Are you in a relationship with a narcissist? If so, you might have experienced the phenomenon known as “love bombing,” which is yet another form of manipulation that a narcissist uses to reel in their victims.
What is love bombing?
Love bombing is also called idealization. The Urban Dictionary defines a love bomber as “a person who is full of love and always ready to express their love for somebody.” But when there’s a narcissist involved, it turns into a whole other ball of wax. For them, love bombing is one phase of the narcissist’s typical abuse cycle. Love bombing usually happens during the initial stages of a relationship with a narcissist. Officially, “love bombing” is a perception of the narcissist in which they attribute exaggeratedly positive qualities to themselves and, in this case, specifically to the person with whom they’re in a relationship. Since love bombing/idealization is part of the narcissistic abuse cycle, it can happen intermittently throughout the relationship as part of the intermittent reinforcement pattern narcissists use to keep their victims hooked.
Why does love bombing work so well?
We all know how predictable a narcissist can be. And in the early stages of a relationship (or even during a “renewal” period in a long-term relationship, in which he reactivates the love bomb), you can rest assured that certain things will happen, with almost any love-bombing narcissist.
Kim Saeed says it’s because love is the one thing we all really want and need.
“Love is the most sought-after human need,” Saeed writes. “So, when a target receives an overwhelming amount of love and acceptance, it’s very hard to analyze the reasons ‘why’ for fear of losing what they’ve desperately been longing for.”
She adds that after a while, “the target becomes blindly dependent on their abuser; all while being hammered into submission.”
I can relate to that one. How about you?
Melanie Tonia Evans, a well-known narcissism expert, says that the narcissist engages in love bombing for a very specific reason: they are in desperate need of narcissistic supply.
“You must understand that the narcissistic emotional ‘love’ model is not the normal human one we know,” Evans writes. “Narcissists are insatiably needy. We know there are ‘needy’ people in the world – but the normal human version of ‘needy’ bears very little resemblance to a narcissist’s neediness.”
Healthy vs. Narcissistic Relationship Development
In a normal relationship, you grow closer over a number of months or years. But when it comes to a narcissist, one of the biggest red flags early in a relationship is his blatant desire to move quickly.
The narcissist will start off by rushing into it. He will idealize you and make you feel like he’s the part of you that’s been missing all of your life. You’ll be all, “OMG, love at first sight!”
Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure there are some totally legit “love at first sight” stories. But in general, if this happens, you’d do best to take a step back and reevaluate.
What Does Love Bombing Look Like?
Love Bombing Feels Too Good to Be True (Because It Is!)
At first, it’ll all seem too good to be true. You’ll spend hours talking, and maybe you’ll get sweet little texts all day long. The narcissist will “like” every Facebook status you post, and maybe even comment on them all about how amazing/smart/beautiful, etc. you are.
The Narcissist Will Compare You to Exes
They will tell you how toxic the ex was and how crazy, and how by the end of it, they basically hated them. They will also sometimes tell you that “the ex left” because of cheating or some other reason, but often, they blatantly lie because, let’s face it, it works. Of course, they are also well-known to project their own mistakes onto their exes,
They will compare you to their exes, who are of course so crazy/unpredictable/whore-ish – or whatever other negative descriptors the narcissist chooses to apply to them.
The Narcissist Gives You a Sob Story
Most narcissists will have a terrible sob story to tell you about their exes, their parents, or some other person who has victimized them in their life. When you hear all of this, you start to feel sorry for them, and without even realizing it, you may just vow to yourself that you’re going to become The Perfect Mate and make sure the poor thing doesn’t go through all of that ever again. You feel protective of them. See, as empaths, we’re caregivers. It’s in our nature to want to take care of and fix people and their problems. Especially when we’re in love with them.
In reality, both comparing you to their ex and spilling all their sob stories have a purpose: the narcissist is actually conditioning you to be the person they want. In other words, they are telling you things they disliked (or making up stories) about their exes or others in their lives in order to get you to become the person they want you to be.
The Narcissist Idealizes You
They will say that you’re the best person they’ve ever met. They will lavish attention on you and put you on such a high pedestal that you’ll begin to wonder where they’ve been all your life.
The Narcissist Pretends to Be the Perfect Person for You
You’ll think “maybe this is my soulmate!” The narcissist, of course, will take full advantage of such assumptions. They will say all the right things, and it’ll just feel like you truly know them within days or weeks. You’ll feel like they understand you like no one else ever has, and no matter how smart you are, you’ll fall for it all – hook, line, and sinker.
The Narcissist Wants All of Your Time and Energy
They won’t be able to spend enough time with you. Very early on, they will try to spend every spare moment with you. It’ll feel really good, especially if, like many survivors, you were raised in a toxic family and felt unseen or unloved. The narcissist might even go so far as to take off work in order to spend more time with you – and at first, it all seems so perfect. It won’t be until later that you realize you’re actually pushing others away from you and not doing the things you love in order to give them all of yourself and your time.
The Narcissist Might Overwhelm You With Gifts & Favors
They will act like they want to give you the world. They’ll do anything you ask – at least for a while, and you’ll think they’re the best person you’ve ever met. They’ll do little things for you – like help you with projects around the house, open doors for you, or cook you fancy dinners. They might do your laundry or paint your bathroom – anything to prove to you that they’re worth keeping around. You might even get overwhelmed with gifts (which, of course, as you’ll soon find out, always have strings attached).
The Narcissist Mirrors You
All of this will lead to the inevitable next step – the narcissist starts mirroring you; that is, they will start “reflecting back to you” exactly what you really want to hear. They’ll say and do all of the right things. This is where they have figured out exactly what you want and they up the ante – they start to become your ideal mate.
This is because, by becoming your ideal person, the narcissist gains a tiny bit of control over you. See, they can only gain control if they have your full attention – and they know the best way to get it.
The Narcissist Feigns Connection
At this point, the narcissist needs to ensure that you’re fully connected so that you won’t want to leave. So, they will tell you that somehow, you’re the first person they’ve ever come along who “just gets them.” They’ll say that you understand them like no one ever could, and they will wonder how they ever got along without you.
They might even ask, “Where have you been all my life?” And once again, you might find yourself wondering the same thing. About now, you’re really feeling like this is your soulmate.
The Soulmate Con is On
“Oh my god, I’ve never felt like this before!”
Narcissists play on our insecurities, and they tend to be rather attracted to empaths (mostly because they’re easy targets as they tend to be very in touch with others’ emotions – the narcissist uses this to their advantage).
In many cases, they use our deepest fears against us, including and especially the fear of being alone. In love bombing, this takes a whole other turn – they go the other direction and make you feel loved, needed, and protected.
One common way they do this is to tell you that they feel like you’re their soulmate. You fall for it because we all want to believe that our perfect One is out there, and the narcissist knows this and uses it against us.
How can love bombing be an indicator of a toxic relationship?
So, here’s the thing. If you’re currently in the love-bombing phase, it’s unlikely that you’re actually reading this article right now. That’s because, during the “bombing” period, you’re going to feel absolutely amazing.
You’ll reason that this must be the person you’ve been waiting your whole life to meet. You’ll feel that this relationship is special, different – and yes, you’ll be certain that they’re your soulmate.
When you’re in that place, you have no reason to go around researching stuff like this. But it doesn’t stay this way, at least not for long.
The Devalue and Discard Phases Come Next
Most likely, though, you’re here because you want to know what happened to the person you fell in love with. You feel like they’ve changed so drastically, and you want to know what you’ve done wrong. This is probably because the narcissist has moved past love-bombing and has begun the devalue and discard phases. Basically, they’ve recognized that you are, in fact, a human who has normal human flaws. This has shattered their childish idealization of you and your relationship, and they somehow feel duped.
You’ll be confused and flailing, doing anything you can to try to fix whatever you’ve done wrong – and nothing seems to be working. At this point, you’ll be doubting yourself and your perception. The narcissist is likely to be gaslighting and manipulating you, and you might even think you’re going a little crazy, or that somehow you’re to blame for all of this.
Here are some things you need to know.
Have you experienced love bombing before? What other red flags did you notice? Need help? Here’s a video playlist that will help you recognize the red flags of narcissists.
Start Getting Help with Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Today
Did you know? Online help is readily available for survivors of narcissistic abuse. Here are some options to begin healing from narcissistic abuse right away.
- Sign up for our free email newsletter service that includes a free guided recovery experience via your inbox.
- Start your narcissistic abuse recovery here with our free narcissistic abuse recovery support system and program.
- Think you might have C-PTSD but you’re not sure? Take our free C-PTSD Self-Assessment.
- Join one of our free online narcissistic abuse recovery support groups!
- Join one of our private small coaching groups!
- Get private, one-on-one narcissistic abuse recovery coaching or counseling.
- You might enjoy my book, Your Love is My Drug: How to Shut Down a Narcissist, Detoxify Your Relationships & Live the Awesome Life You Really Deserve, Starting Right Now.
- Get a therapist who will work with you online. Check out our guide to finding a therapist or psychologist who understands narcissism and narcissistic abuse.
Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at QueenBeeing.com and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.