There’s usually a honeymoon period at the beginning of any new relationship. A time when the two of you are head-over-heels in love and flooded with happy endorphins.
If your partner is always available for you, continuously showering you with affection and gifts and making great promises for the future, you have every right to feel happy, right?
The only problem is, rather than falling in love, you could just be falling for a narcissist’s love bombing.
Love bombing is a manipulative tactic that involves flooding someone with affection, compliments, gifts, and attention to get control over them.
How long does the love bombing phase last? Love bombing is the first phase of a cycle of abuse, and once it’s over, a narcissist will swiftly move on to devaluing.
It usually lasts from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the type of Narcissist.
This article explores the motives behind love bombing, statistics on its duration, the goals of love bombing, and why it is so dangerous.
It also provides examples of love bombing scenarios and offers guidance on recognizing and responding to love bombing behavior.
How Long Does the Love Bombing Phase Last with a Narcissist?
If the love bombing phase lasted forever, many more happy couples would be worldwide. Being love-bombed feels great right up until the moment you realize it’s not for real.
Daniel Wilder shared his story of love bombing on Quora, saying, “It was the happiest I had been in over ten years… For me, it was very real.”
Love bombing does feel real, and to an extent, it is. During the love bombing phase, the narcissist idealizes you as the perfect partner. They are fascinated by this idealized image and use it to validate themselves.
Sadly, over time, you act in ways that disrupt that idealized image. You worry about money, have problems at work, feel unwell, or have an off day.
Suddenly, you drop in the narcissist’s estimation. Everything in their world is black or white, so you’re worthless if you’re not perfect.
This is when the love bombing phase ends abruptly, which can take anywhere between a couple of weeks to several months or even a year or two.
Statistics and the Love Bombing Cycle
A survey of 500 survivors of narcissistic abuse found the average love bombing phase lasted between four and a half to six months but that it varied depending on the type of narcissism at play.
Grandiose and covert narcissists tended to seduce their victims quicker, while malignant narcissists took longer, making sure their victims felt completely secure before moving on to the next phase.
You can’t be sure how long the love bombing cycle will last, but it won’t last forever.
The narcissist can’t keep this level of attention for long, not when they’re dependent on receiving attention to validate themselves and boost their self-esteem.
What is the Goal of Love Bombing?
Love bombing sounds pretty straightforward, but psychologically speaking, it’s surprisingly complex, and narcissists use it to achieve several different things:
#1 Deny the Target the Ability to Think
The love bomber floods their target with messages, inundating them with compliments and never leaving them alone for long enough that they can sit back and evaluate what’s happening.
They keep the pressure on constantly, preventing the target from thinking logically or critically about the situation. This lets them control the target’s thoughts, keeping them focused on themselves and the relationship.
#2 Make Themselves Look Good
The narcissist uses the love bombing stage to create an idealized version of themselves. They’re generous, attentive, complimentary, and fun to be around.
They sweep you off your feet, take you to romantic destinations, and shower you with expensive gifts.
They look like the perfect partner in your eyes – until you discover the dark side lurking underneath all the grandiose gestures.
#3 Create an Alternative Reality
The love bombing phase allows the love bomber to create an alternative reality bubble in which they and their target are united by a unique love that no one else can understand or appreciate.
This enables the love bomber to separate the target from the rest of the world and isolate them within this fabricated bubble.
#4 Condition the Target
The more the target is treated to these powerful displays of love and affection, the more they’ll come to expect them and behave in a certain way to elicit those same responses.
If that means dressing in a specific way, they’ll do it because they remember how great it felt receiving all those compliments.
The love bomber is gaslighting their target by encouraging them to believe in this idealized self so they’ll do anything to sustain it.
#5 Exploit the Law of Reciprocity
The law of reciprocity dictates that if someone does something nice for you, you’ll feel obliged to do something nice in return.
Narcissists and love bombers exploit this by showering their target affectionately and demanding favorable treatment as payback.
As I’ve explained before, “the partner who is love bombing may push for you to make early commitments,” saying that it’s only fair you should respond to their grand gestures of love.
Why do Narcissists Love Bomb?
We’ve just explored some of the reasons narcissists love bomb and what they want to achieve during this phase of abuse, but what is it in the narcissist’s personality that drives them to do it?
Underneath all their bravado and confidence, narcissists hide a deep-seated sense of self-doubt and low self-esteem, which makes them behave in specific ways. One of these ways is love bombing.
A study of love bombing among millennials found a strong correlation between low self-esteem and love bombing.
According to their findings, the researchers concluded that love bombers use this phase “to increase the feeling of being valued in a relationship and reduce the potential of becoming an undesired self.”
The same study also found that narcissists more commonly engage in love-bombing behaviors because they require more control and affirmation in a relationship.
By sending endless messages, the love bomber can control the target and provoke affirmative responses that boost their self-image.
Why is Love Bombing so Dangerous?
In the beginning, you may welcome a bit of love bombing. After all, who doesn’t enjoy being complimented, given gifts, and made to feel like the most special person in the world?
The trouble is, it’s all an act. Love bombing is a form of emotional and psychological abuse that can leave the target feeling shameful and self-doubt.
The praise a narcissist bestows on you might be flattering, to begin with, but over time it can become overwhelming and even debilitating.
The love bomber places you on a pedestal, idealizes you, and showers you with compliments, only to knock you down and watch as you fall.
As love bombing involves creating an alternative reality in which the love bomber and target exist in perfect harmony, it encourages the target to isolate themselves from other people and aspects of their life.
This is one of the most frightening things about love bombing because it means you pull away from the very people you’ll need when the narcissist reveals their true colors.
The whole purpose of love bombing is to hook the target and control how they respond. Once the love bomber has established that control, they’ll exploit it to the bitter end.
4 Love Bombing Examples
#1 The Extravagant Gifts Scenario
You started seeing a guy a couple of weeks ago, and he’s already sent you flowers (twice!), a box of chocolates, and give you a journal in which you can, he says, “Record all our special times together.”
When you object, saying it’s all too much, he defends himself, saying, “I’ve never felt like this about anyone before. I want always to spoil you and show you how much you mean to me.”
Take this as a red flag! After all, a few weeks isn’t enough to establish such a deep connection!
#2 The Endless Comments Scenario
You’re on the first date with a colleague, and she can’t keep her hands off you. You sidle into a cozy corner table in a restaurant, and she quickly slips in next to you.
With her hand on your thigh, she says how much she admires your work, how great you look in blue, and how you’re the ideal height… the compliments never end.
Beware! This might be flattering, but she’s giving you no time to engage, interact, or even respond to her comments. This is love bombing! It’s subtle, but it’s still dangerous.
#3 The Isolation Tactic
You’ve been dating a guy for several months, and he wants to spend every spare minute with you.
Even when you try to nip down to the gym for a quick workout, he begs you not to, saying he’ll miss you and wants to spend the evening with you.
Every evening it’s the same story until you suddenly realize that you haven’t seen your friends or stepped foot in the gym for over a month.
Be careful. This narcissist is love-bombing you to create a fictional bubble in which only the two of you exist.
#4 The Early Commitment Technique
You’ve been dating someone for a couple of weeks, and things are going well, but you feel they’re moving too fast.
You’ve already been invited to meet their parents, and now your partner wants to talk about making the relationship official.
It’s too early to make these kinds of commitments, but the love bomber wants to ensure you’re hooked and needs validation to ease their insecurities.
What Comes After the Love Bombing Phase?
Once the love bombing phase ends, the relationship will start to unravel. The narcissist will quickly move onto the next stage in the love bombing cycle, which involves devaluation and rejection.
All those loving gestures and messages will disappear, leaving only criticism in their place.
The love bomber will find fault in almost everything you do, become even more demanding of your time, and show signs of jealousy when your attention drifts away from them.
They may try to limit your contact with friends and family, intimidate you into behaving a certain way, and gradually chip away at your self-esteem.
They may even start accusing you of things you didn’t do and pressuring you until you begin to doubt your sense of reality.
This is a form of gaslighting and is a manipulation tactic commonly employed by narcissists to gain control. Its purpose is to make you doubt your truth so you fully accept theirs.
How Do You Know if it’s Love Bombing?
If it seems too good to be true, it’s probably love bombing. At the start of a new relationship, it’s natural for new partners to exchange messages and gifts, but these are usually thoughtful rather than glorious.
If it’s love bombing, that attention will be intense but self-serving. The love bomber only gives you attention so that you’ll reciprocate and focus on them.
Similarly, gestures and gifts tend to be grandiose and over the top because they’re designed to get your attention and make the giver look good rather than express genuine emotion.
You can distinguish between a narcissist and love bombing and the start of a healthy relationship by looking out for the following:
- While compliments are typical at the beginning of a relationship, the flattery a love bomber showers their target with is excessive, exaggerated, and based on unreal expectations.
- A love bomber will profess to like everything you like, whereas a partner in a healthy relationship will have their own interests and preferences.
- In a healthy relationship, both partners want to spend time together but also respect that each other has other commitments and obligations. A love bomber will show no such respect and insert themselves into your life because they “want to be with you every moment of every day.”
Can Love Bombing Be Innocent?
Love bombing is rarely innocent or benign. It is nearly always used as a manipulative technique to gain control over the target.
In rare instances, a love bomber may be encouraged to change their behavior and allow the relationship to progress more slowly.
If your love bomber is open to feedback and willing to accept your boundaries, the love bombing was probably an innocent mistake caused by excessive enthusiasm and an insecure attachment style.
If you’re being bombed and unsure if it’s manipulative or innocent, try setting boundaries and see how the love bomber responds. If their behavior continues unchecked, you’re being love bombed and need to find a way out.
Remember, this phase of the love bombing cycle could last several months, but it will never last forever.