How To Respond To A Narcissist Hoovering You Back To Them?

— Researched and written by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Narcissists know how to praise and pay attention to make you like them and start a relationship.

Once you are in their trap, most of their behavior is a rude shock. They can get very harsh with you, forcing you to do things to please them.

But as soon as you reject them or threaten to break up, they will unleash their “hoovering” tactics. Named after the Hoover vacuum cleaner, it symbolizes perfectly the act of vacuuming the person back into the relationship.

“Hoovering” = a narcissist’s attempts to “suck” an ex-partner or someone they have previously devalued or discarded back into the relationship.

These cleverly designed acts can make you take pity on them or rekindle your love for them. So you stay back with them or, if you have broken up, go back to them.

When a narcissist’s hoovering efforts succeed, they feel secure. Because you have refueled their supply.

How To Respond To Narcissist Hoovering (When You Want To Break Up)

A narcissist hoovering you means they want to block you from leaving the toxic relationship.

Resisting narcissist hoovering can be difficult, and it may take a lot of preparedness, planning, time, and effort to break free from the cycle of abuse. But you can do it.

How To Respond To Narcissist Hoovering

These are the best ways to respond when a narcissist is hoovering you:

1. Recognize the hoovering behavior.

Hoovering is a delicately laid rabbit trap. Be careful to see one from afar.

Knowing how to spot the signs of hoovering is the first step to resisting it.

Never forget that all of their ‘love and pity shows’ are only trying to “suck” you back so that you can serve them.

Signs of a narcissist’s hoovering

They will start flattering, making you feel special, and trying to charm you, like in the early days of your courtship. They’ll also try to convince you that you are better off with them than with anyone else.

A narcissist can start hoovering even if you don’t tell them about breaking up; they can sense your detachment in the relationship. Know the 13 signs of a narcissist’s hoovering behavior.

Three uncomfortable signs of narcissistic hoovering:

  1. They make you feel guilty for not wanting to spend more time with them.
  2. They make you think you’re doing something wrong by breaking up with them.
  3. They make you feel jealous that other people seem to enjoy spending time with them.

Once you decide to leave them, start documenting their every act that seems like a hoovering attempt.

  • Keep a record of all their hoovering attempts, including dates, times, and the nature of the communication.
  • Keep a camera on (like on your mobile phone) each time you see or meet them to record their words and acts.

These records will be helpful later when you need to seek legal protection or a restraining order against them.

When Hoovering Fails, Narcissist Fakes

2. Don’t reveal your breakup intentions.

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.

Do not even allow them the opportunity to hoover you.

Remember, the most successful narcissistic abuse survivors actively protect themselves, physically, financially, and emotionally.

The ultimate aim of hoovering is to get you back under their control so that they can train you to be their unpaid slave.

This time, they will tie you back with stronger trauma bonds so that your desire to leave them wanes out.

3. Plan meticulously. Take decisive actions fast.

If you are ready to leave the relationship, you must act fast.

These people are excellent strategists. If the narcissist has started hoovering, it is probably a little late to raise your shield.

They always have the next six steps planned when they are at the second step.

If they warn you to be cautious of a certain friend, they may have already poisoned them against you.

Make plans and preparations for how you will spend the next few months without them.

Even if you have meticulously planned, they may show up at your work, home, or a place you are visiting. Make a quick decision on how to get out of the situation without engaging with them.

The rejected narcissist will try every desperate and vindictive tactic to control, destroy, or ruin your life and career.

When you tell them you’re leaving, keep it brief.

And make it clear that you will not debate the whys.

6 Sad Reasons Why the Narcissist Is Hoovering You After No Contact

4. Set strict rile and firm boundaries.

Establish rules of contact and strictly maintain these boundaries.

Your main idea is to take away the narcissistic supply that they have made you into.

This can make them lose their interest in you, sicnce they realize they have nothing to gain from you.

And reduces the likelihood of the narcissist hoovering you when you finally separate from them.

Remember, you need find your own closure after you break away from an toxic relationship.

5. Use these anti-hoovering strategies after “no contact.”

Once you go no-contact with them, they will begin hoovering either immediately or after some time. If they have already begun their dirty tricks, they will intensify the hoovering.

Use these anti-hoovering strategies after you have gone “no contact” with them:

  • If they somehow manage to get through to you, warn them that they must not approach you again for any help, whether they are in a personal, professional, or financial crisis. Set and maintain strong boundaries.
  • Insist that they do not interfere with your life in any way, whether in real life (IRL) or in the digital metaverse (Meta). Warn them that you will have them arrested for stalking.
  • Do not contact them under any circumstances, no matter how horrible you feel about leaving them in such a poor state. Beware, they are capable of doing anything terrible 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 shepherd you back).
  • Do not respond to the news of their self-harming acts. If you receive some bad news about them, the most humane course of action is to get a psychological service to contact them directly, inform the police, or call 911.
  • Immediately seek a mental health professional to help you if they have succeeded in disturbing your inner balance and mental sanity.
Hoovering high alert!

6. Block them completely out of your life.

Go “no contact.”

Going “no contact” with a narcissist means cutting off all communication and contact with them.

The next step would be to remove all traces of them from your life by blocking them on phones, emails, and social media.

Avoid all contact with the narcissist, however much is possible and practical. Block them on social media, do not respond to their messages or phone calls, and avoid them in person if possible.

Do not engage with them at any level, even if you feel sorry for them.

Showing them the littlest mercy can give them the attention and validation they desire, and they can turn that into a stepway to make you descend into their cycle of abuse.

Do’t respond to the narcissist’s flying monkeys telling you how bad you are for breaking up with them. These are hoovering attempts by proxy.

Not seeing you regularly can make them lose interest in trying to hoover you. They would rather spend that time and energy finding a new narcissistic supply.

Meme - Narcissists Never Change
Meme – Narcissists Never Change

7. Seek support from friends and experts.

Here’s how support from friends and experts can help when dealing with the narcissit’s hoovering:

  1. Talking through your experience: Sharing your experience with trusted friends and family members can provide clarity and validation. It allows you to gain perspective and reaffirm your decision to resist the hoovering attempts.
  2. Identifying manipulative behaviors: Experts, such as therapists or counselors, can help you understand the dynamics of narcissistic hoovering. They can provide psychoeducation about narcissism and emotional abuse, helping you recognize manipulative behaviors and tactics employed by the narcissist.
  3. Emotional support: Surrounding yourself with supportive friends and loved ones can provide emotional support during this challenging time. They offer a patient ear, empathy, and encouragement, to help you stay strong and resist the narcissist’s attempts to draw you back in.
  4. Healthy distraction: Building a support network of people who have your best interests at heart can provide a healthy distraction from the narcissist’s hoovering attempts. Engaging in activities and spending time with supportive individuals can help shift your focus away from the narcissist and towards your own well-being.
  5. Validation and self-esteem: Being surrounded by people who accept and care for you can help boost your self-esteem. Their validation and support can counteract the manipulation and demands for attention or approval from the narcissist. This can strengthen your resolve to resist the hoovering and prioritize your own mental health.

What To Do When A Narcissist Hoovers You After A Breakup

They will take you through their narcissistic abuse cycle routine once they succeed in hoovering you back into the relationship.

Here are some helpful ways to protect yourself after being hoovered back to them:

1. Don’t fall for their honey-dew smooth love-bombing.

They will keep love-bombing you for some time, attending to your tiniest wishes and demands, to assure you that you made the right decision to come back.

Do not put your trust in their promises.

Do not believe that they have permanently changed their ways.

Keep in mind that they still do not love you unconditionally, selflessly, or more than they love themselves.

2. Tell them exactly where they stand, which is that they are on probation.

You are back with them because you expect them to behave better.

You have not softened your stand as a result of their sweet and caring gestures, since you have already decided to leave them.

3. You can change your mind and your relationships whenever you want.

Make sure to repeat in your mind that you will not do anything wrong if you change your mind once again and break up with them.

You do not have to stick to your decision because people will otherwise label you as fickle-minded.

4. Be suspicious of anyone who even remotely knows the narcissist.

Be careful of who you trust. The narc can surround you with their flying monkeys once they hoover you back.

Tell them you don’t trust any of them as much as you used to, and are not compelled to stay in the relationship.

Notify people who know you both, as well as your family, friends, and other support groups.

5. Stay alert for the first signs of abuse and power struggles.

Keep an eye out for the first signs of narcissistic abuse and insult.

Get out of the relationship as soon as you see them trying to control you, gaslight you, or belittle you.

Spending your days safe and out of their reach rather than trying to wait for them to change for the better will save you a great deal of grief in the future.

Narcissistic Abuse Cycle
Hoovering in Narcissistic Abuse Cycle

“No one can understand unless they have been through it. I still can’t wrap my head around the mind-control that he used to hurt me… we are done but he is still in my head. He raped my soul and it was his plan from the beginning.”

– A Narcissist Abuse Survivor

Further Reading:

  1. Living with pathological narcissism: A qualitative study. Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation. Day, Townsend, & Grenyer, 2020. Link:
  2. Recognizing narcissistic abuse and the implications for mental health nursing practice. Issues in Mental Health Nursing. Howard, 2019. Link:
  3. Responding to domestic abuse: A resource for health professionals. Department of Health, 2017. Link:
  4. Virtual world, real fear: Women’s Aid report into online abuse, harassment and stalking. Women’s Aid, Laxton, 2014. Link:
  5. ‘Women’s violence to men in intimate relationships: Working on a Puzzle’, British Journal of Criminology. Dobash & Dobash, 2004. Link:
10 Common Narcissistic Hoovering Tactics: How Many Have You Experienced?

Most Common Narcissistic Hoovering Techniques

Here are some common narcissist hoovering techniques:

  1. Using shared interests: Narcissists may use shared hobbies or interests to reconnect with their victims as a hoovering technique. They may try to reignite their passion for a mutual hobby.
  2. Shifting blame: Narcissists may try to shift the blame onto their victims to make them feel guilty and responsible for the relationship problems. This can be a way to manipulate them into coming back.
  3. False promises: Narcissists may make false promises to change their behavior or to make things right. This can be a way to lure their victims back into the relationship.
  4. Compliments and gifts: Narcissists may use compliments and lavish gifts to win their victim’s affection again. This can be a way to manipulate them into coming back.
  5. Threats: Narcissists may use threats to scare their victims into coming back. They may threaten to harm themselves or others, or to ruin the victim’s reputation.
  6. Appearing apologetic: Narcissists may appear apologetic for their past behavior and promise not to repeat their mistakes. This can be a way to manipulate their victims into coming back.


  1. What happens when a narcissist tries to hoover you and you don’t respond?

    When a narcissist tries to hoover you and you don’t respond, it can trigger these reactions from the narcissist:
    1. Increased attempts to contact you: The narcissist may escalate their efforts to contact you, such as by sending more messages or showing up at your home or workplace.
    2. Anger and hostility: If the narcissist feels rejected or ignored, they may become angry and hostile towards you. They may insult you, make threats, or try to damage your reputation.
    3. Manipulation and guilt-tripping: The narcissist may try to manipulate you into responding by making you feel guilty or responsible for their feelings. They may say things like “I can’t believe you’re ignoring me after everything I’ve done for you”.
    4. Attempts to make you jealous: The narcissist may try to make you jealous by flaunting their new relationships or accomplishments. This is a way for them to regain a sense of control and power over you.
    5. Withdrawal and sulking: If the narcissist is unable to get a response from you, they may withdraw and sulk. They may feel sorry for themselves and portray themselves as the victim.

  2. When will a narcissist stop hoovering?

    A narcissist may stop hoovering for several reasons, including:
    1. Firm boundaries: If the victim sets and maintains firm boundaries that take away all of the narcissistic supply, the narcissist may stop hoovering.
    2. New source of supply: It is very common for a narcissist to stop hoovering because they’ve found a new source of supply. When a narcissist finds a new source of supply, it doesn’t mean that they’re done abusing the victim. They may still try to manipulate the victim into crawling back to them by making them feel inadequate, isolated, and alone.
    3. Narcissistic injury: If the victim’s lack of response causes a narcissistic injury, the narcissist may want to avoid them and stop hoovering.
    4. Manipulation: The narcissist may stop hoovering to manipulate the victim into thinking they’ve won or to make them feel guilty for not responding

  3. How to resist narcissist hoovering?

    Resisting a narcissist’s charms can be challenging, but here are some ways to resist narcissistic hoovering:
    1. See through their behavior: Recognize that however good hoovering may make you feel. it is ultimately a manipulation tactic to regain control over you.
    2. Set firm boundaries: Set and maintain firm boundaries that take away all of the narcissistic supply. This can help to reduce the likelihood of the narcissist hoovering you.
    3. Stay grounded in your reality: Stay focused on your own reality instead of the narcissist’s. This can help you to resist the temptation to respond to their hoovering attempts.
    4. Avoid contact: If possible, avoid all contact with the narcissist. This can help to reduce the likelihood of them hoovering you.
    5. Seek support: Seek help and support from a mental health professional or a domestic violence hotline if you find yourself getting swayed by the narcissist’s hoovering gestures.

  4. What are a narcissist’s hoover triggers?

    These are some narcissistic hoover triggers:
    1. Perceived loss of control: Narcissists may resort to hoovering when they feel they are losing control over someone, such as when their partner tries to leave or stops responding.
    2. Fear of abandonment: Narcissists have a deep fear of abandonment, and when they sense that their victim is trying to break free from the narcissistic abuse, they may engage in hoovering as a way to prevent abandonment.
    3. Need for attention and validation: Narcissists crave attention, compliments, and validation. When they feel a lack of these, they may resort to hoovering to regain the attention and validation they desire.
    4. Desire for power and control: Hoovering allows narcissists to exert power and control over their victims. It gives them a sense of superiority and dominance.
    5. Exploiting vulnerabilities: Narcissists are skilled at understanding what a person wants and using it to draw them back in. They may exploit their victim’s vulnerabilities to manipulate them into returning to the relationship.

  5. What to expect when you go “no contact” with the narcissist?

    When going no contact with a narcissist, you must be ready to expect many hostile acts:

    Narcissists often react negatively when their victims try to break free from the relationship. They can become angry or hostile, or try to make you feel guilty, to lure you back in.

    Expect that they will try to breach your boundaries, and to protect yourself, you may need to block their phone number and social media accounts, and avoid places where you might run into them.

    Expect them to send their “flying monkeys” to do their dirty job of hoovering you back.

    Expect them to send you legal notices of torture and harassment, especially if it is a female narcissist.

Reverse Hoovering

Reverse Hoovering is when the victim of narcissistic abuse tries to reinitiate contact or re-engage with the narcissist.

This might occur for reasons like:

  • seeking closure,
  • unresolved feelings,
  • lingering emotional attachments,
  • hoping for a change in the narcissist’s behavior.

Reverse hoovering can be more harmful than narcissistic hoovering. It can make the narcissist think that since the victim came back on her own, they now have greater “rights” to abuse them.

The narcissist can intensify their toxic behavior patterns, emotional manipulation, and physical and verbal abuse.

Final Words

If you find yourself being suddenly wooed by a narcissist, speed up your decision and action to take a permanent break from the narcissist.

They will always lack empathy, exploit others, feel entitled, and have a grandiose sense of self-importance.

Some scholars argue against medicalizing narcissistic behaviors and traits. They feel that doing so effectively provides narcissistic people with another excuse to not accept responsibility for their harmful behavior.

Book to read: Don’t You Know Who I Am?: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility by Dr. Ramani S. Durvasula, 2019.

  • Do not think they will change themselves for good and things will be different this time.
  • Do not think you can change them.
  • No medicine can treat them.
  • Just leave them.

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