Narcissistic Love Bombing Always Leads to Hate Bombing

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“Why can’t we just go back to the way things USED to be? The good times before we fought all the time?”

If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you’ve no doubt uttered this classic question more times than you care to admit.

Here’s the secret: There never was a “good time.”

What you remember as an enthralling and joyful period of the relationship was actually a ruse of emotional manipulation to rope you into the narcissist’s trap.

Narcissists use something called love bombing during the beginning of their relationships in an effort to break down your emotional defenses, gain your trust, and later, to show you just how attentive and caring they can be – if only you’d behave correctly so they could show it more often, right?

Have you ever bribed your pet with a treat to give it a bath? Yes, it’s like that.

With some skill, you can identify love bombing in the early stages before the narcissist digs their claws in too deep. Here’s what this obsessive idolization progresses into and why it’s so dangerous.

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Stage 1. Emotional Manipulation via Love Bombing

During the love bombing phase, the narcissist is setting you up for an addiction.

Just like drug dealers give away free hits to inexperienced users, narcissists shower their potential victims with praise, admiration, attentiveness, and even understanding as a first ‘high’ to show how amazing they can be as a partner.

They’re also using this phase to learn about you: what you like, what you hate, how to press your buttons, your hopes and dreams. They’re conducting recon because this intelligence comes in handy later once the narcissistic devalue phase begins.  It’s called cognitive empathy, and it has the potential to be utterly devastating. 

During this phase, the narcissist isn’t showing you their true self – if they did, you would (and could) run! They hide their true identity during this phase so they can dupe you into staying with them.

(The real kicker is that narcissists don’t have identities. They shapeshift to gain the admiration of whoever is closest to them.)

While most narcissists struggle to maintain this phase more than a few weeks, it’s not unheard of for love bombing to last months if the narcissist believes the potential payout warrants it.

What Does Love Bombing Look Like?

Love bombing can take many forms.

It can involve shallow admiration like chocolates, flowers, and gifts. It can include deep praise about your best personality traits – and trivial aspects that no one else seems to notice! It can even include unconditional support and understanding like you’ve never experienced.

Regardless, the narcissist is putting their short-term ego boost aside in favor of a long-term strategy to earn your trust. They consider this an investment in their future and they’re hoping for a big payoff as you begin to dispense inordinate amounts of narcissistic supply, whatever that may look like for them.

Stage 2. Narcissistic Devalue

Slowly but surely, the narcissist’s true personality will start to crack through the love bombing veneer.

It won’t happen overnight.

During the narcissistic devalue phase, the narcissist is testing the water with some insults, passive-aggressive responses, and gaslighting to see if you’re a good supply for their ulterior motives.

If you consistently stand up for yourself during this phase, they may even lash out and quit the relationship in a blaze of glory so they can portray themselves as a victim while they search out a better supply. They’ll decide you’re not worth the effort. They’ll call you “high maintenance” for demanding respect.

More likely than not, however, they’ll revert to the love bombing phase, along with intermittent snippets of narcissistic devalue, until they’re 100% sure you’re hooked. They want you to believe they can abandon you and find a new – better – partner at any time.

The stage 2 narcissistic devalue phase tends to last about as long as the loving phase lasted – typically a few weeks or months. The narcissist has a strategy. They know you won’t put up with their full-blown abuse quite yet.

What Does Narcissistic Devalue Look Like?

The devalue stage can be subtle and barely recognizable or it can be a total smackdown.

Did you storm out or keep quiet when they embarrassed you in public? Did you give their backhanded compliment the benefit of the doubt or call them out? Did you fire back when they said your work promotion wasn’t “really a big deal?”

How long did it take after the insults and devaluing for you to “come around?”

The narcissist is gauging your responses to their abusive behavior so they can nail down a future emotional manipulation strategy.

Stage 3. Full Blown Hate Bombing

Sadly, most narcissistic relationships end with this phase, so it can go on for weeks, months, or even years if no contact (or modified contact) isn’t implemented properly.

In most cases, the emotional manipulation is so strong and people are so blinded by love bombing that they can’t see the enormous red flags before it gets to this point.

In the hate bombing phase, the narcissist is letting their freak flag fly because they’ve caught you in their trap. This is where deep abuse occurs.

What Does Hate Bombing Look Like?

Since the narcissist now knows how to push your buttons, they’ll hurl tailored abuse at you daily and throw in snippets of love bombing to keep you hooked.

Yes, the love rationing will make a comeback – but ONLY when the narcissist thinks you’re about to walk out that door and ONLY for an absolute minimal amount of time. This is strategic. They want you to remember the good times.

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Stage 4. Narcissistic Discarding

If a narcissist discards you, it can feel extremely painful due to their emotional manipulation but make no mistake: it’s a net positive.

Narcissists don’t tend to discard anyone completely – if at all. They’ll simply revert to love bombing until they believe you’re duped again.

However, discarding DOES happen – especially if they find a new supply right away.

What Does Discarding Look Like?

Simply put: You’ve caught onto them and become too much work when, to their great pleasure, they can simply latch onto someone else who’s much easier to manipulate.

Don’t be fooled. Most narcissists will never abandon you completely. They’ll hoover or give you the silent treatment. In any case, they’re setting up a situation where they can return to the relationship.

If you’re lucky enough to get discarded by a narcissist, it’s critical that you stay strong and keep no contact.

Love Bombing Always Leads to Hate Bombing

The narcissistic devalue cycle doesn’t necessarily run in a linear path.

Once the narcissist reaches the devalue or hate bombing phase, they will revert to love bombing just long enough to grab your attention. The narcissist knows that if they put you down and treated you like crap all the time, you would eventually catch on and leave.

They aren’t stupid. They know they need to shower you with love rations so you’ll believe they care and want what’s best for you. They need you to believe they can be good if you would just behave, obey them, and treat them like a perpetual victim.

This love showering phase will turn nasty at some point. It always does because it’s a form of emotional abuse and manipulation.  The narcissist’s abuse cycles can be found on most sites dedicated to the intervention of emotional exploitation, such as this Power and Control Wheel by the Duluth Model.  While this particular graphic highlights men as the abuser, women can be every bit as horrid and deceitful.

As the saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Healthy relationships don’t start with obsessive behavior – no matter how many movies glorify it.

Are you ready to break free from the pain and dysfunction but aren’t sure where to start? Narcissistic devalue behavior causes chronic PTSD so narcissistic abuse requires comprehensive recovery. Join us in The Essential Break Free Bootcamp and start your journey to narcissistic abuse recovery!  With your 30-day guarantee, there is no risk to explore the program and see what a difference it can make in your life.

Your healed life starts with one step...


Claim your free Email Recovery Course and Healing Roadmap. Includes expert advice and tips for encouragement and support. * Seating in my masterclass: 7 Proven Steps to Break the Narcissistic Spell PLUS +* How would your life be different without narcissistic abuse? * 30-Day New Life calendar + more!

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17 comments
Anonymous says June 7, 2020

Im barely a survivor of a female covert narcissistic abuser. From the very beginning her lovebombing was heavy and it made me feel like everything i ever thought true love was supposed to be. I was supposed to get married but my relationship began to dwindle due to major family issues. I wish i wouldve toughed it out because my fiance was who i truly wanted to be with until satan started sniffing around rubbing herself all over me. Thats right she was good enough to be able to destroy a 10 year relationship and make me believe it was true love. At the time my brother and i were owners of the most popular nightclub in our city and she simply was using me as a stepping stone. A few years in we met with irrelevant trageties that forced us to close the club. This is when the true gas lighting , silent treatments and hate bombing began. Slowly destroying me from the inside out. Long story short she ghosted our six year relationship shortly after my brother died. Blocked my every attempt to reach her. Refuses closure of any kind and spreads horrible rumors about me and how i treated her. Basically saying i did to her all the things she was doing to me. Why? Because i have three love letters from the very beginning where she accuses her ex of every same goddamn thing she accused me of! Im not kidding! Downt to the fuckin word like she memorized it by heart!!!!!

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Denise Rader says June 6, 2020

Thank you for making this available. I was caught in the trap for 33 years and experienced both…. Yes, the crumbs of the love bombing kept me hooked. I wish I knew about narcissists before. I knew the word, but not the implications. After 5 years of separation and soon to formally divorce, he’s taking me to the cleaners. I guess the bright side is I’m getting out with my life. I almost didn’t.

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Monika says January 20, 2020

But what if the narc in question is 73, ugly, sick, poor, struggling in all areas, is impotent, alcoholic, etc. and really cannot get another source of supply, at least not a good one????

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    Jon Rhodes says February 4, 2020

    Then they’ll usually flit between love bombing and devaluation. They’ll find the “sweet spot” of giving you enough love to keep you. But also devaluing you at times to keep you under the thumb.

    If they can’t find anyone else, then they won’t discard. Narcissists HATE being alone.

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    Jacqueline Ketchum says February 12, 2020

    Monika, that’s a good question. My stbx was impotent as well. However, I discovered his addiction to porn and believed him to be having cybersex relationships. Is this a confidential site?! I’d hate for my stbx to see this as he has been known to hack into my phone, social media and email.

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Pamela says December 10, 2019

My husband left in March on my request bc he wouldn’t quit his supply after a month of what I thought was reconciliation phase two. He had the same supply 7 years ago and we did stay together. I guess I gave him the supply he needed back then to stay. This time we are in more debt then ever, I have a granddaughter who means more to me than him, and the supply has money.
He sent me a divorce proposal via email and wanted a rushed answer without concrete numbers and said I didn’t need an attorney. Of course the supply’s family are attorneys and he told our daughter that he and she worked up the proposal together (how sweet)! He suggested that my brother look it over, and when my brother sent him a response with a spreadsheet for him to fill out, now it’s “only between you and me” “and I find it appalling and unnecessary that your brother point out (our state) law and bring up adultery for it only opens up negative dialogue and is a sore spot for the both of us!”
He’s offering me 50/50 this and the house that has no equity and a lien against it, but he “wants to secure my financial future” by giving me more than the state requires.
He wants to cut and run without doing any work is what he wants.
I know it’s time for an attorney so I am filling out the spreadsheet myself. I have been doing all the work and taking care of this house since he’s been gone anyway. Wish me luck bc I probably will lose the house bc if I don’t agree to his proposal without figures he may want to fight and neither of us have the money for that. He may want me to lose it all anyway.

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Sunny says December 10, 2019

You are so right. It happened to me three times. He started with the distancing and eventually the discard. The time he was seeing and planning a trip with a nothing woman. As soon as he came back from the trip, he wanted to start up with me again. So yes this is what they do. Move on, and run and don’t look back. Before the end, he finally told me he was with other woman while he was with me even though I knew it. That gave me more ammunition to move on. Never again. I finally got the closure i felt i needed. How can one argue with the truth. That was the only true statement i ever got from him. Everything else was just lies.

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KERI HARDISKY says December 3, 2019

I have a quick question….didn’t I read somewhere about how when you first start to notice them getting distant, that they often tell you some story about how they are going through some sort of stressful situation or some excuse like that so that you end up feeling sorry for them and end up wanting to support them in their time of need and the original issue of how you feel gets swept under the rug?? I discovered last year that my newlywed husband was a narc and I learned a lot from this website and here I am now in a new relationship and now he’s doing the distant thing and I confronted him today and he said he’s just been so stressed over money issues and this and that and I can’t help but think that I read that they will do that and I can’t seem to find it again so I was hoping someone could tell me so I don’t get any deeper with him. Thank you

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    Kim Saeed says December 5, 2019

    Hi Keri,

    Thank you for stopping by. It’s hard to say whether he’s acting narcissistically without knowing more about your overall relationship dynamics. If there are other questionable things going on in your relationship along with his being distant, you may want to be on alert.

    Hope that helps!

    Kim

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Bryan says November 20, 2019

So true Kim, Glad you used that phrase. Thanks again for your articles. I really do feel like a recovering alcoholic. Just one drink away from going back into hell. One day at a time has turned into almost 2 years. She still sneaks in contact through back door channels. I never respond! One day at a time…….

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    Julie says January 26, 2020

    I love the idea of its like dealing with alcoholism. One text one phone call one anything is expecting it to be different but it’s the insidious insanity of like taking that first drink. There should be a narcissism recovery anonymous. 12 steps for this sickness would be great!!

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Tanja says November 18, 2019

I had to laugh when I read the title to this thread because I just knew that there was another name for the Narcissistic actions after you have finally let them go, went strictly no contact and they know it. Kim, you are so right, and it’s a dangerous game that they play. After I let go of my ex narc, he tried the love bombing, but his bomb blew up in his face. I still didn’t respond, then came the hate bombing, and it blew up in his face because I still didn’t respond.The love bombing worked when I was in love with him and didn’t understand what type of relationship I was in but when I got taught and I learned, I let go. And when the hate bombing came around, I didn’t pay it no mind because in reality, he was hate bombing himself because he knew the relationship was over and he tried but it didn’t work this time and he failed.If you have a narcissist in your life, once that mask fall out and you truly see them for who they are, believe them and let them go.

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Sally Means says November 18, 2019

After 43 years of marriage and emotional, mental, financisl, plus more, abuse I have been divorced almost 3 years. Still working on alot of suppressed feelings, memories, beliefs. I never even knew what a Narcissist is, but he is the perfect example. Thank you for helping me thru this

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    Becky says June 6, 2020

    Sally,
    I am right there with you. We just had our 29th Anniversary in April. Things have been so bad for so long and it was not until this past August that I figured out he was a Narcissist. I knew nothing about what a Narcissist is but once I started researching and found Kim’s website I have learned so much. He fits the patterns to a t other than we have been separated since November and he never tries to contact me. No hoovering and the only thing I get is sad and stressed because I have a house and two kids and he has completely walked away from them!! I get the no contact, the importance of it, but it saddens me that he has discarded (kind of) the kids as well. Answers them in one or two word texts and when they have something planned like dinner that’s it.. just dinner nothing else. I will never recover from the feeling of being thrown out like a peace of trash and from having my family destroyed all because he is promiscuous and it is always about him and his needs. My daughter found adds he placed on Craig’s List searching for sex with gross pictures of himself! She was 14 at the time! This was 7 years ago and if only I knew then what I know now! I like a fool “ forgave” him. He would never do it again, he loves me.. ya ya ya! That’s all he ever did was have hookups! It never stopped! I was at work all day and he only worked 2 days a week! He had plenty of time on his hands! He always cleaned the house, had fresh flowers on the counter for me and dinner waiting for me. Until he was had! All that stopped and we fought more and more! The kicker is he waited until my youngest turned 18 and then he retired so now he doesn’t have to pay child support ! He golfs everyday and I go to work and face COVID-19 every day,. Plus I have to upkeep our large home and feed my two kids during this quarantine! He never tries to help or pitch in! Nor would he ever ask how I am doing knowing I work in healthcare and I am facing COVID each day!
    I was doing well until Covid struck.. then my job became more stressful and I became more isolated due to the quarantine. I am so angry that it consumes me! I hope it truly gets better!!
    Thanks for listening and I appreciate your insight that even after 3 years you are still recovering. You had a very long term marriage and I am truly sorry you are going through this after all these years!
    Hang on! Brighter days ahead!!

    Reply
Olivia says November 18, 2019

I have also experienced this love bombing, discard and hate bombing in other places, not close relationships.

e.g. 1. online ‘friends’ who praise me to the skies for weeks, then one day I say the ‘wrong’ thing and suddenly they call me evil, childish etc.
e.g. 2. I am a freelancer and potential clients occasionally love bomb me by outlining the wonderful projects I can help them with, the consistent work they can give me etc. Then suddenly bam! They disappear.
e.g. 3. When going to social groups such as Meetup, group organisers will try to get me to help out with their group by love bombing me, saying how brilliant I am at organising etc. Then when I don’t respond (because I don’t want to be their gofer), they disappear and stop talking to me at events.

So narcissists are everywhere (obviously, lol) but I’m noticing them more and more, and now able to avoid their love and hate bombing thanks to sites like yours Kim!

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Agnes says November 17, 2019

I have fallen into the trap 4 times since my husband discarded me. Every time I read my email from Kim, my life is described and pertinent to what just happened. I am so thankful to have connected…..or I would have thought it was me

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Joan says November 17, 2019

Everything in the article is absolutely true and I went through it. I love reading all your articles they help so much

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