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.
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.
Latest posts by Dana (see all)
- Episode 28: Gratitude Can Help Keep You Grounded - March 21, 2017
- Episode 27: Learning How to Tune Into Your Emotions - March 19, 2017
- Episode 26: Live Stream from March 8, 2017 - March 14, 2017