There is a lesser-known ugly side to narcissists: their “hoovering” behavior. It is their way of sucking you back into their otherwise vacuous lives.
Narcissists have a distorted sense of self-worth and self-importance. They want you to stroke their ego with your constant attention and admiration.
You never know which of your words or acts will offend them. As a result, every step in your relationship feels like you’re walking on eggshells.
You had no idea who those people were when you first met them. Narcissists always make excellent first impressions. Their assured and kind nature draws you in.
But that seductive mask comes off early, revealing their cruel side. Their constant manipulations tire you out so much that you decide to break off.
The issue that arises is that just because a relationship with a narcissist has ended, doesn’t mean they’ll disappear from your life forever.
They will start what they are exceptionally good at — narcissist hoovering. They will unleash a series of calculated behaviors to pull you back into the relationship, like a vacuum cleaner.
What Is Narcissist Hoovering?
Hoovering is a set of manipulative behaviors that narcissists use to bring their victims back into their lives. It mainly involves a narcissistic seduction tactic called love-bombing, but it may also include fake apologies, false promises, guilt-tripping, empathy maneuvering, gaslighting, lying, and cheating.
Dr. Robin Stern, the author of The Gaslight Effect, coined the term “hoovering” after the vacuum cleaner company to explain the narcissist’s behaviors aimed at “sucking” someone back into the relationship.
Narcissists use hoovering when they suspect their victim is trying to break free from the narcissistic abuse cycle. They can start it as soon as they realize you are going to leave them, or after a period of separation.
Narcissists are experts at hoovering, as they know just what to say and do to make you feel special and wanted again. As the victim, hoovering can cause you mental uncertainty and emotional pain, leaving you drained of positivity and happiness.
The sad fact is that narcissists quite commonly hoover their exes back into the relationship. Unless you know it, you can’t fight it.
13 Giveaway Signs of Narcissist Hoovering (After No Contact)
If you broke up with or distanced yourself from a narcissist, they will most likely use hovering tactics to entice you back into the relationship.
To avoid becoming their target, you must be able to spot the red flags of their hoovering behavior.
Here are 13 signs that a narcissist is hoovering you:
1. Reconnecting with you.
They start contacting and reaching out to you more frequently than they have in the past. They may contact you out of the blue after disappearing for weeks or months of no contact.
They may call you unexpectedly as if nothing like a breakup even happened between you.
They may show up unexpectedly at your home or even your workplace. They may join the same gym or the swimming club as you and keep crossing your path.
They may shock you by taking a seat right behind you while you are in a movie theater or a sports gallery.
The best narcissist hoovering examples are when they start their love-bombing.
Love-bombing is something they do in the initial phase (Idealization phase of the Narcissistic Abuse cycle) of a relationship.
They bring back love-bombing in full force when they realize you are no longer in their lives and they must start their seductive tactics to get you back.
They become more affectionate, extra nice, attentive, and sweet. They will shower you with compliments and send you gifts and flowers for no reason or on no special occasion.
They’ll flatter you and make you feel special. Tell you how much they’ve missed you and all your gestures and mannerisms, and how much they care about you.
3. Do good things that they never did before.
Start doing things for you that they never did before, like asking about your day, finding out about your likes and dislikes, giving you time to finish when you speak, and saying thanks.
4. Accuse you and hold you guilty.
Make you feel guilty or sorry for abandoning them, or for being selfish and not giving them what they want. Make you feel awful for not being in contact with them.
5. Connect with more empathy.
Connect with you on a deeper level by sharing their feelings and emotions. Make you feel like you’re the only one who understands them.
Convince you that no one else will ever understand or love you as they do.
6. Be more helpful and generous.
Start appearing more helpful or generous than usual in order to make themselves look good in your eyes. They will try to make themselves look like the perfect partner that you’ve always wanted.
7. Play the victim card.
Manipulate you to believe that they are the victim and you are the one who is being unreasonable.
May start badmouthing you to mutual friends to turn them against you or make you look bad.
Narcissists frequently use triangulation to overpower you with the help of another person from outside your relationship.
Triangulation turns your relationship into a three-people relationship and creates a sense of rivalry in you and allows them to gain control over you.
They may try to alienate you from family and friends, since they may advise you against your relationship with the narcissist.
8. Make you feel regretful.
Make you feel sorry for them and their situation. Play on your sympathies and compassion by making them appear helpless or in need of your help. Reach out to you that they desperately need some help from you.
9. Make big, but fake, promises.
They will promise to get help to change their ways if you just give them another chance.
They will swear that they will never do the things that they did in the past. They will apologize profusely and claim that they will never give you another chance to complain.
They may try to convince you that they have changed, or that they are better now than they were before, and that things will be different this time around.
10. Reverse their role and play the empath.
They will reverse their role, from being a heartless oppressor to a highly empathic person.
They will stroke your ego and make you feel special and important to them. They will get “serious” with you and talk about commitment or marriage or having kids together.
They may try to provoke jealousy or insecurity in you that you are going to miss great things they were planning to give you in the near and far future.
11. Engage you to discuss the breakup.
They might call or text you to say they had thoughts about their relationship and were unclear why you two broke up.
So, they would like to re-engage with you once or twice to understand why the relationship ended.
They may try to convince you to meet for the last time so that they can get psychological closure.
It should come as a giant red flag because narcissists typically never give closure to a relationship if they were to break up. They will rather ghost you, discard you unceremoniously, and disappear from your life without a trace.
To persuade you to meet them, they may claim that the split is like a broken needle in their head.
It makes them keep remembering you since they do not know if you have moved on and if they are allowed to move on. So, they want to meet you face to face and settle the uncertainty.
12. Threaten self-harm.
They may threaten self-harm or suicide if you don’t take them back or give them what they want.
They might even go as far as harming themselves or making good on their threats to get your attention and sympathy.
They may even stage phony emergencies to convince you that they are in serious distress or have injured themselves so terribly that they must be taken to a hospital.
13. Become aggressive and violent.
They start trying to engage you in arguments or fights. They may resort to physical violence.
What is the Hoover stage of a narcissist?
Narcissist Hoovering is the fourth stage of the Trauma Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse.
The cycle goes as Idealizing → Devaluing → Discarding → Hoovering → Idealizing ….
Why Do Narcissists Hoover?
Narcissists hoover to restore their narcissistic supply and safeguard their self-esteem. They may also hoover if they are bored or restless and want to rekindle the drama and thrill of your first meetings. The ultimate fallout is restarting of the narcissistic abuse cycle.
A relationship with a narcissist is a cage that keeps you locked in a narcissistic abuse cycle. It makes sure that you keep feeding their ego with a narcissistic supply.
Narcissists make you co-dependent. You feed their ego while they make your life’s decisions.
Whenever a narcissist finds someone who can provide them with a better narcissistic supply, they will discard you with no guilt or empathy.
However, when you gather the courage and decide to leave them before they do, they feel undervalued and disrespected. So, they will start their hoovering maneuvers.
Hoovering indicates that a narcissist is insecure and is trying to neutralize the threat to their (already-low) self-esteem.
For a narcissist, moments of insecurity and feelings of threat can be overwhelming. They feel as if their entire world is collapsing around them.
Whatever their reasons, it’s important to be aware of their motives.
They want you back because if you go, there will be no one to cater to their whims, praise them, do them favors, tolerate their insults, and accept their exploitation.
They are hovering solely to regain control in the relationship, which will allow them to safeguard their self-worth and restore the narcissistic supply.
How Do You Respond To A Narcissistic Hoover?
Recognizing the warning signs of narcissist hoovering can help you leave the toxic relationship. Here’s what else you can do.
If you are feeling you are ready to leave a toxic relationship, you must act fast to protect yourself from the narcissist’s desperate and vindictive attempts to get you under control or destroy you and your future.
The first thing you should do if you are thinking about breaking up with them is to never tell them until you are far away from them and completely safe. Remember that the most successful survivors actively protect themselves, physically, financially, and emotionally.
And when you tell them you’re leaving, keep it brief and make it clear that you will not debate the whys.
The next step would be to remove all traces of them from your life by blocking them on phones, emails, and social media.
Now, they will start hoovering, either soon or after some time. Here’s how to respond to it:
- If they somehow manage to get through to you, firmly reiterate your six boundaries. Ask them not to encroach on your life in any way, or you will have them arrested for stalking.
- Do not contact them under any circumstances, since they are capable of doing anything horrible to you out of revenge.
- Ignore everyone who carries messages to you that you have done something wrong to the narcissist. They may be the narcissist’s flying monkeys (people sent by the narcissist to abuse you).
- Do not respond to the news of their self-harming acts. The most humane course of action is to get a psychological service facility to contact them directly and inform the police or call 911.
- If they have succeeded to disturb your inner balance and mental sanity, please seek professional help yourself.
What happens when a narcissist tries to hoover you and you don’t respond?
They become frustrated, angry, and revengeful. They will try many underhand and even cruel ways to demolish you, like exposing your personal secrets on social media. They may email your intimate pictures to your family and colleagues or class fellows.
When will a narcissist stop hoovering?
Perhaps never, if you do not stop giving them the opportunity. Narcissist hoovering is a part of the Narcissist Abuse cycle. They cannot help it. They will get back to hoover you back into the relationship as soon as they realize you are offended beyond the limit and may desert them.
The other time narcissist hoovering may stop you is when they have found someone to replace you. They no longer need you to supply them with praise and sympathy.
A narcissist may not immediately begin efforts to win you back. Their hoovering typically starts after a period of estrangement or “silent treatment.” They may reach out to you after a week, a month, or even a year.
Remember that they will always find a way to re-enter your life. Then they will say and do a slew of positive and negative things to regain control of you.
The key thing is to be aware of their motives so that you can protect yourself from being pulled back into their toxic web.
- How To Unmask And Expose A Narcissist?
- Can Narcissists Fall In Love With You, For Real?
- Gaslighting In Relationships: Bonds of Power Imbalance?
- How Do Narcissists React When They Can’t Control You?
- Why Narcissists Fake Empathy (And Shed Crocodile Tears)
- 5 Dirty Ways Narcissists Treat Their Ex (How To Handle It)
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental wellbeing, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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