The act of hoovering is named after the Hoover vacuum and its power to suck everything up. In this case, the narcissist is sucking you back into their lives. The timing of hoovering happens after a breakup, or discard, or a choice you make to leave the relationship.
The difficult part of hoovering is that like the manipulation of a narcissist it starts off slowly and will look well intended.
Imagine you have been with someone for years, and they reach out to make sure you are ok after the breakup. That feels good to know they still care, but this tactic is used to control you. That first innocent text, or checking in late at night, warm your heart to the possibility that this break up isn’t final yet. They have hooked you by planting a seed of hope.
A confusing hoovering trick my ex pulled was calling after our breakups and pretending nothing happened (we broke up five times). Had I known about gaslighting then, I would have recognized it for what it was. This denial of the break up left me with self-doubt and confusion and left me asking myself, “Am I going crazy? Have I just been imagining this pain from a breakup?”
Hoovering techniques are numerous, such as:
- Leaving notes or cards on your car declaring their undying love
- Sending you sweet texts, checking in on you, your child or animal
- Giving gifts like candy or other presents left on the doorstep; or send flowers to your workplace
- Inviting you to a quick meal, just to make sure you are ok
- Inviting you to a special event because suddenly they have an extra ticket
- Promising they will get help – losing you has caused them to self-reflect and they are changed now; they say ‘it will never happen again’
- Vowing that they love you and can’t live without you
- Being called to rescue them. For example, their car broke down, and can you please help them just this once? This tactic takes advantage of your compassion and empathy to hoover you back in
- Using your friends and family to get to you. They become flying monkeys
- Manufacturing a dramatic situation in order to get you to respond and agree to see them again.
As you can see, each one of these tactics has an aspect that makes the narcissist look like a good person, or, the person you wished you could see again.
If you have fallen for a hoover tactic its ok give yourself a break and try not to be too harsh with yourself. Just understand that the narcissist’s goal is NOT to get you back but to continue to control you and to keep you hooked into being an obedient supply.
The cure to not falling for these tactics is to build better boundaries. Narcissists do not like someone setting boundaries on them, so start as soon as you can. To learn more about setting better boundaries take a look at our workshop.
What’s Wrong With Me
Not every narcissist hoovers. It all depends on the circumstance at the end of the relationship. If they have moved on already, they have supply, so they don’t need to get you back.
Some hoovering might be to keep you on the hook as a secondary supply when the new main supply uncovers their secrets.
Although it can be painful at first, don’t be sad that you are not being hoovered around. You are being graced in order to start your healing faster.