Narcissistic Love Bombing Cycle: Idealize, Devalue, Discard

During love bombing, a narcissist showers the other person with love, affection, compliments, and gifts as a way to win them over. They idolize their new partner and give them the feeling they are special.

Love bombing can mean telling the other person they are in love, or asking them to move in, get married, or go abroad together after only a few days or weeks. It can also involve excessive texting and calling, and wanting to spend a lot of time together.

Love bombing is behavior that is exaggerated and inappropriate, given that it happens at the beginning of a relationship when the people involved hardly know each other. Nevertheless, the narcissist makes it appear genuine and convinces the victim of their love and commitment, and promises for the future.

In essence, love bombing is grooming: a strategy to build trust and an emotional connection with the victim to gain control over them.

Two women describe the beginning or “love bombing phase” of their relationship with a narcissist in a qualitative study:

“At first, it was great. He made it seem like he was my saviour. He was kind, loving and attentive.” 

“Our early relationship felt like a fairy tale; I’d never been adored and idealized before and was totally sucked in. [He] was very charming in the beginning.

He pursued me hard and fast and I didn’t quite know what was happening…He complimented me, put me on a pedestal, and told me he loved me really early on in the game. I was flattered.”

How Long Does the Love Bombing Phase Last With a Narcissist?

Love bombing serves the purpose of seducing a new partner and thereby gaining control over them. Once this goal has been achieved, the love bombing tends to fade and abusive behaviors start to emerge.

Thus, it is difficult to provide a specific time span as it can last from a few weeks to several months or even a year.

A survey conducted on 500 individuals who had been in a relationship with a narcissist estimated the duration of love bombing. For men, the duration was around five and a half months while for women it was three and a half months.

The length also varied depending on the type of narcissist in question; however, the maximum duration in this survey was six months.

Love bombing can also happen episodically. For example, if they sense they are losing their power over you or you make an attempt to leave, they will love bomb as a way to regain control.

They might apologize, make grand romantic gestures, confess their eternal love for you, tell you how much they have changed, and/or make promises for the future. But once they have you back under their control, the abuse will resume.

What Comes After Love Bombing With a Narcissist?

Love bombing is the narcissist’s first step in gaining control over you. Once you are committed to them, they tend to become demanding, cruel, argumentative, and aggressive. In other words, after love bombing comes abuse.

Devaluation Phase

The “devaluation” phase refers to the narcissist skillfully destroying their victim’s self-esteem and sense of self to increase the power they have over them. This loss of self makes the victim feel as though they have no other option but to stay with the narcissist.

Furthermore, the narcissist manipulates the victim into believing the abuse is their fault. Some of these behaviors include gaslighting, warm-cold behavior, and withholding love and affection. The victim tries to please the narcissist as a way to get back to how things were before, unaware that it was a façade.

Discard Phase

Once the victim no longer holds value for the narcissist and/or they have found someone else, they discard the victim. During this final “discard” phase of the narcissistic love pattern, the abuse often escalates and the narcissist attempts to psychologically destroy their victim.

Below, two victims of narcissists share their experience of what happens when the love bombing phase is over:

“He pressured me into getting married very quickly. After we got married he changed [and] became prone to extreme anger if I didn’t compliment him enough. He is explosive, seems totally unemotional, and unstable.”

“When we first met he drew me in fast…I was so taken in with this guy. He made himself to be everything I had ever wanted.

After several months the lectures started…he would spend hours criticizing me, blaming me for everything. I had no local family or friends and the loneliness was horrible…Over the next years the lectures became more frequent and more harsh with increased name calling and blame.

Anytime he was in a bad mood or had a bad day, where something didn’t go his way, he would spend the rest of the night lecturing me. He would use sex as a means to get the lectures to stop, saying that he would stop talking if I sexually gratified him.”

What are the Warning Signs of Love Bombing?

Narcissists are often skilled manipulators and thus make love bombing seem genuine. But there are some warning signs to look out for:

Things to Look Out For in Your Partner

There is a difference between romance and love bombing. The former is gentle and respectful, while love bombing is excessive and can seem almost aggressive.

Lavish gifts and paying for trips abroad or fancy dinners are aimed at making you feel indebted to them and are therefore often a warning sign. Here are some more behaviors you should treat with caution:

  • Expecting you to spend a lot of time with them
  • Excessive calling and texting
  • Become upset if you do not have time or do not respond immediately
  • Speaking about marriage and other serious commitments
  • Showing signs of jealousy, e.g. accusing you of looking at another man/ woman
  • Wanting to know your whereabouts and who you are with often
  • Speaking badly about their ex-partner, e.g. calling them “deranged” and/ or saying how they were abusive

Things to Pay Attention to Within Yourself

Love bombing can feel good and exciting, and being adored and idolized can give you a confidence boost. The victim is often blinded by this behavior because naturally, they want to believe that it is true and that they have met the partner of their dreams.

That is why it is important to trust your gut feeling when it tells you “this is too good to be true”. Signs of love bombing within yourself include feeling:

  • Smothered
  • Obligated e.g. to spend time with them and to reply to every message as quickly as possible
  • As though you cannot say no out of fear they will get upset or lose interest
  • Overwhelmed e.g. by the expensive gifts or grand gestures
  • Uncomfortable
  • Suspicious of their intentions


Do Narcissists Enjoy Love Bombing?

It is possible that narcissists enjoy love bombing because they receive a positive, affirming response from the other person. Narcissistic people desire (and feel entitled to) attention and admiration and will use any tactic at their disposal to elicit this from others.

They may also enjoy that they can manipulate their victim into loving and idolizing them, as this gives them a sense of power. 

Why do Narcissists Use Love Bombing?

Love bombing is a tactic used by narcissists to seduce a new partner – a new source of narcissistic supply (admiration and attention).

The end goal is to have power over the victim by making them emotionally, physically, and even financially dependent on them. They want the victim to feel indebted to them, for example, because they spent a lot of money and/ or time on them.

Is Love Bombing Only Done by Narcissists?

Love bombing is generally associated with narcissism. Research has found that people who have higher rates of narcissism are more likely to engage in love bombing.  However, a person who is genuinely generous and attentive might give expensive gifts or take you on a trip abroad in the first few weeks of knowing them.

Or if a person is lonely, they might call and text often. It is a good idea to treat this kind of behavior cautiously but it does not necessarily make them narcissists. To identify a narcissist, it is important to look at the whole picture.

Are Narcissists Aware of Love Bombing?

A narcissist is not necessarily aware that what they are doing is love bombing. They are consciously pursuing the other person, and to win them over, they will use whatever tactic is at their disposal.

Narcissists have an inflated self-image and therefore, it is likely that they believe that what they are doing is good and kind. They probably do not see love bombing as problematic but rather as a genuine strategy for getting a partner. 


Akin, E. (2023). How Long Does the Love Bombing Phase Last? (Survey). Unfilteredd.

Day, N. J. S., Townsend, M. L., & Grenyer, B. F. S. (2022). Pathological narcissism: An analysis of interpersonal dysfunction within intimate relationships. Personality and Mental Health, 16( 3), 204– 216.

Strutzenberg, C. C., Wiersma-Mosley, J. D., Jozkowski, K. N., & Becnel, J. N. (2017). Love-bombing: A Narcissistic Approach to Relationship Formation. Discovery, The Student Journal of Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, 18(1), 81-89.

Saul Mcleod, PhD

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Educator, Researcher

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education.

Anna Drescher

Mental Health Professional

BSc (Hons), Psychology, Goldsmiths University, MSc in Psychotherapy, University of Queensland

Anna Drescher is a freelance writer specializing in mental health and psychology.