Note: This entry is based on my observations from and conversations with people close to me who have been through this so-called “love bombing.” And the reason why I say “ladies” is because I’ve only had the chance to see the experience of females on the receiving end.
A more important note: I am not a psychologist, so please remember this is an anecdote; not an antidote.
To love is to be vulnerable; that is why it can be difficult to love again once you’ve gone through heartbreak. However, along the way, you may encounter someone who will sweep you off your feet, who will not hesitate to say “I love you” after a few meetings, who will do anything for you because you are the world to him, and who will make you feel like you have just met your soulmate. Of course, being the recipient of these actions can be intoxicating. Who doesn’t want to be swept off her feet and be treated like a queen?
But, beware. What seems to be everlasting love that is moving too quickly is, in fact, a sign for you to step back to try to see the situation from a different angle. The thing is, it is easy to get mesmerized and not want to get out of the receiving end because things are going great– amazing, even. So, why get out of it when things are falling into place?
True love, commitment, and trust take time to build; and when we say “time,” it is at a pace that should feel comfortable for both parties. However, when you are faced with a love bomber, things move too quickly and, at the same time, feels right. You may not feel quite ready yet to love, commit, and trust the person completely, but it feels right, so you go along with the pace.
First Stage: Love Bombing
Love bombing is the first stage of a narcissist’s love affair. Narcissists are often depicted as powerful, clever, polished, and persuasive. However, that is not always the case. Given that our society too often unwillingly praises narcissistic behavior, it should not come as a surprise why many people are brought up or learn to be narcissistic in their own way. Since the definition allows for a wide range of modalities and personalities, many “narcissists” are not even aware that they are one. For treatment, psychologists give two broad categories: grandiose and vulnerable narcissists.
Love bombing may last from a few months to a few years, and at this stage, the couple’s infatuation for each other is at an all-time high. The honeymoon stage is over-the-top, and the recipient is showered with letters, gifts, and words with declarations of love plastered all over the place. Being on the receiving end, at times you feel like you don’t deserve this person in your life. It feels too good to be true.
The giver is usually not aware of his love-bombing actions as his intentions for showing love and devotion are sincere and true. At this point, he is so deeply in love that it is easy to put you, the partner, on a pedestal. Although you have flaws, to him, these are not flaws at all. There is a strong belief in him that you will eventually change for the better.
Second Stage: Devaluing
But like any human being in the world, he realizes that you are made out of clay. You are not perfect. His idealized version of you is now starting to erode. At this stage, his questioning towards you begins. It may take a few months to a few years. He will start to demand more time from you, complain about how much time you spend with your family and friends, and complain about your salary, beliefs, decisions, and interests.
It is easy to overlook this stage when you are in a long-distance relationship or when you are not living in with your partner, as both situations get to avoid a lot of complications. You can also overlook it when you party or travel a lot with your partner, as both tend to shield you out from the realities of life.
If you haven’t left the relationship at this point, then you will most likely experience the final stage.
Third Stage: Discarding
When a narcissist is through with you, he will easily discard you like yesterday’s newspaper. It will not matter how long you’ve been together, or even if there is a child or children in the picture. Usually, moving towards the next step of your relationship increases commitment and trust; however, for narcissists, as the relationship becomes more real, they become disappointed and back off.
When he leaves or cheats, it will be your fault. All his complaints about you during the Devaluing Stage will be brought up. He will tell you that you did not reciprocate his love enough during the Love Bombing Stage. You will be blamed for your relationship’s demise. He will say he gave you everything, yet you did not take care of “him” enough, did not appreciate “him” enough, or love “him” enough. Notice “him” being at the center of all this?
During the Discarding Stage, what is stunningly clear is his utter lack of empathy. With a certain degree of callousness, you will be treated like a nobody despite all the love, commitment, trust, and investments that you’ve put together for the relationship. He will not even say sorry for cheating on or leaving you, because, to him, everything is justified. Do not even think about arguing with him because it will get you nowhere. And if that is not enough, he will make you the “crazy ex.” Other times, though, he will look back at your relationship with nostalgia because he’s a romantic, after all.
Almost always, a narcissist will replace you with a “caretaker” or a “damsel in distress,” whichever will fulfill his need. A caretaker will be there for him when things get messy and when he’s at his most vulnerable, and a damsel in distress will fulfill his need to protect and be a man in the relationship. Being with a caretaker will force him to empower himself; while being with a damsel in distress won’t take much from him because she will usually be easy to please. As you can already tell, at this point, the latter will perfectly feed into his already inflated sense of self.
Stay or Run?
I believe that these people are wounded, too. I’ve read from Reviving Ophelia that people with narcissistic behaviors often experience a childhood where parents are controlling and emotionally detached. They are not given room to express themselves and therefore are not well-aware of how to process their actions, impulses, and feelings. Parents, though, are only doing what they think is best so we can’t blame them entirely. I’m sure looking back, they would not have done certain things had they known better. We all grow up after all, and we can choose to change our lives.
To me, the only way a person can break free from any destructive cycle is for him/her to know for himself/herself that the issue is real and he/she needs to change. If there is no sense of acknowledgment from within, then the cycle will just go on and on. Being with a narcissistic partner can be physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially draining… And, in the end, you will be left anyway.
According to one psychologist, a narcissist’s “love life is one romantic courtship repeated over and over again… They are in love with the idea of love and not you.”
So, if you find yourself in this situation and you are the only one left holding on, do yourself a favor: Run… as fast as you can… and never look back.