Abusers are really good at manipulating their victims into believing that they have a healthy, happy, and secure connection. There are many different manipulative techniques that an abuser will use to deceive their victims but an argument can be made that none of them are more powerful than the love bombing and the honeymoon phase. 

What differentiates love bombing from the honeymoon phase is that love bombing is when an abuser will use narcissistic mirroring to absorb their victim’s identity and the honeymoon phase is when an abuser will use the information they absorbed to reconcile with their victim after physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse.

The trauma bond that both the love bombing phase and the honeymoon phase help create keeps victims and survivors of abuse tethered to the abusive relationship is unbreakable without knowledge.

It’s for this reason that it is so important for victims and survivors to grasp a comprehensive understanding of both phases so they can begin to dismantle the manipulative structure that trauma bonds held together.

Understanding Narcissistic Mirroring Is Essential When Differentiating Love Bombing and the Honeymoon Phase

The most important element of both the love bombing and honeymoon phase that you have to understand before you can truly tell the difference between the two is narcissistic mirroring.

In a healthy relationship mirroring is when one person unconsciously imitates the gesture, speech pattern, or attitude of another, it allows the people involved to see each other accurately, and it strengthens the bond that they share. 

In an abusive relationship, narcissistic mirroring is when an abuser will quickly manipulate the victim into believing that they’re in a healthy, happy, and secure relationship by absorbing all of the information they can about the victim’s identity and “mirroring” it back to them. 

A narcissist in a red shirt using narcissistic mirroring

It’s an incredibly manipulative technique because it makes the victim feel as if they have a connection with the perfect partner, friend, co-worker, or family member. It makes them feel like the abuser knows them better than anyone else because of how good abusers are at using narcissistic mirroring to fill the void in their victim’s lives.

An important detail to remember about narcissistic mirroring is that while it’s designed to fill the void in the victim’s life, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the “void” is always a healthy, happy, and/or secure aspect of life.

For example, those who come from unhealthy/abusive upbringings usually have an extremely corrupted definition of a healthy relationship which causes them to naturally gravitate towards abusive relationships simply because it is familiar. Under these circumstances narcissistic mirroring could simply be the abuser mirroring the unhealthy/abusive relationships that their victim has experienced in the past. 

Why Is It Important to Understand Narcissistic Mirroring Before Learning About Love Bombing and the Honeymoon Phase?

People often question, doubt, and ignore victims who stay in their abusive relationships. While it’s true that the victim of abuse has to acknowledge that what they’re experiencing is abuse and leave the relationship, the difficulty of doing so is often overlooked. 

The most powerful thing that keeps victims of abusive relationships, who haven’t been able to fully acknowledge that what they’re experiencing is abuse, trapped within the relationships is cognitive dissonance. 

Cognitive dissonance is a theory that suggests when we experience an inconsistency among our beliefs, behavior, and information that we have, it causes a tremendous amount of psychological tension. To ease this tension we will change one or more of the elements that are causing the inconsistency to make everything consistent. 

What does this look like in abusive relationships? The victim’s justification, rationalization, and ultimately normalization of abuse.

It would be easy to shame the victim for “bringing this upon themselves” but it’s actually narcissistic mirroring that has manipulated them into justifying, rationalizing, and ultimately normalizing the abuse they’re experiencing. 

So before we’re quick to judge those who experience the power of narcissistic mirroring and are manipulated into unconsciously use cognitive dissonance to stay in abusive environments, ask yourself the following:

If you had someone in your life who knew you better than anyone else, made you feel incredibly special, and who you believed to be the best thing that could ever happen to you, would you be able to just walk away from it all at the first sign of trouble or would you find a way to justify the trouble to keep your desire to be in a happy, healthy, and secure situation alive? 

Or…

If you’ve experienced abuse from those who are supposed to love you unconditionally for your entire life, you’ve known nothing but toxicity, rage, neglect, and abuse your entire life, would you have the inkling to search for the healthy, happy, and secure environment that you most likely don’t even know exists? 

The Difference Between the Love Bombing and Honeymoon Phase

As we mentioned before, the love bombing phase is when an abuser will use narcissistic mirroring to absorb their victim’s identity and the honeymoon phase is when an abuser will use the information they absorbed to reconcile with their victim after physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse.

A narcissist using the honeymoon phase to manipulate his partner into a limbo state of cognitive dissonance

But given the severity of each phase, it is really important to take a deeper dive into these behavior patterns to extract the information you need to break the manipulative and abusive structure they help maintain. 

Love Bombing Phase

The love bombing phase is probably one of the most misunderstood forms of emotional abuse ever. The love bombing phase is a narcissistic behavior pattern that is widely known as a period where the abuser showers a new partner with intense displays of affection early on in a relationship. This often manifests in the form of a lot of gifts, communication, time spent together, intimacy, and spontaneous moments. 

There’s a huge problem with this definition though…

A large majority of information about narcissism, narcissistic personalities, and narcissistic abuse has been based on the behavior of a grandiose narcissist. They are the poster child of narcissism. If a picture were to come up in the dictionary when you searched the word “narcissist”, a grandiose one would show up first. 

These are your flashy, grandiose, arrogant, superficial, life of the party, successful, well put together, articulate, charming, charismatic, with a celebrity-like aura narcissists.  

However, grandiose narcissism is on a continuum with three other types of narcissism which is a huge problem because a continuum is a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, but the extremes are quite distinct.

In other words, the extreme versions of grandiose, malignant, communal, and covert narcissism are very different from each other and easy to identify but the non-extreme versions are very similar to each other and often display the same behavior patterns, characteristics, and personality traits. 

What’s wrong with that? 

Having rigid definitions of narcissistic behavior patterns that circulate around the behavior of a grandiose narcissist allow the behavior of the three other types of narcissists to fly under the radar. 

A narcissist is a narcissist, why does it matter? 

It’s important to understand that love bombing can manifest in a numerous number of ways because it’s an extreme form of narcissistic mirroring. As you know, narcissistic mirroring creates very powerful trauma bonds but the only way one can break a trauma bond is to identify the reason they’re trauma bonded to their abuser in the first place. 

If a victim of a trauma bonded relationship is with someone who had covert narcissistic tendencies, someone who is introverted and comes off as depressed, were to attempt to break the trauma bond with the information they have from a grandiose narcissistic perspective, someone who is extroverted and appears successful, they wouldn’t be able to break the bond because they wouldn’t be able to relate to the definition. 

The inconsistency between the information they’re learning, the abuse they’re experiencing, and the confusion they have from the narcissistic mirroring would simply trigger cognitive dissonance and force them to justify, rationalize, and ultimately normalize the abuse. 

A victim of narcissistic abuse learning about narcissistic abuse

It’s for this reason that love bombing should be understood as narcissistic mirroring. It is a phase in the beginning of many abusive relationships where the abuser will absorb all of the information they can about the victim’s identity and “mirror” it back to them, which manipulates the victim into envisioning a healthy, happy, and secure future together. 

You should read our article How Long Does the Love Bombing Phase Last? (Case Study) for a better understanding of the different types of narcissism and narcissistic behaviors.

The Honeymoon Phase

The honeymoon phase occurs after emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse and it is designed to manipulate the victim into “forgiving” their abuser. This phase is by far one of the clearest manifestations of how destructive narcissistic mirroring really is. 

How? 

The honeymoon phase is designed to keep the victim hooked in the relationship. So, the abuser doesn’t just apologize for their behavior, they use the information they absorbed about their victim’s identity to keep the trauma bonded relationship alive. 

The honeymoon phase is a vicious onslaught of intermittent reinforcement and future faking that causes the victim to become addicted, the same type of addiction people get when they abuse substances, to the relationship. 

You see, intermittent reinforcement is the delivery of a reward at irregular intervals and future faking is when an abuser will make false promises for the future to get what they want in the present. 

The “reward” that abusers give their victim in the honeymoon phase is the validation that what they did was wrong and the sense of hope that moving forward the relationship will be happy, healthy, and secure. 

A narcissist using intermittent reinforcement to keep their vicim trapped within the abuse cycle.

The honeymoon phase is just that, happy, healthy, and secure. It makes the victim feel AMAZING because their abuser is pretending to be the person they’ve longed for them to be. 

This is where the addiction component formulates…

You see, abusive relationships are so emotionally starved that the “reward” that abusers give their victim in the honeymoon phase triggers the reward sector in the victim’s brain, flooding their body with dopamine. 

What this does is that it makes the honeymoon phase the victim’s only known source of happiness and they begin to crave this high point in their dysfunctional relationship which makes it nearly impossible to break the trauma bond so they remain stuck in the cycle. 

You should read our article Why Do Trauma Bonds Feel Like an Addiction for much more information about this topic. 

What Should You Take Away From This Article? 

For those trying to avoid, escape from, or heal from narcissistic abuse, the most important piece of information that you should take away from this article is how powerful narcissistic mirroring is. A narcissist’s ability to quickly absorb the information about their victim’s identity plays a huge part in the continuation of these trauma bonded relationships.

Having a comprehensive understanding of narcissistic mirroring and how it creates many different variations of narcissistic behaviors like love bombing and the honeymoon phase is one of the most important things victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse could have.

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References

Romero, Mary. “A comparison between strategies used on prisoners of war and battered wives.” Sex roles 13.9 (1985): 537-547.

Donald, G. “Emotional Attachments in Abusive Relationships: A Test of Traumatic Bonding Theory.”