Most of us have experienced the whirlwind of passion, romance and excitement whilst in the throes of a new romantic relationship. One thing that all of us would be guilty of doing to some degree is love bombing our romantic interest. Love bombing most commonly occurs during the very early stages of a romance (the honeymoon period) and is characterised by the act of “bombing’ a new partner with excessive love, attention, time, romance, kindness, money and/or gifts. The goal is to attract the attention of a person we desire. Unfortunately, however, love bombing has become unduly associated with narcissism and narcissists that it is rarely mentioned in its healthy form.
If love bombing is viewed from an evolutionary perspective, it becomes quite normal, healthy and even expected/required if one is to be successful in finding a mate. I am sure you have seen the wildlife documentaries where one species of animal attempts to woo the opposite sex with grand displays of attention, gifts, flattery, colours, dance routines etc. The one who impresses the opposite sex the most is the one who gets to reproduce. Hence, the notion of survival of the fittest. Therefore, since humans are just another animal species, it can be argued that we still persist with these evolutionary behaviours/instincts in order to find and ‘win’ over a romantic partner.
However, whilst we may all be susceptible to these evolutionary behaviours/instincts, the outcomes of love bombing can be quite different depending on who is on the receiving end of the ‘bombing’ and what they ultimately do with all the attention, adoration etc that they receive. Love bombing is considered healthy when it continues in regular, periodic bursts well after the initial honeymoon phase and for the duration of the relationship. By regular and periodic I mean constant small and grand acts daily, weekly, monthly and yearly (i.e., kindness and loving words/actions on a daily basis, flowers at random times, gifts on special occasions etc).
Love bombing is unhealthy however when it completely stops after a goal has been achieved (i.e., “I have won her over so I can stop all this kindness now”) and leads to devaluation and discarding. Unhealthy love bombing can reoccur after the ultimate goal has been achieved, but only occurs during a potential or actual separation. The love bombing will occur briefly in order to ‘win back’ the mate but will quickly stop again once they have ‘won’ their partner back. It is this unhealthy form of love bombing which is commonly associated with narcissists/narcissism.
In order to clearly distinguish between healthy and unhealthy love bombing, let’s take a look at love bombing that occurs between two “healthy” persons as our first example. When two “healthy” people engage in love bombing during the early stages of a romance, each person is obviously on the receiving end of the ‘bombing’. Now, it is what these “healthy” people do with the feelings associated with this ‘bombing’ which determines the fate of their relationship.
When a “healthy” person experiences feelings of being loved, needed, appreciated, supported, cared for, etc which are, necessarily, associated with the attention, adoration etc that they are receiving during the ‘bombing’, they are capable of storing these feelings away and investing these feelings into the long-term goal of developing a long and prosperous relationship. The “healthy” person basically transforms the attention and feelings etc they receive and experience into trust, intimacy, respect, love, loyalty etc.
To make it easier to understand, think of a squirrel that collects nuts during the summer when the nuts are plentiful and saves them for the winter when they are not as abundant - now the blog title makes sense right :). So, using the squirrel analogy, “healthy” people save the feelings of being loved, appreciated etc that they received during the love bombing (summer) and can recall/use these feelings when their spouse is unwell, having family problems, busy with work etc (winter). Two “healthy” people can therefore have a long and successful partnership based on mutual support, loyalty, love etc if they both save, transform and continue to supply nuts.
So how is a narcissist different? Let’s look now at a relationship between a “healthy” person and a person with narcissism/narcissistic traits. The “healthy” person goes through all that was mentioned previously so no need to repeat that process. The narcissist however is greedy. The narcissist is dependent on narc supply. Therefore, when they are on the receiving end of love bombing (which as I discussed earlier is possible as a “healthy” person will also engage in love bombing in order to secure a mate) the narcissist consumes, rather than stores, the attention etc they are receiving.
The narcissist basically consumes the raw product without investing it for the future. They are so fixated and dependent on narcissistic supply that they consider only the short-term and never the long-term. They are a squirrel that refuses to store nuts during summer and finds themselves without any stored nuts come winter. Now what does a squirrel with no stored nuts need to do during winter? If they don’t want to starve and die, they need to go hunting.
This is exactly what the narcissist does during the devaluation and discarding phase once the honeymoon period is over. They either begin devaluing their partner (no more love bombing and instead resort to abuse/demeaning) or go searching for more narc supply (nuts). So, whilst the narcissist is out searching for more nuts, the “healthy” person is now heart broken and stuck with a storehouse of loyalty, love, etc that they invested in for a future which is now not seemingly possible.
Now, if a narcissist resorts to devaluation but not outright discarding of his partner, he can do this because he will be able to survive off of the nuts that his partner has stored away. The “healthy” partner will continue to survive during their winter (when they receive no love bombing) precisely because they invested their earlier nuts and transformed those nuts into loyalty and commitment and to continuing to display their normal and healthy regular and periodic love bombing.
So, the narcissist continues to receive love bombing without having to reciprocate. The narcissist is essentially being parasitic and surviving solely on the nuts his partner has stored. They just keep feeding off of the other's stored nuts (narc supply). If the “healthy” partner begins to run out of nuts to consume for themselves or to provide to the other, they will consider leaving the relationship and request a separation. This is when the narcissist will briefly resume the love bombing in order to ensure the “healthy” partner can store some more nuts away. Once the narcissist is confident that their “healthy” partner has stored enough nuts (will stay in the relationship), they will return to devaluation and feeding off of the others nuts.
If this second or third or fourth or fifth round of love bombing with the “healthy” partner is not successful and the relationship looks to be ending, or if they were in a relationship with another narcissist who also didn’t save their nuts from the plentiful summer (initial honeymoon phase), they will simply discard and look for another supply of nuts and continue the cycle all over again.