Narcissists and Common Hoovering Techniques

hoovering

What is hoovering?

Hoovering is a technique that is named after the Hoover vacuum cleaner, and is used by Narcissists (and other manipulative people) in order to “suck” their victims back into a relationship with them. Hoovering is often done after the silent treatment is given or the victim has left them. This behavior often starts off subtle and unassuming, and is done through voicemail, text messages, email, phone calls, notes, other people, or through any other form of possible communication with the victim. Because the Narcissist knows the victim’s weak spots, they will generally tend to target these areas in order to reopen communication.  Once communication is reopened, the Narcissist generally promises change–which never, ever happens for any length of time. It’s like when Lucy holds the football for Charlie Brown, and every time he goes to kick to the ball, she pulls it away and enjoys his fall.

Some common types of hoovering after the silent treatment or the victim leaving are:

  • Text messages pretending to be concerned: “How are you?”, “Hey, I’m thinking about you”, “I know things didn’t work out, but you really do mean a lot to me. I just want you to know that.”
  • Text messages acting like nothing happened: “Hey stranger, long time no talk” or “Hey what’s going on?”
  • Text messages on or about special occasions/holidays: “Merry Christmas”, “Hope you are having a good birthday–wish I could be there”, “Are you going to Molly’s wedding next weekend? If you’re going, I won’t go–I don’t want to upset you.”
  • Text messages about the kids (especially if they’re not his): “I was at the park today and saw a cute kid that looked just like Jason. Just wanted to say I miss you guys.” or “I know you hate me, but please tell Ava that I wish her a happy birthday and I’m sorry I can’t be there.”
  • Text messages about an upcoming event: “Hey, I know you said you never wanted to talk to me again, but Disney on Ice is this weekend, I was thinking about taking the kids.” or “Aerosmith is playing next weekend and I have an extra ticket–you wanna go?”
  • Text messages about things you like to do that he’s never been interested in doing with you before: “Hey, there’s a vegetarian cooking class this weekend, you wanna go?” or “Wanna go wine tasting this weekend?”
  • Text messages about bogus family illnesses or some sort of crisis (including his own): “I think I might have cancer, can you talk?” or, “OMG my mom just had a stroke.” or “What does a heart attack feel like? My left arm really hurts,” or, “I can’t handle this anymore, I’m going to kill myself.”
  • Text messages that are supposedly meant for someone else, but sent to you by mistake: “See you in ten minutes xoxo” (Supposedly for his current girlfriend–sent to upset you.) “The boss just moved the meeting to Wednesday at 3pm.” (Supposedly for his coworker–sent so you feel a sense of obligation for the coworker.) Or, “Sam called and said John is in the hospital and to call him immediately.” (Supposedly sent to someone else, but sent to you so you feel a sense of urgency to get back to him.)
  • Text messages that are guilt or pity inducing: “Can’t we work this out? Please give us another chance.” “What about the kids? You know how hard it is having divorced parents–why would you want to do that to them?” “I have a lot of issues. I get that now. I’ll get into therapy. I promise.” “My alcoholism is out of control. I need help.”
  • Text messages about sex/deep connection: “I miss snuggling with you.” “You always be the love of my life.” “You are my soul mate, I’m sorry I let you down.”
  • Text messages that attempt to flip the hoover back on you: “Did u just text me?” or “Did you just call me?” or “Did I just see you drive by?”
  • Text messages, when all else fails, making bogus accusations to get some type of emotional response:  “Why are you calling my mom and bugging her?” or “I just found out you cheated on me.” “I’ve moved on. You need to quit stalking me.”

All of these examples are just one big fat manipulation for you to open the door and let them back into your life. Don’t fall for it!

Why do Narcissists hoover?

Narcissists hoover because it’s their way of making sure you stay sucked into their game, and remain a source of their Narcissistic supply. Keep in mind that while they were giving you the silent treatment before, they were busy lining up someone else–generally a new girlfriend/partner.  They haven’t returned to you because they care, or because they love you.  They are incapable of love.  Most likely they have returned because things didn’t work out with whomever they had replaced you with, and they are looking to feed off you some more.  It’s very important that you realize that a “relationship” with a Narcissist is nothing more than a game–their game, and it’s only over when they decide it’s over.  This is why you make take back a Narcissist during one of their hoover attempts, only to be discarded by them a few weeks later.

How can I be sure that this is really hoovering and not just a normal relationship that has it’s ups and downs?

Time will tell.  If you keep having the same issues, with the same conversations with the same outcomes, and getting sucked back in over same promises of the same changes that never come, then you are in a relationship with someone who has no desire to change. End of story. (Here’s an example of both gas lighting and hoovering from my own life.)

It is impossible to have a relationship with a person like this–it’s all one-sided: their side! Normal/healthy relationships don’t follow this cycle.  In normal relationships people are exhibit some form of empathy towards each other (even during a break up), are accountable for their behavior, and they show through their actions (not just their words) that they are truly remorseful.  You may have issues in your relationship, but it’s not the same issues over and over again.  In other words, a normal partner has the ability and desire to be accountable for their bad behavior and they work towards changing it. They aren’t unrepentant compulsive liar, cheaters, thieves or addicts/alcoholics.

A relationship with a Narcissist also differs from a normal relationship in that it follows a very distinct pattern that involves the same issues generally lying and cheating) over and over and over and over again.

The cycle starts out with love bombing/(or hoovering if you are in the makeup stage) then devaluing then discarding–and sometimes the devaluing isn’t even there (well it’s still there, it’s just not done to your face). Sometimes the relationship goes from amazing to nonexistent in the flash of an eye, with no remorse or empathy on the part of the Narcissist, and the victim is left in absolute shock as to what just happened.

How can I get out of the hoovering cycle?

The first step is for you to see it for what it is. Once you realize that you aren’t in a relationship but are a pawn in their sick game, you can choose not to play.  If you are able to cut off all ties and go “No Contact” do so immediately.  If you have children with them, or are unable to fully cut ties, you can implement a technique called “Gray Rock.”

Narcissists do not change. They only get better at hiding their true selves. I know it’s hard to let go of hope, but please break the cycle and get help. You deserve better.  Domestic Violence shelter generally offer free or low cost therapy to people who are, or think they are in any form of an abusive relationship–and psychological and/or emotional torment like this is abuse.

Stay strong.  You can do this, and you don’t have to do it alone.  If you’d like some support, or want to vent, join my Narcissist Support group on Facebook.  I hope to see you there.  (((Hugs))) to you.

 

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Dana

I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse.

My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.

Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.

It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
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About Dana 296 Articles
I am a self-help junkie, former advocate for victims of domestic violence, current psychiatric RN, as well as being a recovering victim of Narcissistic abuse. My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life. Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics. It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.

25 Comments

  1. I’ve all the above and had some of them played on me. A new one, which happened just the other day, was a toxic ex-friend contacting a Facebook group about her ‘lost’ cat. She had moved (don’t know where and don’t care) about year ago and, on removal day, one of the cats had run off before it could be taken to the new place. She had ‘been back a couple of times’ to see if she could find it and now, a whole year later, was posting in a group on Facebook, asking if any of her old neighbours had seen the cat.
    Erm, anyone else see the holes in this story?
    Surely a normal person goes round the neighbours first – cats don’t often stray that far away. (Oh, no, I forgot, most of the neighbours had sussed what she was like, that was why she was moving on,)
    Also, why wait a year before looking for the cat?
    My guess is that this is a ‘Hoover’, pure and simple, to see who in the neighbourhood is still speaking to her.
    The Facebook group is only a local interest Noticeboard type thing but I shall be very careful what I post on there from now on, knowing that she is a member.

  2. Hello Dana!
    First of all, I would like to thank you for the support you send out to all of us affected by this dreadful phenomenon.
    Second, I would like to ask you few questions. I have been viewing your videos on YouTube and reading your articles here and i feel there are so many things I will need to have cleared out on the narcissist behavior before I can start to heal from my experiences. Some of the questions have not yet been formulated properly in my mind, but I hope they will, over time. I will share them with you once i catch them. For now, this is what I have…
    I am trying to understand, what it is, in the mind and heart (or what ever it is they have instead of it) that makes narcissist want to discard you and get on to another victim? Is there anything at all? Is it in any way related to you and your relationship? If yeas, would that mean that you have some control over them too as well as some importance in their life, (you, as an unique individual)?
    Also, i am wandering if they ever fall in love, and use that as a criterion for choosing their partner? Or is it always just picking an easy, vulnerable target with an intention to drain it? If they do fall in love, does that make them feel and behave differently with that person? Do they tend to be better, to treat that person better, out of ‘love’ or, if nothing, out of fear of being discarded themselves? How do those relationships end?
    And finally, i would like to know what is their main urge? To be loved by someone unconditionally, to cause other person pain, to control and manipulate and feed off of that power, to have normal relationships like other people do…? Does it vary from one narcissist to another or for one narcissistic over time?
    I hope these q’s are not too overwhelming Dana, but if you have some thoughts on them, please share it with me/us.
    Thank you 🙂

  3. I have fallen for each of these techniques. Especially the health issues. He is a diabetic. This went on for four years he was in and out of my life at least ten times. Each time the episode worse than the one before. Finally got it through my thick skull he is a con man manipulator. He has no intention in changing his drug addiction criminal life style. It wouldn’t be long before I was going to be legally sucked in. I nearly lost my family and my job. My sanity is still in question. I have severe PTSD and disasociation. I have no one to talk to and two counselors have given up on me. I’m researching my family history my father was probably a narc we were physically abused. 12 kids never allowed to have an opinion or personality. I’m a people pleaser and codependent. Never had a normal relationship. Brothers and sisters pretty much same story.

  4. Sounds like you are in the right place then. We have a support group here, that I highly recommend: http://www.NarcissistSupport.com/forum

    I really think that we can help you get back on track emotionally, as we all are telling different versions of the same story–and we all share what’s worked and hasn’t worked. Support groups really helped me to supercharge my healing and were a very necessary part in helping me to gain the insights into why I was doing what I was doing that I so desperately needed.

  5. Dana what about when you’re the victim but have done all the things you’ve just described because you’re just desperate for contact and closure after a sudden discard?

  6. Hi Dana! You have a really helpful site here, thanks!!!
    I dunno if what’s happening is hovering, so I’d like to clear this doubt.
    I’ve found out recently that my mom has some (lots actually) of n traits… We had two big arguments (out of nowhere, as usual) and since the last time I’m not talking to her – I’m too hurt to talk. The following day of our argument, she came and started talking to me as if never happened! It didn’t catch, so she told me yesterday that she has a serious issue with her liver (ok, I do feel bad for her – but it’s been like this forever – she argues with me then she’s all sick!), and on the phone she went, with an aunt of mine: oh, I miss Fulano (her ex) because he really cared for me, no one in this family cares about me, it’s so sad, people on the street care more about me than my own family (without ever mentioning my name, but I knew she was talking to me…..indirectly). Silly question: is this hovering? Or is she only trying to make me feel guilty?
    I never noticed it before until I started researching about it… Id appreciate some help!! 🙂
    Thanks!! 🙂

  7. Mine has moved in with his ex girlfriend when she was 15 and him 19 whom his family told him at the time, wasn’t Normal, and they laughed at him about that after they found out he was back with her…leaving ME…since the day after he left our home! He attempted to hoover through using my address and my cell number on resumes and sending them out. He did this for over 5 months. I sent a message through facebook to the new old girlfriend about what he was doing. It stopped for two weeks then began again. At that point i was forced to call the local police station to ask what to do about it. The officer took down her dads home phone number (they live with him and it’s the only one i had) called to tell him to stop, finally THAT stopped. He also sent coupons for lady products and a full sample of sore muscle cream. I hadn’t seen nor spoken to him at that point for about a year!!!! The last thing he’s attempted is to send app requests to my sons cellphone…By then he’d been out of my life for about 18 months..!!! I haven’t responded to any of them…I’m sure he misses the extremely good life he had here…that he exchanged for the awful life i know he decieved himself into believing was going to be better!!!! They do get back what they ask for..!!!! It’s all a matter of time!!!! I should also make mention of the fact they are “engaged” and he has not started any divorce proceedings!! I believe that he’s not done trying to get my attention..!!

  8. It sounds to me like she is trying to make you feel guilty, and for you to reopen contact with her. If your goal is to not talk to her anymore because she is manipulative, then expect her to try to manipulate you back into talking to her. If you decide to start talking to her again, even though she is manipulative, then expect her manipulative behavior to continue. Bottom line is if she’s not willing to change, then “accept” that she is manipuative (try to anticipate her behavior and not be shocked by it)and then plan your reaction (in advance) accordingly. 🙂

  9. You get really busy doing a bunch of things you love. The busier you get doing things that feel good, the less you will find yourself missing a person that you felt bad around. I know this may sound overly simplistic, but it really does work. The website http://www.meetup.com is great for this, because you will be out with new people doing new things, and you won’t be tempted to talk about your ex like you will be with your friends.

    Here is an article that I did about that “desperate” feeling you are describing: http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/how-to-get-over-a-relationship-with-a-narcissist/

    Here is a YouTube video that also might help: http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/dating-a-narcissist/

    And I’d encourage you to consider joining the support group too: http://www.NarcissistSupport.com/forum

    (((hugs))) to you

  10. Great questions! Personally, I don’t think Narcissists fall in love–because to actually fall in love we have to attach to the other person and care about them and their wellbeing. A person can’t be both highly manipulative, a pathological liar, lack empathy and remorse, and be selfish and entitled and effectively bond to another human being. I just don’t see how that’s possible. I mean, the very definition of the word “Narcissist” refers to someone who is so hopelessly self-absorbed.

    Even though they identify us as sources of “supply”, I don’t think that we really yield any power over them, as EVERYONE can be used as some sort of source of supply. I’ve come across many victims who want to try and blackmail their Naricissist or somehow make them pay for what they’ve done by attempting to manipulate them, but this can be a very bad (and sometimes very dangerous) idea–as these kinds of people don’t like to lose power and control over their victim or over their situation.

    If this happened to you, then please don’t take this person’s disregard for you personally. Their behavior does not define you, it defines them. (((hugs)))

  11. Sounds like he is still trying to upset you and create drama. Don’t let him. (Easier said than done I know!) Here is a video that might help: http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/episode-1-of-the-ask-a-question-show/

    If he continues to bug you, you can see about getting a restraining order on him. Just make sure you are keeping a papertrail of all of his texts, emails, voice mails–as much “hard evidence” as you can that he’s bothering you the better.

    (((hugs))) Be glad you are done with him. You don’t need a selfish jerk like that in your life. <3

    Oh, here is one last link to some videos that might help for in the future: http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/youtube-video-playlist-on-narcissism/ (Scroll down to the 3rd playlist called, “How to Avoid Dating (or Befriending) Another Narcissist”

  12. Wow the hoovering conversations are so incredibly spot on! I’m getting hoovered right now with pics of fun times we’ve had and things such as “we’re such a good looking couple”. ugh. Luckily for me I have moved on and am back with my ‘before Narc’ boyfriend who is an actual caring loving “HUMAN BEING”. So, these ‘techniques’ are not working and I don’t give a shit what he has to say. I’ve told him 2-3 times that “I’ve moved on and am very very happy” of course that won’t stop him… I know it will make him try harder to be sure I’m not happy, but since I’m on to his game this will not work. Will be blocking him as I realize it’s the only way. Good luck to all! Stay strong! You deserve more!

  13. Glad the info on hoovering could help! Yes, now that you see the wizard behind the curtain, you won’t fall for any of the old tricks again. If you can delete this person from your contacts and fully block him, go for it. And yes, they don’t give up easily–especially if the partner has moved on. They are like a little kid who all of a sudden throws a fit when someone else picks up their old toy that they didn’t want. If you stay no contact (which is ideal if you don’t have to have contact with him due to kids or work or what have you) he (hopefully) will eventually go away. …Keep in mind that you will always need to have your emotional guard up around him, as it’s common for a manipulative person to circle around to previous partners years, or even decades later in an attempt to use them for some sort of “supply”: http://www.thriveafterabuse.com/narcissistic-supply/

    (((hugs))) to you, and I wish you all the best in this next chapter of your life. Yay you! 😀

  14. I got a call from this toxic guy who lives in town. While on the phone, I had to extend the phone about a foot from my ear because of all the perve-ology (my word for his favorite topics). He said he called me because I had left a message on his phone (not true), and this is a perfect example of how they try to flip reality on you to hoover their way back in. He also talked about other people calling them perverts. Long story short…everything, I mean everything he defames or degrades other people for doing are things he is doing. I am 100% sure he downgrades me to others. Too toxic! I just blocked both his cell and home phone numbers. I can’t believe how good these people can manipulate! Thank God that I am aware of what they are doing, and I know it is bad for me, and that I respect myself enough to not want to expose myself to it. Your site really helped me with understanding this old perve. Thanks, many blessings!

  15. Yes, they flip things around, and it is absolutely crazy making. I love that you have clarity as to his reality is not your reality–as just separating the two realities goes a long way as far as getting out of the crazy making. To continue to have communication with a person who doesn’t share the same reality sets you up to lose. …I’m also thrilled that you respect yourself enough to not want to expose yourself to it. Healthy boundaries and a clear understanding of what crazy making behavior is are the two best form of Narcissist repellant out there!

  16. It’s interesting how a sociopath has brought out a lot of these listed narcissistic ways and a lot of the list is what I end up doing once I get stonewalled just because I say something constructively hand out criticism, but I’m always the problem , and nothing is her fault or because of her , yet every other so called relationship she has or thinks she has turns out the exact same way. She is just a magnet for personality disordered persons and poor her she’s always the victim . Well I am finally calling bullshit. And laughing all the way home. With tears. I actually pity her.

  17. I have been trying to convince him to speak with me for 10 months with no luck..only silent treatment (of course I am now regarded as the crazy girl). Now no contact for 9 days. No hoovering so far. One part of me would love to get some recognition that I am not dead! Will he hoover or is he gone for ever? I know this is a strange questions but I do want some type of response after the silent treatment.

  18. He will most likely hoover at some point down the road–but when that might be is anyone’s guess. I know you want some sort of validation and response, but manipulative people will never give you what you seek. To look to them for validation is to set yourself up to fail. I know it’s hard, but you really are best off driving on and not looking back. Anyone who would give you the silent treatment for 10 months is not worth your time. (((HUGS)))

  19. Your self worth is not dependent upon the insecurities or limitations of another person. A person who gives silent treatment is trying to impress upon you some kind of statement of rejection. In a way, that gives them some kind of self importance derived from insecurity. Don’t feel like you need them….like you need some kind of validation or reassurance from them…you are enough for you.

  20. I am a man trying to recover from my own Narcissistic personality problems. I hate that I developed this way and really want to once and for all be a better man for my kids and my ex.

    You mentioned above that men like me never change. Please point me in a direction that gives me hope that I can change. I don’t want to hurt people. I like to think that I am a good hearted person. I’m just that im not nice a lot.

    If there are any sites for narcissist who are trying to recover, please I would appreciate you pointing them out to me. Thank you for your support of the victims of people like me.

  21. Hi Johnny,

    I used to think that narcissists can’t and won’t change, as that’s what I was always taught about this personality disorder, however, I think that is a really limiting view and doesn’t take a person’s individuality into consideration. Narcissism (like any other personality trait) is on a spectrum. Some people are more “mild” than others. …And the problem with narcissists isn’t so much their behavior (although, those are for sure problematic), it’s that they often don’t see a problem with their behavior. …So if you see some areas in your personality that you want to work on, and you are sincerely motivated to do so, then by all means go for it! If your comment is sincere, then this means that you are capable of self awareness and insight. …Don’t let me or anyone else tell you what you are capable of. If you really want to change–then I believe you can.

    As far as resources go that can help, I’d highly recommend you start reading about or getting into a group on Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT) and/or finding a therapist who is trained in this technique. This type of therapy will help you to get more in touch with your emotions and your “true” self (because narcissists aren’t in touch with their true self–only their ego) and by not knowing yourself you are really missing out on life–so I hope that you can reconnect with yourself.

    DBT is based in mindfulness, so anything that you can do to increase mindfulness and looking inside of yourself will help. If you are more comfortable watching YouTube videos, I’d also recommend looking up Eckhart Tolle and EFT (emotional freedom techniques–aka “tapping”).

    I hope that helps–and I hope that you really are motivated to change–for yourself and for your wife and kids. (((HUGS)))

  22. Hi Dana. Why have you written this article assuming men are the narcissists when in fact women are much more likely to be so?

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