Narcissistic Relationships: The Cycle of Love Bombing, Devaluation, and Hoovering

Narcissistic relationships are complex and often follow a predictable pattern characterized by intense idealization, devaluation, and manipulation phases. Understanding these phases-love bombing, devaluation, and hoovering-is crucial for recognizing the dynamics at play. However, it is important to understand that these cycles are not merely about control but are deeply rooted in the narcissist’s need to maintain an omnipotent self-image.

This article delves into these cycles, their origins, and the psychological mechanisms driving them. By shedding light on these patterns, individuals can gain valuable insights and strategies to navigate these toxic cycles.

The Nature of Narcissistic Relationships

The primary aim of analyzing narcissistic relationships is to uncover the intricate dynamics of elevation and devaluation that are not merely power plays for control but are deeply rooted in the narcissist’s need to maintain an omnipotent self-image. This omnipotent structure is the most defining characteristic of a narcissist and shapes how they interact with those closest to them.

Illustrative Examples

To better understand these dynamics, consider these scenarios:

  • Home Renovation Dispute: A man working on a home renovation project becomes frustrated and lashes out at his wife when she offers a helpful suggestion. Up until this moment everything in the relationship was fine, and perhaps one can argue, even “ideal.” His sharp and demeaning response devalues her input and reasserts his superiority.
  • Therapy Dependency:John, in therapy, realizes he relies heavily on his therapist for support. This dependency becomes evident when the therapist is unavailable or distracted, triggering feelings of vulnerability and frustration in John. However, John does not talk about these feeling, instead he attacks the therapist with accusations about how he is not available and therefore is not a competent or capable therapist.

These examples highlight how individuals with narcissistic traits avoid close contact with others and their feelings, often responding with superiority and devaluation when their omnipotent self-image is threatened and they are left to face deeper feelings of dependency.

The Cycle: Love Bombing, Devaluation, and Hoovering

Narcissistic relationships often follow a specific cycle:

  • Love Bombing:In the initial phase, the narcissist idealizes the other person, showering them with attention and affection. This creates an illusion of deep affection and connection.
  • Devaluation:Once the target is fully invested, the narcissist begins to minimize and discard them. This phase is marked by criticism, neglect, and emotional withdrawal. The social media content does not explain sufficiently how or why one moves into this cycle and often times states that they just get “bored.”
  • Hoovering: After pushing the person away, the narcissist attempts to draw them back in, fighting for their love and affection to restore their sense of control and superiority.

Motivations Behind the Cycle

The motivations driving this cycle are rooted in the narcissist’s deep-seated self-loathing and grandiosity. Love bombing creates a fantasy of idealized love, avoiding genuine emotional involvement. Devaluation occurs when the narcissist’s self-loathing is projected onto the other person, who sees good in them, triggering feelings of contempt and rage.


Origins and Causes

The origins of narcissistic omnipotent object relations trace back to early childhood experiences. Feelings of helplessness, powerlessness, and worthlessness during childhood can lead to the development of omnipotent fantasies (“I am not weak or vulnerable, I am strong and in control”). Contributing factors include abrupt separations, excessive frustration, and a lack of emotional nurturing. As the child grows, they cope by constructing an omnipotent self-image, living in a fantasy world where they control all relations to avoid feelings of vulnerability and dependency.

Defensive Mechanisms

In relationships, when the narcissist’s self-idealization is threatened, they become acutely aware of their need and dependency on others. To protect themselves from these painful emotions, they revert to the Narcissistic Omnipotent Object Relation, devaluing the other person and reducing them to “nothing.” This cycle of devaluation and hoovering serves to reconstitute the narcissistic, omnipotent relationship, demanding to be loved and validated.

Navigating the Narcissistic Cycle: Tools and Techniques for Intervention

In narcissistic relationships, individuals often engage in a destructive cycle of love bombing, devaluation, and hoovering. These individuals tend to avoid any close contact with others or even with their own feelings. Recognizing that they are avoiding their own feelings of helplessness or worthlessness is crucial for effective treatment. They refrain from making genuine contact because this kind of contact may trigger any number of painful emotions, such as dangerous, envious, or paranoid fears. To manage these fears, they approach others in a superior manner, devaluing those around them. This superior, omnipotent attitude allows them to deny any need for dependency, rejecting any valuable contributions from the people who are most important in their life. If you can understand that they are trying to avoid these painful emotions, you are in a much better position to develop strategies that foster genuine self-awareness and emotional resilience.

For the partner of a narcissist, understanding these avoidance behaviors can be transformative. Knowing that the narcissist’s actions stem from deep-seated feelings of helplessness or worthlessness allows the partner to respond with empathy rather than frustration. This awareness can help the partner reduce emotional entanglement and avoid personalizing the narcissist’s hurtful behaviors. By responding differently, the partner can create a more stable environment that encourages the narcissist to confront their underlying issues, fostering potential growth and change within the relationship. When all else fails, recognizing and addressing these patterns through therapeutic interventions can help disrupt this cycle, promoting healthier relationships and self-awareness.


Understanding the dynamics of narcissistic relationships reveals a complex interplay of control, dependency, and self-protection. These patterns, deeply rooted in early experiences of helplessness and worthlessness, drive the cycle of love bombing, devaluation, and hoovering. By recognizing these patterns and that which leads up to the shift between idealization and devaluation, individuals can navigate these relationships more effectively, seeking healthier and more fulfilling interactions. If you are interested in learning more about how to navigate these complicated relationships and dynamics please feel free to contact me directly.

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