If you have been the empath in a romantic relationship with someone whom has narcissistic traits, you may relate to the manipulated and calculated behaviors seen in the narcissist love bombing cycle. Narcissistic traits involve grandiosity, lack of empathy, and a need for admiration to regulate a fragile sense of self and low self-esteem. In this article, we will go over what narcissistic love bombing is in the narcissistic abuse cycle and how to recognize love bombing so that you can avoid getting stuck in narcissistic abuse love bombing cycle.

Personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) often develop from some form of emotional pain/ physical abuse or neglect in early childhood development. Modeling of proper self-soothing or socialization didn’t happen for the afflicted individual. Due to the individual with NPD’s intense need to regulate their self-esteem, they ignore their partner’s boundaries in the relationship in favor of their needs. The person with NPD tends to crave control of their partner to regulate their self-esteem best. Typically, control is achieved through the love bombing cycle of abuse. 

What is narcissist love bombing?

Love bombing is when you are showered with non-stop gifts, compliments, and attention. This begins a cycle of psychological abuse where the love bomber withholds love and attention to manipulate you. Being showered with love can feel so good! It can be an instant confidence boost to feel so wanted and appreciated by someone. Yet, something doesn’t feel sincere. You can’t put your finger on it, but it’s there. You may have become your partner’s narcissistic supply’ (i.e., a fix to boost their ego). 

An Example of The Narcissistic Abuse Love Bombing Cycle

Stage One: Love Bombing

To give you an example of love bombing, I will tell you the story of Andrea. Andrea had been dating her boyfriend, Mike, for about a year. She recently ended the relationship due to him cheating on her. After the breakup, Mike started showering her with the most beautiful love letters she’s ever been given, along with thoughtful expensive gifts. Andrea was at once swept away, yet suspicious. Mike had never acted like this in their relationship, not even in the beginning. His character was inconsistent; He was hot and cold.

Andrea’s attempts to understand Mike’s new behaviors left her confused. His grandiose gestures felt manic to Andrea. Mike was attempting to recapture their love at an unnatural pace. Andrea felt overwhelmed by this attention to the point where she found herself disoriented.

Mike’s new behaviors, though confusing, left Andrea feeling hopeful, but she needed space to process her feelings accurately. However, Mike would not give Andrea the space she needed. He feared that Andrea’s space would create distance between them, and she would leave him again, which would be detrimental to his self-esteem. Andrea’s rejection was a blow to his fragile ego. He needed Andrea back to feel good about himself (i.e., Mike needed a narcissistic supply).

Logically, Andrea knew this push/pull cycle would continue. Yet, torn because, on an emotional level, she wanted the love that Mike promised her. There was a part of her that felt loved by the actions he was taking. However, she saw ahead to the endless cycle of Mike resorting back to lousy behavior once he got bored and then begging for her back once she leaves.

Stage Two: Devalue

Andrea attempted to set a boundary. She reached out to Mike, stating that she cares for Mike but that it wouldn’t be possible for her to trust him again. She would not like to get back together, and she would also appreciate it if he stopped contacting her. Mike continued to pursue her despite her explicit request that he stop contacting her. He became enraged. How could she reject him after he had spent so much time and money on her to get her back? He persisted and stated to Andrea that she didn’t “know who she was messing with” and would “never get another guy like him.” Andrea blocked him on all forms of communication platforms. Then the gifts in the mail started. Mike started sending gifts that were over the top and, at times, bizarre.

Andrea would only unblock Mike briefly to ask him again to please leave her alone for good. She even threatened to go to the police. The gifts kept coming in the mail and were getting weirder. Mike felt entitled to Andrea’s attention, and her refusal to respond enraged him. The devaluing process of the narcissistic abuse love bombing cycle had begun with Mike not respecting Andrea’s boundaries, threatening her, and putting her down. The narcissistic devaluation phase is clear when he objectified her to feed his ego. 

Stage 3: Discard

If Andrea had fallen for his narcissistic love bomb, Mike would have started his narcissistic relationship patterns all over again. The narcissistic emotional abuse cycle would go like this: Love bomb → devalue –> discard → hoover. Following Mike’s love bomb, he would have begun to devalue her through criticisms, gaslighting, and passive-aggressive jokes. After pent-up tension, some form of an explosion would occur, potentially leading to the relationship being discarded and/or Mike cheating on Andrea again. 

Stage 4: Hoovering

After discarding the relationship, the person driving the narcissistic abuse cycle will likely hoover. Hoovering involves various manipulative tactics to stay close to the survivor; Examples include: insincere apologies, reaching out randomly, reaching out on important dates, desperately needing help, making grandiose promises, etc. If you recognize that you are in the hoovering part of the abuse cycle, the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to end contact, and hopefully, the narcissist will find a new supply source to feed their ego.

Check List of Warning Signs for The Narcissistic Abuse Love Bombing Cycle 

Things to look for in your partner:

  • narcissist love bombing cycleIs there something about the person’s character that seems inconsistent? Are they hot and cold – One day, they are clingy and smothering, and the next day they ignore your calls/texts?
  • Does the pacing of the relationship make sense?
  • When they give you compliments, do they feel like they’re somewhat about themselves? For example: That shirt I bought you looks good on you; I have excellent taste, huh!? 
  • Does this person seem possessive and checks in all the time but frames it that they are doing it for your safety? 
  • They violate your boundaries: you set a limit such as: “I’m not ready for you to meet my children yet, please do not come over to my house this weekend,” and then your narcissistic partner stops by to “surprise” you in the middle of the day with candy for your children. Or, you ask them not to contact you and state that you will reach out at night after your children have gone to bed, but they call you several times throughout the day to ask what you’re doing. 
  • Are they short-tempered or frequently become excessively angry? 
  • Do they cut you off while you’re talking despite them asking you a question? 
  • Are they demeaning/critical toward you? 
  • Do they have a high sense of grandeur seeming full of themselves without much to back it up? 
  • Do they constantly need reassurance and praise?
  • Are they entitled? 
  • Do they use their loved ones (family, friends)? 

Things to pay attention to within yourself: 

  • Do you feel overwhelmed /disoriented by the attention?
  • Are you not given the space to process your feelings properly?
  • Is your intuition/gut giving you pause about pursuing the relationship with this person?
  • Do you feel criticized or small within the relationship? 
  • Do you feel a sense of autonomy or agency within this relationship?
  • When you have hope for positive things in the relationship, do they come to fruition, or are you often left lead on and disappointed? 
  • Are you starting not to trust yourself?
  • Do your boundaries feel violated regularly?

Healthy versus Unhealthy Relationships

Not all partners sending you love letters and flowers are narcissistically love bombing. To be love bombed is to be included in the narcissistic abuse cycle often associated with the abuser having a narcissistic personality disorder. Think back to the red flags discussed above. In a healthy relationship, both partners will consent to the pace. Love will build over time as you learn about and accept each other’s strengths and flaws. 

In a healthy relationship, there is:

  • love bombing cycleEqual respect, trust, and honesty
  • You can enjoy spending time away from each other
  • Your choices are mutual
  • Each person feels like an equal partner in finances

In contrast, in an unhealthy relationship, there is typically an imbalance of power. One of the partners may feel entitled to overstep the other person’s boundaries in the abuse cycle. 

Things to watch out for in an abusive love bombing relationship:

  • Controlling behaviors
  • Isolating you from friends or family
  • Feeling entitled to all of your passwords and content of conversations
  • Accusing you of cheating and then making you prove your trustworthiness
  • gas-lighting (manipulating someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity)

In Closing, Protect Yourself from Love Bombing

You never need to give up your sense of physical/emotional safety and security for another’s comfort. Are you ignoring your boundaries and needs in favor of someone else’s? No rationale makes that okay. Even if you think you are helping the person, you may be giving them the message that their actions are ok. A relationship should be mutually satisfying. Be sure to check in with your feelings regularly. If you find yourself worrying about your partner’s happiness more than your own, then do some reflecting, it could be an abusive relationship. Once you’ve reflected, try to restore a sense of balance by setting boundaries. Gauge your partner’s reactions to your limitations or expectations. If your partner tries to intimidate you into a power imbalance, then it may be time for you to move on.

If you are struggling to find balance in your relationship or, after having read this article, are fearing you are caught in an abuse cycle and need help getting out, you might benefit from talking with an individual therapist or a relationship therapist in Philadelphia, PA. If you do not live in the Philadelphia area, we also offer online relationship therapy & counseling sessions. Please feel free to reach out to us for a consultation with the contact form below.

Read our article about the children of narcissists to find out how your children may be affected!

Contact us for a therapist in Philadelphia.

Meet The Author:

Courtney Miller, LPC

Courtney Miller, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

Courtney Miller, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a warm, empathetic approach, specializing in children, teens, and young adults, including the LGBTQ+ community. Utilizing her artistic background, she employs creative and experiential methods in therapy. Courtney focuses on overcoming mood disorders, trauma, and relational dynamics, particularly addressing C-PTSD and narcissistic wounds. She emphasizes understanding patterns and enhancing existing strengths, offering tools like mindfulness and thought reframing. With a BA in Psychology and Fine Art from SUNY New Paltz and an MA in Mental Health Counseling from CUNY Brooklyn, she has experience in family dynamics and LGBTQ+ youth support. Based in Philadelphia, Courtney enjoys crafting, travel, biking, and spending time with loved ones.

Learn more about Courtney Miller ⇒

Our Approach to Smoking and Tobacco Cessation

The journey to quit smoking cessation is a big step towards reclaiming your health and well-being. The Food and Drug Administration recommends against using tobacco due to its well-documented adverse health effects. At our Philadelphia center near you, we understand the complications of nicotine addiction and the challenges it presents. Our therapeutic strategy for smoking and tobacco cessation is rooted in compassionate, evidence-based methods that respect your unique story and struggles.

Complete Assessment: Every journey begins with understanding. Our initial cessation counseling sessions are dedicated to exploring your relationship with tobacco and assessing the right path for you if you’re asking how to quit tobacco products. We look into your smoking history, triggers, and any previous attempts to quit. This thorough assessment allows us to tailor a smoking cessation plan that aligns with your personal goals and challenges.

Personalized Therapy Plans: Recognizing that no two individuals are alike, we offer customized therapy solutions. Our plans integrate a mix of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing, and mindfulness techniques geared toward breaking the mental need for nicotine. We address not just the act of smoking but the emotional and situational triggers that accompany it. 

Skill Development for Long-term Success: Our approach focuses on equipping you with the tools and skills needed to quit tobacco for good. This includes strategies for managing cravings, emotional regulation techniques to cope with stress without relying on tobacco, and building a supportive environment helpful in your success.

Supportive Environment: We provide a non-judgmental, supportive setting that encourages openness and trust. Understanding the ups and downs of quitting smoking, we offer continuous support and motivation, ensuring you never feel alone in your journey. We recognize the habit of smoking is difficult to break. We also recognize that smoking sometimes offers more than just a nicotine hit, such as a break from work or family. 

Holistic Well-being and Focus: Beyond cessation, our therapy emphasizes overall well-being. We explore the impact of smoking on your physical health, relationships, and self-esteem, aiming to enhance your quality of life across all fronts.

Relapse Prevention: Quitting is not a straightforward process, our program includes comprehensive relapse prevention strategies. We help you identify potential pitfalls and develop a plan to navigate them, ensuring long-term success. We recognize the habit of smoking is difficult to break. We also recognize that smoking sometimes offers more than just a nicotine hit, such as a break from work or family. 

Continuous Evaluation and Adjustment: We believe in the power of adaptability. Your therapy plan is regularly reviewed and adjusted based on your progress, challenges, and feedback, ensuring it remains aligned with your evolving needs and goals.

Meet Our Smoking Cessation Therapist in Philadelphia

Our Philadelphia smoking cessation treatment therapist specializes in helping individuals navigate the journey to becoming smoke-free. Using evidence-based practices, they focus on your unique needs, providing tailored support to overcome the challenges of quitting tobacco. With a commitment to your overall well-being, our team offers the encouragement and strategies necessary for lasting change, ensuring a compassionate and effective path toward a healthier life.

Reasons to Seek Therapy for Quitting Tobacco

Quitting tobacco is a transformative journey that extends beyond physical health; it’s a pathway to reclaiming control over your life. Therapy offers a structured, supportive environment where you can tackle the challenge with professional guidance, making the process more manageable and the outcomes more sustainable.

Break the Physical Dependence

Therapy provides practical strategies to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce the physical craving for nicotine. By understanding the nature of addiction, individuals can learn to break the cycle of dependence, using tools and techniques that address both the immediate challenges of quitting and the long-term goal of staying tobacco-free.

Improve Overall Mental and Physical Health

Quitting tobacco significantly boosts both mental and physical health. Therapy aids in reducing the stress, anxiety, and depression often associated with quitting while also supporting the body’s recovery from the harmful effects of tobacco use. This focus ensures a holistic improvement in quality of life.

Strengthen Self-Esteem and Confidence

The process of quitting tobacco, supported by therapy, can dramatically enhance self-esteem and confidence. Achieving this milestone reinforces an individual’s belief in overcoming challenges, strengthening a positive self-image, and a can-do attitude towards life’s obstacles.

Set a Foundation for Long-Term Health

Therapy not only aids in quitting tobacco but also sets the groundwork for a healthier future. By establishing healthy habits and coping mechanisms, individuals can protect themselves against the long-term risks associated with tobacco use, such as heart disease, cancer, and respiratory issues, paving the way for a longer, more vibrant life.

Financial Saving and Freedom

Quitting tobacco with the help of therapy can lead to significant financial savings. The cost of purchasing cigarettes or tobacco products adds up, and therapy can help redirect these funds towards more fulfilling and health-promoting uses, offering both financial freedom and an enhanced lifestyle.

FAQ For Smoking Cessation Counseling

What is tobacco cessation therapy?

Tobacco cessation therapy is a specialized form of behavioral counseling designed to help individuals quit smoking or using tobacco products by addressing both the physical addiction and the psychological factors that contribute to tobacco use.

Is tobacco cessation therapy effective for everyone?

While individual results can vary, many people find therapy can be an effective addition to quitting tobacco, especially when combined with other treatments like nicotine replacement therapy.

What to expect in your therapy sessions

In your therapy sessions, you can expect a supportive and non-judgmental environment where you will work together with your therapist to understand your tobacco use, identify triggers, and develop personalized strategies for quitting. Sessions often include setting quit goals, learning stress management techniques, and building skills to cope with cravings and avoid relapse.

How does therapy help in quitting tobacco?

Therapy helps by identifying triggers, teaching coping strategies to deal with cravings and stress, addressing underlying emotional or psychological issues, and providing support and motivation throughout the quitting process.

Can therapy address nicotine withdrawal symptoms?

Yes, therapy can provide strategies to manage withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, and cravings and can suggest medical resources if necessary. Other supplementary cessation medications, such as a nicotine patch, or nasal spray can help with withdrawal symptoms.

How long does tobacco cessation therapy take?

The duration varies depending on the individual’s needs and progress, but it typically involves multiple sessions over several weeks or months to provide adequate support and guidance. The smoking cessation therapist will maintain an open dialogue with you about progress and discharge. 

What is Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)?

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) involves using products that supply low doses of nicotine without the harmful chemicals found in tobacco. The aim is to ease the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting tobacco by gradually reducing the body’s dependence on nicotine. Common forms of NRT include patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers, and nasal sprays.

What happens to your body when you quit tobacco?

When you quit tobacco, your body begins to heal immediately from the harmful effects of tobacco. Within 20 minutes, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Within 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels in your blood return to normal. Over the next few months, circulation improves, lung function increases, and your risk of heart attack begins to decrease. Long-term benefits include a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases, and significant overall health and longevity improvement.

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