The term “love bombing” may sound harmless on the surface. Who doesn’t want someone to bombard them with affection? Yet narcissist love bombing is very sinister and dangerous.
It disarms us and is the first step in an exploitative relationship.
Love bombing almost always starts on day one in a relationship with a narcissist. It is part of the indoctrination that sets the stage for everything else that will occur during the rest of the relationship. Our emotions are used to trap us into the relationship and make it difficult to escape this narcissistic behavior.
Then it can even spill over into the rest of our lives as we try to institute no contact and then maintain it.
What is Love Bombing?
In 1978, Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church of the United States, also known as the Moonies, gave a speech in which he coined the term we now know as “love bombing.”
“Unification Church members are smiling all of the time, even at four in the morning. The man who is full of love must live that way,” he said. “What face could better represent love than a smiling face? This is why we talk about love bomb. Moonies have that kind of happy problem.”
Yet the Moonies are known to outsiders as a cult organization. Love bombing was not just a way of “being,” it was an intentional presentation of self and set of actions that they used to manipulate potential recruits into joining.
The “friendly, happy” members of the Church showered potential recruits with attention, invitations, and praise. Someone designed these positive interactions to encourage the recruits to feel welcome. This acceptance helps them form an attachment to the other members and creates a desire to become members themselves.
Love Bombing Sets the Stage
There are documented cases of ex-members discussing how they felt when they first met others in the Church. They thought they had found new friends who shared similar values. They even thought they had found new potential love interests in some cases.
Those interactions led to trust and friendship with those they met. That drew them deeper into the cult as they attended more events and meetings without realizing the group’s larger goals until it was too late.
It sometimes takes members years to leave, and they only do so on their own once the realizations sink in that those initial meetings with the cult’s members were misleading. In some cases, they have to be deprogrammed by friends and family members before leaving.
Love bombing is what sets the stage for a member to give their life over to the cult and then linger in that border-world where leaving may never be a possibility without herculean effort or intervention.
Yet love bombing is not a tactic that is exclusive to cults and manipulative groups. It is used by predatory people, such as narcissists, to groom others in interpersonal relationships for further exploitation. [Read If You’re in a Relationship with a Narcissist, You’re in a Cult]
We often don’t recognize when someone is love-bombing us because it doesn’t feel like anything that we were ever taught was dangerous.
It may feel like the best thing we’ve ever experienced in our lives.
What is Narcissist Love Bombing?
Narcissist love bombing is characterized by a period of intense positive attention that can include excessive flattery and declarations of love, mirroring, future-faking, gifts, sex, the domination of the partner’s time, and fast-tracking the relationship. [See The Ultimate Narcissistic Abuse Dictionary to review unfamiliar terms]
Love bombing takes place during the early days of the relationship. In terms of the narcissistic cycle of abuse, it is part of the idealization stage, when narcissists put their partners on a pedestal. [Read Idealization and Devaluation: Why Narcissists Flip]
Author Shahidi Arabi writes, “The idealization phase can only be described as pure, unadulterated ecstasy – both for the victim and the predator. Love-bombing – the excessive praise and flattery the predator showers on the prey – might as well be crack cocaine.”
We often overlook love bombing as dangerous because it’s so downright pleasant. Yet that’s precisely why we shouldn’t ignore it.
It’s a set-up that is just as real, abusive, and destructive as any of the narcissist’s other actions in the relationship.
From Love Bombing to Love Hating
As a result of narcissist love bombing, the partner can become very vulnerable to and dependent on the narcissist.
During the idealization stage, partners fall deeply in love with the narcissist and form a bond that is difficult to break. Narcissists, however, may idealize their partners, but they do not form an attachment. [Read Can a Narcissist Love? It’s Complicated]
The narcissistic cycle of abuse comprises three stages: idealization, devaluation, and discard stages. When the idealization stage is over, the relationship begins to deteriorate during the devaluation stage. Partners yearn to see the “person” who love-bombed them during the idealization stage once again. [Read How the Narcissistic Cycle of Abuse Keeps Us from Leaving]
As with people in cults who leave on their own, to walk away from the relationship, partners must come to the painfully shattering realization that they will never see that person again.
Narcissists do everything in their power to keep us from recognizing this.
Signs of Narcissist Love Bombing
Narcissists love bomb to control.
They inject us with a poisonous version of who they think we want them to be. They then push us over the edge, offering us the cure when we are near death.
Here are the signs a narcissist is love-bombing us.
1. Claims of love very early in the relationship
Narcissists often start declaring love before they even know much about us. That’s not love.
They use love bombing to extract the admiration and attention they need to maintain their positive view of themselves. [Read Can a Narcissist Change? And Other Questions About Narcissists]
Although they may engage in acts and show emotions that look like love, their motivations are much different than those of the rest of us.
2. Near-constant contact
Narcissists monitor our actions and whereabouts, making it seem as if they are concerned about us. Over time, this monitoring turns to control.
Before we know it, they question every action we take and have isolated us from people we love.
3. You can’t say no to them
As soon as the real world steps in– as soon as you tell them “no,” or disagree with them about something, the mask will begin to slide.
Narcissists express anger over our disagreement is because the things they say to us as part of love bombing were always conditional. They say these things because of how we treat them, not because of who we are.
There may be tests we have to pass during the love bombing phase to tip us off. They may tell us, “I’m a bad person,” to see how we react. Will we say, “No, you’re not,” and pull them close?
When they explode over the little things that feel like criticism to narcissists, what will we do?
Narcissist Love Bombing is Poison
Narcissists have learned that when they spin this web around their partners early, they can leave a piece inside of us for a very long time unless we rip away that image they created.
It isn’t easy to do because we believe that we have found someone who accepts and loves us for who we are, someone who wants the best for us. It’s hard to face that the person we have fallen in love with is manipulating our emotions to draw us closer so that we will provide them with validation to their egos.
For this reason, it seems clear that narcissist love bombing is just as abusive as more apparent forms of exploitation in the narcissistic cycle of abuse.
Love bombing is the deception that hides what is to come. It hides the sleight-of-hand that takes place when the poison is slowly injected into us– one sweet drop at a time.
“The main difference between jerks and abusers is the idealize and grooming phase,” Jackson MacKenzie writes in Psychopath Free. “Most of us have no problem spotting nasty people– we avoid them. But psychopaths present themselves as your mirror image. A soul mate. They quickly declare that no one has ever made them so happy in their life– they compare you to past exes, holding you high above everyone else. They sniff out your vulnerabilities, insecurities, and dreams. And based on their findings, they transform their entire personalities to become your perfect match.”
Partners need to heal from the trauma of the blatant abuse. Yet without also healing from the sickness of that beautiful infection, it is doubtful they can make a complete recovery. [See How EMDR Therapy Can Help with Narcissistic Abuse]
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If you like this article, you’ll also enjoy these:
- Can a Narcissist Love? It’s Complicated
- Idealized and Devalued: Why Narcissists Flip
- How to Know When a Narcissist is Finished with You
- What a Narcissist Says About Breakups: They Never Let You Go
- Narcissist Gaslighting Examples in Romantic Relationships
Arabi, Shahidi. “Love Bombing is Crack Cocaine.” Thought Catalog. Accessed at https://thoughtcatalog.com/shahida-arabi/2018/01/love-bombing-is-crack-cocaine-the-addictive-cycle-of-narcissistic-abuse/
MacKenzie, Jackson. (2015). Psychopath Free. Penguin Group, LLC.
Sun Myung Moon. (1978). “We Who Have Been Called To Do God’s Work.” Speech, London, England.