Narcissists have fragile egos and a shaky sense of self-worth.
Unless you keep stroking their egos with your attention and admiration, they feel ignored and insulted.
When you’re in a relationship with them, you never know which of your words or acts will offend them. As a result, you feel like you’re walking on eggshells in your relationship.
All of that changes when you express your intention to leave them. They will pull a sneaky act called “hoovering.” It’s a narc’s way of keeping you in their otherwise empty existence.
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.
The term “hoovering” was most likely coined by Robin Stern, the author of The Gaslight Effect, after the vacuum cleaner company to explain a narcissist’s attempts to “suck” someone back into the relationship. Some claim that “hoovering” was coined by psychologist Sandra Brown to describe the same behavior.
The narcissist delivers hoovering as a series of calculated behaviors delivered at varying intensities (“dial speeds”) based on your vulnerabilities.
Unfortunately, narcissists are quite often successful in bringing their ex-partners back into the relationship or keeping them in the relationship.
13 Signs of Narcissist Hoovering (After No Contact)
If you break up with or distance yourself from a narcissist, they will almost certainly use hoovering tactics against you. Learn to recognize the red signs of their hoovering behavior to avoid becoming their prey.
Here are 13 signs that a narcissist is hoovering you:
1. They will launch their love bombing that drew you in the first place.
Narcissists deploy their best hoovering maneuvers when they start their love-bombing.
Love-bombing is something that narcissists do in the early phase of a relationship (the idealization phase of the narcissistic abuse cycle).
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.
2. They will invite you to engage with them to discuss the breakup.
Just because you have ended your relationship with a narcissist doesn’t mean they have disappeared from your life forever.
They might call or text you to say they had their thoughts about their relationship and want to know why you two broke up.
They may say they want to re-engage with you once or twice to figure out what mistakes they made and learn from the failed relationship.
They may try to convince you to meet for at least a “farewell dinner” so that they can get psychological closure.
It should raise a red flag because narcissists typically never give closure to a relationship when it ends.
If a narcissist wants to break up with you, 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.
They may claim that they keep remembering you since they do not know if you have moved on, or if they are allowed to move on. So, they want to meet you face to face and settle the uncertainty.
3. They will make contact with you as frequently as they can.
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 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.
Once you have granted them a meeting, they may begin calling and reaching out to you more frequently than in the past.
4. Hoovering narcissists can become more helpful and generous.
They will show more empathy, compassion, helpfulness, and kindness toward you.
They will connect with you on a deeper level by sharing their vulnerabilities and hurt emotions.
They will make you feel as if you are the only one who understands them and their feelings and thoughts. They would try to convince you that no one else will ever understand or love you as they do.
They will begin to appear more helpful or giving than usual in trying to improve their image in your eyes.
They will try to present themselves as the ideal companion you’ve always desired.
5. They may start Narcissistic Triangulation.
Narcissistic triangulation is when the narcissist introduces a third person into the relationship without your consent.
The idea is to make you compete with this intruder for the narcissist’s attention.
It turns your relationship into a three-people relationship and creates a sense of rivalry in you and allows them to gain control over you.
Narcissists frequently employ this strategy to build jealousy in their victims.
Covert narcissists also use triangulation to overpower your dominance in the relationship with the help of another person from outside your relationship.
If you want them to remove this intruder from your relationship, they may impose a condition. That you must also distance yourself from your relatives and friends.
It works perfectly for them since they have successfully removed everyone from your life who may advise you against your relationship with the narcissist.
6. They can make you feel guilt-ridden and regretful.
They are quite capable of making you feel sorry for them and their loneliness.
They will exploit your sympathy and compassion by portraying themselves as helpless or in need of your help.
If they are unemployed, they may explicitly blame you for their inability to focus on work since you left them.
They may contact you because they are in desperate need of financial assistance or a recommendation.
As the victim, hoovering can cause you mental uncertainty and emotional pain, draining you of positivity and happiness.
7. They will make big, but fake, promises, and will never walk the talk.
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.
8. They may reverse their role of a tormentor 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.
9. They may threaten self-harm or even carry out acts of 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.
10. They may become aggressive and violent and use their “flying monkeys.”
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.
They start trying to engage you in arguments or fights. They may resort to physical violence.
11. They will do good things for you and others that they never did before.
Narcissists are experts at hoovering, as they know just what to say and do to make you feel special and wanted again.
They will 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.
12. They may play the victim card and start rumors against you.
Manipulate you to believe that they are the victim and you are the one who is being unreasonable.
May start badmouthing you or gossiping about you to your mutual friends to turn them against you or make you look bad.
13. They will accuse you and hold you guilty for making them miserable.
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.
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.
When Does The Narcissist Hoover (Hoovering Stage)
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.
Narcissist Hoovering is the fourth stage of the Trauma Cycle of Narcissistic Abuse.
The cycle goes as Idealizing → Devaluing → Discarding → Hoovering → Idealizing ….
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?
A narcissist will stop hoovering when they have found a new source of narcissistic supply. They are also likely to stop hoovering if they cannot reach beyond the boundaries set by their victims. Finally, they stop hoovering if they realize no amount of convincing will get their victim back into the relationship.
They may also never stop hoovering if you keep 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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