PDS Logo, the Tree of Life
PDS Logo, the Tree of LifeClose
Go Back

The Love Bombing Cycle


Reading time:

5 min


Published on:

Tue May 21 2024


Written by:

The Personal Development School

Love bombing is, unfortunately, a phenomenon in modern-day relationships.

The term is often associated with narcissistic behavior, emotional abuse, and control. It’s imperative to be acutely aware of the love bombing cycle, the stages in which it occurs, and the red flags to notice.

Understanding this cycle is crucial for recognizing and protecting oneself from toxic relationships.

Here’s what you have to know.

What is the Love Bombing Cycle?

Love bombing is when a person continually “bombs” someone with flattery, compliments, gifts, and affection early in a new relationship.

It looks different from person to person and, at times, can be unintentional or intentional. It can include gift-giving, loving messages and interactions, and over-the-top declarations of love.

Typically, the love-bombed person will be seduced by the love bomber's grand statements of love. The person will then “fall” for the love bomber and start a relationship.

However, it’s recognized to be part of a narcissistic trait to grab the attention of a potential partner from the very beginning, then leading to a possible abuse cycle, which can include emotional abuse, physical violence, and control.

This is what defines the common term “love bombing cycle”.


The Narcissist Love Bombing Cycle

From the perspective of a narcissistic love bombing cycle, it is considered emotional manipulation that typically occurs in the early stages of a relationship when the narcissist is trying to win over their partner.

The cycle generally begins with love bombing, where the narcissist showers their partner with intense, genuine affection, excessive love, and attention to create a strong bond in a ‘whirlwind romance’ with elements of "true love". 

However, after the relationship formation, the narcissist gradually reveals their true colors, starting a damaging cycle of emotional abuse, psychological manipulation, and toxicity to take control of the relationship.

It can happen to anyone, but it’s more common in people with codependency issues, as they tend to attract narcissists.

It must be noted that love bombing can also occur in a place of insecurity, particularly in those with enmeshment trauma, codependency tendencies, or individuals with an insecure attachment style (notably the anxiously preoccupied). So it’s important to recognize the person as much as the stage itself.

Let’s look deeper at each stage of the love bombing cycle.

The Four Love Bombing Cycle Stages

There are four stages of the love bombing cycle: intense affection, followed by devaluation, discard, and potentially hoovering.

Stage One - Love Bombing

Love bombing (also known as idealization) is the first phase of the cycle, where the narcissist (or love-bombing partner) bombards the person with declarations of love, excessive displays of affection, lavish compliments, gift-giving, and emotional safety. 

They might also make sweeping statements about the intentions and future of the loving relationship, creating an illusion of them being the ideal partner and relationship. They are the "perfect partner" or "soulmate". 

This overwhelming display of affection serves to manipulate the partner's emotions, fostering dependency and attachment to the narcissist.

Stage Two - Devaluing

Once the narcissist feels they have secured the person’s affection and loyalty and started a genuine relationship, they slowly transition into the second phase, known as the devaluing stage.

This phase involves the narcissist undermining their partner’s self-esteem, beliefs, and self-worth through withholding love and affection, put-downs, manipulation, gaslighting, projection, and blaming the partner for all the relationship problems. Usually, the first signs of controlling behavior appear as they slowly erode the partner’s self-confidence and independence. In severe cases, it can involve abusive behaviors. 

At this stage, the illusion of the relationship and the “soulmate” starts to break and be emotionally devastating. 


Stage Three - Discarding

As the relationship deteriorates due to the devaluation phase, the narcissist may reach a point where they no longer derive satisfaction from their partner. In response, they “discard” their partner callously, often without warning or explanation. They either suddenly remove themselves from the relationship (like the silent treatment) or do something that makes the other person leave.

The discard phase can be emotionally devastating for the partner, leaving them feeling abandoned, confused, and unworthy.

However, it can also work to the advantage of the narcissist, as the sudden withdrawal of affection and attention further reinforces the partner’s dependency on the narcissist, perpetuating the narcissistic abusive cycle.

This is known as “hoovering”.

Stage Four - Hoovering

If the narcissist still desires to have control of their partner, they enter the hoovering stage.

In this phase, they may attempt to re-engage with their partner through various manipulative tactics, such as insincere apologies, insincere apologies, reaching out on important dates (like anniversaries or birthdays), constant reassurance, desperately needing help, making grandiose promises, or guilt-tripping.

The aim is to lure the partner back into the relationship, exploiting their vulnerabilities and insecurities. If successful, the vicious cycle repeats, restarting the toxic dynamic between the narcissist and their partner.

That’s why it’s crucial if you recognize that you’re in the hoovering phase; you have to end contact so the narcissist will permanently leave you.

10 Red Flags of the Love Bombing Cycle

Being in a narcissist love bombing cycle, it can be challenging to recognize the red flags (or signs of trouble), especially if the love bombing comes from a place of insecurity, not just spite and malice. You might notice some red flags when dating an anxiously attached person.

But the red flags are there if you know where to look.

Here are 10 major red flags of love bombing:

  • Extreme and over-the-top romantic gestures
  • Excessive compliments that come too soon
  • Excessive communication
  • Overstepping boundaries
  • Grandiose claims about love and commitment
  • Sharing of affection and feelings quite quickly
  • Saying what you need or want to hear
  • Excessive promises of doing stuff for the relationship (usually due to unmet childhood needs)
  • Prying and being invasive
  • Suddenly becoming inconsistent in relationships, alternating between extreme affection and coldness

### Watch the video to get more details on the signs of love bombing!

Other red flags of love bombing include:

  • Rapid displays of affection and attention
  • Showering the victim with extravagant gifts and gestures
  • Idealization of the partner, portraying them as perfect or soulmates
  • Isolating the partner from their friends and family
  • Creating a sense of dependency on the narcissist
  • Manipulative behavior, such as guilt-tripping or gaslighting
  • Rapid escalation of the relationship, moving too quickly without regard for the partner’s comfort or consent

Breaking Free from the Love Bombing Cycle

The narcissistic love bombing cycle is a dangerous pattern of behavior that can leave partners emotionally scarred and psychologically damaged.

By understanding the stages of the cycle and recognizing the signs of love bombing, you can protect yourself from manipulative and abusive relationships.

Ensure you prioritize self-care, set boundaries, and seek support from trusted friends, family, or professionals to break free and heal from this cycle.

If you suspect you’re stuck in a love bombing cycle, watch this video: How To Break Free of Intermittent Reinforcement & Love Bombing!

Share this Article


Let's stay connected!

Get personal development tips, recommendations, and exciting news every week.

Become a Member

An All-Access Pass gives you even more savings as well as all the relationship and emotional support you need for life.

Mockup of PDS courses on the student dashboard.

Top Articles

27 JUN 2023

How to Overcome Dismissive Avoidant Attachment Style

Does the thought of commitment make you cringe? Yet, deep down, you crave the closeness and connection of a romantic relationship?

If you nodded yes to or recognized these patterns in your partner, ...

27 JUN 2023

How to Overcome Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style

Do you crave intimate connections – only to withdraw if someone comes “too close”? Maybe you prefer to leave before someone can leave you?

If so, you might have a fearful avoidant attachment style. ...

31 AUG 2023

8 Ways to Heal a Fearful Avoidant Attachment Style

People with a fearful or disorganized attachment style typically experience some form of childhood abuse or trauma in the form of emotional, physical, or most commonly, verbal abuse. Luckily, healing ...