What is Hoovering?

The Narcissist’s Web: Understanding Hoovering in Relationships

In the complex realm of narcissistic relationships, hoovering stands out as a manipulative tactic employed by narcissists attempting to reel back their former partners. This blog explores the insidious phenomenon of narcissistic hoovering, shedding light on the motivations behind these attempts to resurrect connections that were once severed.

The term “hoovering” draws its inspiration from the powerful suction ability of a Hoover vacuum, symbolizing the narcissist’s attempt to draw you back into their life. Typically occurring post-breakup, discard, or your decision to end the relationship, hoovering unfolds in a calculated manner.

The challenging aspect of hoovering lies in its gradual and seemingly well-intentioned initiation, mirroring the manipulative tactics characteristic of narcissists. Picture this scenario: after years together, your ex reaches out post-breakup to ensure you’re okay. Initially, it feels reassuring, making you believe they still care. However, this seemingly innocent gesture is a strategy to exert control. The initial text or late-night check-in warms your heart, fostering a glimmer of hope that the breakup may not be final. The narcissist has skillfully planted a seed of optimism, subtly hooking you back into their web.

Reflecting on my own experiences, my ex employed a perplexing hoovering tactic. He would call after our breakups, pretending as if nothing had happened (we went through five breakups). In hindsight, had I been familiar with gaslighting, I would have recognized this behavior for what it was. The denial of the breakup induced self-doubt and confusion, leaving me questioning my sanity and wondering, “Am I losing my mind? Could the pain from the breakup be a figment of my imagination?”

What is Hoovering? Unveiling the Narcissist’s Tactic:

Hoovering refers to the strategic attempts made by narcissists to “suck” their victims back into a relationship or interaction. Named after the Hoover vacuum, these maneuvers involve the narcissist trying to reestablish contact and control over a person who may have distanced themselves.

Idealization Revisited:
Hoovering often begins with the narcissist revisiting the idealization phase of the relationship. They may shower their former partner with compliments, reminisce about shared memories, and strategically rekindle the positive emotions associated with the initial stages of the connection.

False Apologies and Remorse:

A hallmark of hoovering is the presentation of false apologies and expressions of remorse. Narcissists may claim to have changed, acknowledging past mistakes, and promising a different future. However, these apologies are typically insincere, serving as a means to manipulate emotions.

Motivations Behind Hoovering: The Narcissist’s Agenda:

Understanding why narcissists engage in hoovering is crucial for individuals who may find themselves targeted by these attempts to reestablish contact.

Need for Narcissistic Supply:
Narcissists thrive on a constant supply of admiration and attention. When a former partner distances themselves, the narcissist may resort to hoovering to regain the emotional validation they crave.

Fear of Abandonment:
The fear of abandonment is a driving force for narcissists. Hoovering becomes a desperate attempt to avoid being abandoned and to maintain control over the dynamics of the relationship.

Reasserting Control:
Hoovering is a manipulative strategy to reassert control over the victim. By attempting to draw them back into the relationship, the narcissist regains a sense of dominance and influence.

Recognizing Hoovering Tactics: Signs to Watch For:

Identifying hoovering attempts is crucial for individuals who have previously severed ties with a narcissistic partner. Recognizing the signs can help protect against emotional manipulation.

Excessive Flattery and Praise:

A sudden influx of compliments and praise may signal the initiation of hoovering. The narcissist aims to evoke positive emotions by appealing to the victim’s desire for admiration.

False Remorse and Promises of Change:
Statements expressing remorse, acknowledgment of past mistakes, and promises of change should be approached with caution. Narcissists may use these as tools to manipulate emotions and regain entry into the victim’s life.

Attempts to Elicit Sympathy:
Hoovering often involves attempts to elicit sympathy. Narcissists may portray themselves as victims, emphasizing their struggles and hardships to evoke a caregiving response from the victim.

Protecting Yourself from Hoovering: Strategies for Empowerment:

Dealing with hoovering requires a proactive approach to safeguard one’s emotional well-being and maintain boundaries.

Establishing and Enforcing Boundaries:

Clearly define and enforce personal boundaries. Resist the urge to engage in communication that could potentially reignite the toxic dynamics of the past.

Seeking Support:
Seek support from friends, family, or mental health professionals. Having a support system provides an external perspective and emotional validation, helping individuals navigate the challenges posed by hoovering attempts.

Focusing on Personal Growth:
Shift the focus inward and prioritize personal growth. Concentrate on building a life that is independent of the narcissistic influence, fostering resilience and self-empowerment.

Narcissistic hoovering is a calculated tactic aimed at reestablishing control and emotional dominance. Recognizing the signs and understanding the motivations behind hoovering attempts empowers individuals to protect themselves emotionally and maintain healthy boundaries. By establishing clear boundaries, seeking support, and prioritizing personal growth, victims of hoovering can break free from the manipulative cycles and move towards a future characterized by autonomy and genuine connections.

Hoovering techniques manifest in various forms, including:

  • Leaving notes or heartfelt cards on your car, expressing their enduring love.
  • Sending affectionate texts, regularly checking in on your well-being, your child’s, or even your pet’s.
  • Presenting gifts such as candy or other surprises left at your doorstep, or arranging for flowers to be sent to your workplace.
  • Extending invitations for impromptu meals, under the guise of ensuring your okayness.
  • Offering tickets to a special event, claiming a sudden surplus and a desire to share the experience with you.
  • Making promises to seek help, asserting that losing you prompted deep self-reflection, and they have undergone transformative change, ensuring it won’t happen again.
  • Professing undying love and a declaration that life is unbearable without you.
  • Crafting situations that require your rescue, like a breakdown of their car, appealing to your compassion and empathy to draw you back in.
  • Exploiting connections with your friends and family, turning them into intermediaries known as flying monkeys.
  • Fabricating dramatic situations to elicit a response and secure agreement for a reunion.

Each of these tactics is crafted to portray the narcissist as a commendable person or the individual you once wished to see again.

If you’ve found yourself succumbing to a hoover tactic, it’s important to be compassionate with yourself and avoid being overly critical. Recognize that the narcissist’s ultimate objective is not reconciliation but rather the perpetuation of control, ensuring you remain tethered as a compliant source.

To immunize yourself against falling for these tactics, the key lies in establishing robust boundaries. Narcissists are averse to having boundaries set upon them, so initiate this process as early as possible. To delve deeper into enhancing your boundary-setting skills, explore our workshop.

Navigating the Silence: “What’s Wrong With Me?”

It’s crucial to note that not every narcissist engages in hoovering. The likelihood depends on the circumstances surrounding the end of the relationship. If the narcissist has already moved on and secured a new source of supply, they may not feel the need to attempt reconciliation.

In some cases, hoovering serves the purpose of keeping you as a secondary supply, especially when the new primary supply begins uncovering their hidden truths.

While it may initially be painful, there’s no need to lament the absence of hoovering attempts. Consider it a grace period that accelerates your healing journey.

Narcissist Hoovering Techniques | Red Flag



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