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Kim Saeed:  Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program
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Love Bombing

The Tragedy of Narcissistic Abuse: Hoovering, Love Bombing, and Cognitive Empathy

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Being in a relationship with a narcissist feels so convoluted and devastating because they seemingly trap you with falsified moments of trust. In these precious moments, you experience a sense of profound security and comfort.

You sense that your partner understands you in a way nobody else can. You feel like you can’t get out- that you’re crazy if you decide to leave.

But, it’s all a thinly-veiled lie built on advanced manipulation. Let’s see why.

The Love Bombing Paradox

Let’s start with the beginning of most relationships with narcissists. Frequently, it begins too well. Maybe, for the first time, you feel like you’re really in love with another person. It’s euphoric and intoxicating. Like the rush of a drug, the high seems enticing and alluring.

Indeed, this relationship seems like the answer to all your problems. You feel like the prize of all prizes, and you believe your love is unique and enchanting. Your partner is the one, and such affirming words and actions prove it to you.

Love bombing refers to using flattery, compliments, and cognitive empathy to secure your trust and approval. When narcissists engage in love bombing, they attempt to seal your faith and sense of validation and safety in a relationship.

Narcissists understand that humans crave affection and a sense of belonging. They know that most people carry insecurities that evoke fear and resistance. As a result, the narcissist will act in seemingly noble ways to dismantle those defenses. In doing so, they will provide you with the affection you need. They will seemingly accept and even embrace those shameful parts of you. You may feel like your insecurities have melted away.

Again, it’s enticing and captivating, and it’s what keeps you hooked in. Love bombing represents a security weapon. Because you’ll feel safe and appreciated, you’ll want to stay close to your narcissist. Your partner has become a sneaky, well-dressed predator, one who knows how to flatter your every flaw and compliment your every quirk.

At first, it’s exciting. Because let’s face it. Who doesn’t like to feel adored? Who doesn’t want all the attention and validation? Who doesn’t want to feel unconditionally accepted and appreciated?

But when the surface cracks, the narcissist’s uglier, authentic colors start to emerge. The darkness reveals itself. It may happen slowly. An insult here and there. A passive-aggressive comment. Blame or accusations that don’t make sense. You typically brush them off at first. After all, nobody is perfect, right?

Then you suddenly can’t do anything correctly. Suddenly, you’re the enemy, the ugly fool, the stupid and incompetent person who keeps messing up. Your partner becomes more and more meaner. You start feeling more and more insecure, worthless, uncertain of your every move. Suddenly, you’re walking on eggshells in your own home, ashamed and fearful of your next step.

Because the narcissist knows how to lift you up emotionally, he or she also knows how to bring you down. Love bombing floods you with idealization only to then reject the very core of yourself.

The Hoovering Trap

You finally broke free from your toxic and abusive relationship. The release felt so painful, but you’re now on the positive road towards recovery. Perhaps you have taken the time to reflect on the narcissistic abuse you endured. Perhaps you have decided to pursue the method of no-contact, and you feel empowered and enlightened. You are ready to move on.

Until you get a message. Until the narcissist comes right back.

Hoovering is a powerful, manipulative tactic narcissists use when they feel threatened about losing you and the relationship. In this process, they enter back into your life and utilize whatever strategies they can to suck you into their manipulation (just like a Hoover vacuum).

Even if you felt strong and convicted in your values, the narcissist uses hoovering to challenge your status quo in an attempt to win you back. Because narcissists intimately know your weaknesses, flaws, and deepest secrets, they will exploit them as a means of taking advantage of your vulnerability.

To them, it’s just a proverbial game of cat-and-mouse. They’re just assessing and making sure that they can restore their original power and influence.

Hoovering can come in many different flavors. Some narcissists use sweet, empathic approaches to suck you back in. They will send complimentary messages reminiscing on positive memories and praising your worth. They may deliver your favorite flowers to your work or leave a thoughtful present in your mailbox.

Others will resort to guilt-tripping tactics to evoke feelings of sympathy and shame. They will apologize for their actions and tell you how wrong they were for hurting you. They’ll assure you that things will be different this time, that they love you, that they are just a little broken.

They’ll tell you that you’re the light of their world, the best thing that ever happened to them. They’ll blame their past traumas or their ex-partners or the stress at work. They’ll use every excuse in the book, and when they run out of those, they’ll find a new book.

Finally, some will feign an overwhelming crisis where only you can understand. With this approach, they’ll trap you with a sob story and emphasize that only you can help.

Hoovering represents the top of a pyramid of false promises. Promises to change. Promises to offer you something better or new. Promises to be a better partner in the future.

Remember, if your partner could uphold those promises, he or she would have done so long ago. The groveling and storytelling and apologizing is a mere distraction from the fact that your leaving has threatened their innate sense of power.

Of course, the ending of a relationship represents a mini-death to the narcissist’s ego. To them, it’s unfathomable, insulting and unforgivable. Thus, he or she will utilize whatever tricks they can find to ‘suck you’ back under their control, back where they believe you rightfully belong.

And, yes, they’ll be convincing with their narratives. They’ll make you second-guess your intentions. They’ll make you wonder if you’re being the over-dramatic or crazy one.

Don’t Give In To The Manipulation

As you can see, love bombing and hoovering both exist on a similar continuum. Both tactics involve distraction (from seeing the person for who he or she truly is) and deceit (convincing you of a false reality). Unfortunately, to the untrained victim, both strategies work exceedingly well, and that is why many people stay in these toxic relationships despite feeling miserable and unloved.

If you’re in the throes of love bombing, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate the state of your relationship. While it’s normal for partners to validate and compliment you, the intensity and frequency shouldn’t feel so intoxicating. It also shouldn’t ‘turn off’ at a moment’s notice.

If you’ve already ended this kind of abusive relationship, committing to the no-contact approach is going to be the fastest road towards sustainable healing. You already said goodbye once. You already left once. Stay strong and stay true to yourself.

You and your recovery deserve it.

Love Bombing


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26 comments
7 Signs You're Experiencing Narcissistic Abuse Recovery - Kim Saeed: Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program says August 4, 2019

[…] narcissist is a skilled and convincing actor.  After all, they fooled you into believing that you were the love of their life, perhaps even their past lives.  How long were they able to keep up the charade?  Months?  […]

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Sri says June 25, 2019

I have been married for 19 years and have two beautiful daughters. My husband talks to me about divorce all the time. He gets angry for little things and leaves house. Sometimes he stays in a hotel and then in an apartment. Then he files for divorce and send me emails about financial separation agreement. This has been happening many times. Then I will ask my friends to convince him not to proceed with divorce. Finally he comes back. Then again the cycle starts.
I heart beats 500 times every time he leaves. I apologize though there is no mistake from my side. He potrays me as a bad mom to my children also “if I ask them to get up early and study”. Again he filed for divorce and staying outside. How to deal with this. I am so stressed, nervous and feel awful.

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    Kim Saeed says June 27, 2019

    Hi Sri,

    It sounds to me like this man is not at all concerned for your emotional safety or being a civil partner. What he is doing sounds like emotional abuse and manipulation, plain and simple.

    There is really nothing you can do to make him change his behaviors, especially since he hasn’t had any sort of repercussions for acting this way. If I were in your shoes, I’d let him stay gone the next time he moves out.

    We cannot change another person’s behaviors. We can only change the way we respond, and sometimes that means letting them go.

    Wishing you the best…

    Kim

    Reply
Carol says May 27, 2019

Hi, my ex turned into a covert narcissist, the love bombing stage definitely happened in the beginning. There were red flags I missed as he could be so kind and caring at times like when I first got ill, sadly when I needed several surgeries and couldn’t return to work he changed. Then after 27 years I was having life saving surgery 400 miles from home and found out he was cheating, he’d bought her jewellery and gifts with my money. He lied and lied until the truth came out then he just abandoned me, he took all the money, even my savings. He was so very cruel through his lawyer afterwards telling so many disgusting lies about me. My children, his stepchildren and grandchildren were ashamed of him and so angry. He actually said to me he’s not sure he loves this woman but she listens and is healthy!! That hurt s much. He’s never once hoovered which confuses me and in a way that hurts too. Its been a year now and I still cry everyday, I keep thinking of them together and that she must be better than me. He was divorced when I met him and had two daughters who now have children of their own who he’s never met. I found them on social media yet he refused to contact them saying it was up to them to contact him and us mothers think more of that type of thing that fathers do due to our hormones!! Turns out he lied to me so much about his first wife. My fear is that I won’t fall out of love with this monster, I even feel jealous of ow for some reason, I hate thinking of tjem so much, does that stop and will the bond ever break? Thankyou

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    Kim Saeed says May 28, 2019

    The bond doesn’t go away on its own. We have to be very deliberate about severing it ourselves. We also must get to a place where we stop watching their moves.

    If you aren’t in any programs, you may want to consider joining the Break Free Bootcamp. It will help you stop watching what he’s doing and begin healing.

    Kim

    Reply
Anonymous says May 27, 2019

Dear Kym
I a, in a toxic situation that i can’t get out of he is with me all day and night telling me I’m an old faggot, and that he is in love with someone one else, yet he never leaves me alone, telling me how great his new women is but he can only go so far with her, he needs sex and that’s all I am to him is a whore I have told him to go to to a prostitute he has he doesn’t need too I am his whore how can I get rid of this ? he knows every move I make he even knows I’m talking to you right now, I feel helpless, love 💕 Cath

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    Lux says August 4, 2019

    Cath,

    You need to leave now. Find a women’s shelter and go. The police will deal with him if he follows. You are nobody’s whore – Narcs project and when they call you names, like whore, it’s because he’s the whore.

    Get out now and go no contact.

    Reply
Susan Cox says May 26, 2019

He disgusts me now

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Susan Cox says May 26, 2019

12 years. And your exactly right! I haven’t seen him in 17 months. No contact for 2 months. He sends messages of how deeply he loves me and he always will. He tells me how I promised I would always love him and never leave him. Thank God he cant cross the border!!

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Beth says May 26, 2019

Wonderfully insightful article, as always.

(P.S. It seems like there may be a typo in this section:
“At first, it’s exciting. Because let’s face it. Who doesn’t like to feel adorned?”
Did you mean adored?)

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    Kim Saeed says May 28, 2019

    Hi Beth!

    Thanks for pointing that out. Sometimes things slip past the editors 🙂

    Kim

    Reply
CHRISTINE says May 26, 2019

Wow!! I move out, I was doing so well, now he strings me along, inviting me to bbq’s at his house, then never calls me to let me know what time. He’s done this several times. I moved out 3 months ago, and have had 4 invites, and doesn’t tell me what time to go over, or cancels at the last minute. I don’t like this. I wish he would just tell me that he doesn’t feel comfortable with me going over, I would totally understand.

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    Kim Saeed says May 28, 2019

    Hi Christine,

    This is a classic example of hoovering and manipulation. He’s not really serious, that’s why he doesn’t give you any concrete details.

    If I were in your shoes, I would stop leaving all the power in his hands and block/delete him from being able to contact you. He is doing all of this on purpose and you’ll never move forward from this unless you put a stop to it.

    Best of luck,

    Kim

    Reply
Kim Higgins says May 26, 2019

I am confused about mine. Does alcoholism cause him to be narcissistic or the other way around? How do I teach my 3 grown daughters not to be fooled by him?
Thx you!

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    Kim Saeed says May 28, 2019

    I can’t really say because I don’t know him or have any history of your relationship. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on whether the alcohol is causing his behaviors. What matters is that he’s acting that way and it’s harmful to you.

    If your grown daughters ask you questions, then you can tell them what you know. They have to be in a place where they are ready to receive that kind of information. Sometimes they get there, sometimes they don’t. Ultimately, it’s their journey and there’s not a lot we can do to change the situation or force them to accept reality. It has to come from them, not us.

    Hope that helps…

    Kim

    Reply
The Great "Narcissist Loves New Woman More" Hoax says March 21, 2019

[…] narcissist is a skilled and convincing actor.  After all, they fooled you into believing that you were the love of their life, perhaps even their past lives.  How long were they able to keep up the charade?  Months?  […]

Reply
Carroll laneulie says January 8, 2019

I get so much support from your reports Kim… thankyou

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Sheryl says December 17, 2018

Oh My! I’m reading this article and going yes, yes, that’s him. Yep that’s how it’s been for way to many years. I’m in a process of leaving it’s just a little complicated, we’ be been together and lived together for 18 years. And we got stuff in storage sheds with both our stuff in them, we own a car together, controlling move on his part, so it would be hard to go completely no contact, but I see it, I see and have experienced all of that and more. I always knew he had some issues but it wasn’t until I read an article about narcissism that I realized what it was. This is the first thing I’ve had time to really look at your site and I’m liking what I’m seeing.

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Norma says November 19, 2018

Your website help me understand babout the narcissist. I didn’t know there was a such a thing like that. I was with a narcissist and I didn’t know it until recently I learned about it. Its been a couple of times I was hospitalized was sucide attempt. I just recently came out a week ago. I’m dealing with two narcissists one us brain washing that everyone is a narcissists

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Norma Rodriguez says November 19, 2018

Your website help me understand babout the narcissist. I didn’t know there was a such a thing like that. I was with a narcissist and I didn’t know it until recently I learned about it. Its been a couple of times I was hospitalized was sucide attempt. I just recently came out a week ago. I’m dealing with two narcissists one us brain washing that everyone is a narcissists

Reply
Margaret Geraci says October 30, 2018

Hello Ms. Saeed – I have been married 40 ys. to my narcissistic husband. His abuse towards me includes financial and emotional abuse. Incredibly, we love each other, but we’ve had an extremely rocky marriage. I am a survivor of incest, neglect by both parents (my sister was mostly targeted by Dad), plus my sister’s suicide. Husband as a child survived his parents’ divorce, as well as his Dad’s modeling of emotional abuse and neglect towards his Mom. We have nightmarish “riding in car together” episodes. Last one was the worst. Tried to find our way in heavy rain and darkness to unknown location. He told me to “shut the f— up” and I slapped him on his back because I couldn’t slap him in the face. That was the first time he made such a statement to me; that was the first time I hit him ever. What is it about driving in cars? He always wants to drive, he demands on the spot help with finding where we are going, and then criticizes me NO MATTER WHAT for my forced input. There is an escalation in this process: he gets tense soon after we get in car, doesn’t know where he’s going and doesn’t want me to use Siri to guide us (Siri does mislead at times), he starts cussing a little, then the cussing gets louder and more vicious. I do tell him to stop this behavior stating I am stuck in the car with him. Usually he cannot stop. When we finally arrive at our destination, I am quite traumatized. The night I slapped him I had printed out what he asked for: driving directions to and from our destination, but then he switched things on me where the maps would cause him to become angrier (he wanted non-freeway not-highway directions). Ms. Saeed, my hitting him shocked me. I was abusive towards him. What if, after 40 years of marriage, the emotional abuse causes me to really lose it some day and I harm him or myself? This is a hard thing to look at and to admit, but the shock of my hitting him caused me to question myself. Thank you in advance for your response.

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Megan Anderson says October 29, 2018

Its so helpful to see these things in black and white. My ex-husband literally told me from jail that I was “his light”, and to see that as a prime example written in this article is very validating for the choice I made to leave.

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Diane Murillo says October 29, 2018

Your so right in all you say about my. Manipulator norcisses .
We spit up. Please what’s wrong with me that I miss him???
When I know he only thinks for him self. The only good thing I can think of is when he was and is the most beautiful person but that doesn’t last long it changes and that’s what hurts.

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Victoria Grostick says October 28, 2018

My narcissist has tried to come back after 5 years after he has seen me with another man to whom I am now appearing at places he and I have gone. Is this normal N behavior? It was unsettling but almost funny that he sounded jealous.

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    Kim Saeed says October 29, 2018

    Hi Victoria,

    Yes, this is absolutely normal N behavior. Your ex is feeling insulted and jealous, but not because of any affectionate feelings, unfortunately. Most garden-variety narcissists just miss the things we did for them. He may also feel insulted because he is afraid it could hurt his image…you know, his “property” being seen on the town with another man.

    If you haven’t blocked him properly on your devices, now’s the best time to do that.

    Kim XoXo

    Reply
Shirley Akpelu says October 28, 2018

I am moving forward little by little. I am learning what I need to in order to heal properly. My goal is to let go of bitterness, anger, hatred and walk in forgiveness of myself and the abuser. Everything that was stolen from me will be replaced in time, I have no doubt. Restoration and healing are mine. Thank you Kim for being a part of this restoration and healing.

Reply
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