Submitted Date 02/04/2019

Narcissism is one of the most frustrating and exhausting personality traits you can deal with in dating. And when it rises to the level of clinical narcissism it can become downright dangerous. But while many so-called colloquial narcissists are simply secretive, selfish and “superior,” many more are attention-seeking, emotionally stunted and even abusive.

So how can you spot a narcissist coming when they don't seem to fit the part? If a narcissist typically neglects your needs why are they doting on you? If a narcissist normally demands praise why are they gushing over you? If a narcissist is usually infallible how can they tout your perfection?

It's all a ruse. They're blowing you up so they can burst your bubble. They're aiming to sweep you off your feet then clip your wings. Whatever self-esteem and foundation you have, or perhaps lack, they are trying to replace it with them. They want to make you reliant on their assessment of your adequacy so you constantly seek their approval – which you'll never get. Once they have your heart they will try to destroy your confidence so you always work at pleasing them – which you never can.

A love bombing narcissist wants to emotionally cripple you so they have a willing hostage who endures their abuse and wont abandon them; even if they don't really want you. In the beginning it seems like they are fortifying you and making you stronger. But they are actually making you fragile, and waiting to attack so you fracture. And eventually you'll fall apart. You will lose the will to defend yourself, but also lose the will to leave.

So how can someone get so deep under your skin without being detected?

This kind of narcissistic manipulation comes in 3 stages. Not all relationships reach the final stage. But stay long enough and you'll get a taste of something very bitter and likely feel quite broken.

1. Grooming
The grooming phase is the overly-romantic fairy tale beginning. And it feels too good to be true because it is. This is where idealization and worship starts. They put you on a pedestal and make you believe you are the embodiment of perfection. But they're a wolf in sheep's clothing. These predators study you closely to learn your needs, wants, interests and values. They mimic you to make you feel connected and safe, and finesse you to open up to them and let go of any fear or cautions. They learn to speak your love language and tell you exactly what you want and need to hear.

These vultures are saccharin and chivalrous at first. They open doors, defend your honor, and spoil you with extravagance. They are keen and slick talkers who promise a bright, beautiful future and unending support. You feel safe, secure and cared for unlike ever before. But they feed the fantasy with no intention of delivering anything tangible.

You believe you are becoming the center of the narcissist’s world, but the truth is they are becoming your foundation. You may feel pressured to live up to the ideal image they have of you. And you can become reliant on their daily praise and undivided attention. You absolutely know you've met your match and you two are meant to be together.

Thus begets your unshakable faith in your partner, unwavering investment in your relationship, and inalienable willingness to power through any hiccup or challenge. This is when they know they have you and the real games can begin.

Part of any grooming process is testing boundaries. If you don't recognize, acknowledge or dispute boundary violations or attempts at spinning a narrative it lets a narcissist know they can go further next time. Gaslighting, or trying to skew your perception and invalidate what you see, hear, feel and otherwise perceive, plants the seed of self-doubt in you so they can continue to weave their story into your mind.

2. Exploitation
This kind of narcissist knows how to exploit your strengths and weaknesses. They take your inventory and use your positive qualities and vulnerabilities against you. They will strike swiftly then play victim to get your sympathy. They make excuses for their emotional and physical abuse, then eventually get you to make excuses for them too. And they won't ever admit to committing psychological attacks against you.

This narcissist will do anything they can to invalidate your feelings while they continue to violate your trust. They will accuse you of being jealous, petty, silly and overly sensitive all while deliberately provoking you. When you do try to confront them or finally lash they will accuse you of being the crazy one, and the one in need of help and an attitude adjustment.

You will be to blame for everything that goes wrong, as the narcissist is incapable of taking responsibility. They may feign it to progress the grooming process. Or they may blame their upbringing or ill treatment from their past, preying on your sympathies. But they revel in dysfunction and will do everything in their power to create chaos and confusion.

This is the phase that is meant to break your spirit, and make you feel worthless, devalued, ashamed and guilt-ridden. They will isolate, criticize and insult you, then threatened to leave if you speak up or don't bend to their will. They can have a hair trigger and fly into a rage without warning, then sink into silent treatment and stonewalling.

They will dismiss discrepancies in the stories or whereabouts, accrue unexcused absences, and even flaunt their infidelities. They will ensnare others into the dysfunctional dynamic of your relationship and poison others against you. They will embarrass and humiliate you publicly, then apologize in private. If they make amends in front of others it will be a performance for show and spectacle.

The attacks are vicious, deliberate, premeditated and pathological. And the cycle of abuse and honeymoon phase after forgiveness lowers you expectations enough to be content with the bare minimum of effort and respect; a far cry from the fairy tale perfection you were promised.

3. Rejection
If you think things are over when the love bomber leaves, think again. Narcissists send a message with every move they make. They will calculate an exit that leaves you completely blindsided, abandoned, and without closure. They will make sure it is painful, humiliating and public if possible.

Passive acts of abandonment would be things like: 1) Changing the locks and posting pics with their new boo while you were at work. 2) Being left at the alter. 3) Moving out, taking all the furniture, and emptying the joint bank account as you realize they've been hiding a spouse and children on the other side of town. An aggressive act would be feigning self-harm or a suicide attempt to keep you from pressing charges after a violent outburst.

After they're gone, surprisingly, you don't feel relieved. You'll feel depleted, exhausted, and somehow less than you were before you met. They take a part of you with them when they go. And here is where another cycle may begin if you allow them back into your life. If you can “win” them back, or let them “win” you back, they will undoubtedly continue to abuse you and will abandon you again. Demolishing your worth with each round.

If you break things off before being abandoned it can still take time to undo the damage of your spiritual demolition. Few survive a love bomb unscathed, even if you realize you've been victimized by a detonation. You will have to pick up your scattered pieces and put yourself back together, sealing the gaps that may now exist in your psyche.

Even if you escape your love bomber, you may have to deal with stalking and harassment from more vindictive narcissists. They may skate just under the threshold of the law, or blatantly break it just to get your attention and keep you feeling uneasy and unsafe. Report them. Record the incidences. Talk to your support circle about it. And c a professional if need be.

Love is not a battlefield and affection is not a weapon. The Build-Break-Abandon formula for love bombing is trying and traumatizing. Even the most resilient person can crumble under the weight of such a malignant personality. We all make mistakes and most people do deserve a second chance, but pay attention to these critical red flags. Intentional infliction of pain is not a mistake. And the first time you peek behind the mask, don't be afraid to run. The person you think you love does not exist.

Anyone can fall for a fantasy. But your true strength will come from hitting the ground, knowing the truth, and moving forward into a real, loving relationship.

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  • Mary Jaimes-Serrano 2 years, 2 months ago

    Georgia, thank you for writing this. Having been in one of these relationships this hit a little too close for comfort. I wish though I had known any of this beforehand. Alas, I did not, I have learned from more than one of these relationships and have found a true partner. I think these words are relevant to so many out there and could help many avoid the pain of too many of these types of relationships. Again, thank you for sharing.