Love bombing is, in and of itself, a Red Flag. Emotionally healthy adults don’t love bomb one another at the beginning of a relationship. There may be intense attraction or infatuation, but that’s different from love bombing.
Love bombing is a term borrowed from the recruiting techniques of cults. The narcissist, borderline, histrionic or psychopath hoists you atop a pedestal and showers you with flattery, adoration, sex, affection, promises of a happily ever after (i.e., future faking) or whatever else she or he thinks you want to hear in order to create an unnaturally fast bond.
Abusive personalities are often described as Jekyll and Hyde. They go from being seemingly incredibly good (the false public persona) to someone you want to fire hose with holy water in self-defense (the monster behind the mask). I’m not saying that some of these individuals don’t have genuinely good qualities. Some of them do. However, it doesn’t make up for the abuse. A tiger might purr as you pet it, but sooner or later it’s going to rip your arm off and feast upon you.
A client once asked, “Well come on, what guy wouldn’t fall for a beautiful woman who says you’re the most amazing man she’s ever known and best sex she’s ever had?” Actually, quite a lot of men and women don’t fall for it. In fact, they become skeptical and concerned especially if the compliments are way over the top and they’re being pressured to make a fast commitment (e.g., going engagement ring shopping after only a week or wanting to move in together right away).
If you’re codependent, you’re most likely attracted to narcissistic, borderline and sociopathic adult partners because of their similarities to your parent(s). This is also what makes you vulnerable to love bombing.
Love bombing (i.e., the idealization stage) seems like the unconditional love, adoration and acceptance you didn’t get as a child or only under certain conditions. At long last you feel valued, cherished, appreciated and understood. This can be very intoxicating indeed.
That’s the problem. You’re intoxicated. Drugged with adoration into a euphoric state. There’s no way that can last. And the high from love bombing packs one hell of a hangover that no Tylenol and greasy fried breakfast can cure.
This is why, after the devaluation leading up to the discard begins, you try so hard to return to the love bombing. What happened? How did you go from being up so high to a nuclear winter? The love bombing is extreme. The devaluation and discard are equally extreme, but in malevolence, treachery and cruelty. You’re left trying to figure out how you went from being love bombed to being nuked. Many of my clients state, “She or he seemed too good to be true. It felt like too much too soon.” But they wanted to believe it was possible so very badly that they ignored their gut instincts and common sense.
Being ripped from the euphoria of idealization and love bombing is confusing and jarring. For many, it dredges up old childhood wounds. In response, you double down. You can make this work. (No, you can’t). You will prove yourself worthy and good enough. (You already are — your abuser is not). All of a sudden your ideal lover is another iteration of your fucked up parent and you’re once again the wounded child just wanting to be loved.
This is also why many men and women who have a pattern of relationships with narcissists, borderlines, psychopaths, histrionics and other abusive bullies don’t feel as intense an attraction to stable, emotionally healthy potential partners. Is that really any wonder? It’s like expecting a shot of espresso to give you the same rush as a kilo of cocaine. On the other hand, a shot of espresso isn’t going to devastate your body, mind, soul, children, finances and freedom.
The goal is to shift away from love bombing feel exciting and “soul matey” to feeling creepy and predatory because it is creepy and predatory.
Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides services to help individuals work through their relationship issues via telephone or Skype, particularly men and women who trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries.
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Excellent article! Like the saying goes, “if it looks or seems to good to be true, it probably isn’t true”. Good point about the love bombing being extreme, as well as the devaluation and discarding being extreme. I’ve seen this happen to people I know personally. As for me when I was dating a “crazy”, I began to disconnect emotionally when her stories began to be inconsistent and I caught her on lies, and called her out on those lies. When she sensed that I was indifferent and on the verge to break it off, the love bombing became extreme and she will constantly tell me how important I am to her. By that point I was done.
As much as many of these women claim to want to have a healthy, long term relationship, eventually their true colors come out and it doesn’t workout, unless their partner are clueless about many things, or is spineless and lacks self respect and tolerates her “attention seeking” behaviors.
Another great article, Dr. T! I was constantly trying to return to the love bombing stage with my Crazy. Prior to visiting your site and seeing a therapist, I couldn’t reconcile how a person who had once showered such extreme affection on me, could be so cruel and demeaning on a daily basis. This led to a 3 year, off and on relationship, where each period of reconciliation was marked by enhanced abusive behavior by Crazy. I felt like I couldn’t live without her, but I certainly couldn’t live with her and her abuse either. Only after visiting your site did I see this pattern and understand it for what it was. Then I was able to go no contact for good which ultimately led to me being able to get my life together and focus on me again.
I would just like to say thank you to Dr Tara for her hard work in this field for soo many years.
I recently got out of a toxic relationship with BPD and couldn’t and wouldn’t have gotten out if it wasnt for this valuable resource which answered the many unanswered questions.
While Dr Tara is way ahead of the game, the rest of the world are only now just starting to understand (no need to click on the link Dr Tara work is way much better and unapologetic
Thanks once again
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Well how about that? The same thing happened a few years ago when other started writing about DARVO. I’d like to think it’s not egregious plagiarism. Most bloggers just don’t bother to credit their original source material, and then these concepts are just out there without credit.
Great. I hope more people become aware. However, the businessinsider blog only refers to women victims, not men. Go figure.