gain that unhealthy control.
WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE.....
How do you know if you are being love bombed? It basically comes down to how you feel about the interactions between the two of you. It is generally a good idea to take things at a pace that feels right for you, rather than rushing headlong into a relationship. I have to say that this brings memories of conversations with my offspring.
Are you listened to within the relationship, and is communication really two-way or is there a leaning towards a me-me-me monologue on behalf of the bomber? This despite the compliments sent your way. Do these compliments feel warranted (allowing for any insecurities of yours), and genuinely meant? Or are they way OTT?
Unfortunately, there are no relationship rules. We have to rely on previous experiences, and that good old gut feeling. Rather you need to be aware of any changes of behaviour with warning signs flashing if said behaviour veers away from flattery towards manipulation and control, which can include isolating you from family and friends. If you didn’t step away from the relationship before, then now is a good time to do so. Having worked with many clients who have been in similar situations, the sooner you can do this, the better though it could well prove to be a difficult thing to do when you are isolated from your support network. A difficult but essential step to ensure your safety.
Otherwise, if you feel that it is simply a relationship that is moving too quickly for you, then open those lines of communication, explain your feelings and hope for a positive outcome.
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