What is hoovering?
The narcissistic abuse dictionary says:
“A ‘hoover,’ named after a brand of vacuum cleaner, is a tactic meant to “suck” a partner back into the relationship. It happens after a period of silence during which the partner and the narcissist are not in contact with each other. What characterizes this type of contact after a break-up with a narcissist is that it is insincere; no change in behavior will have occurred if the partners reunite.
Hoovering tactics are easy to spot and categorize, once you know what to look for.
23 Examples of Hoovering a Narcissist Might Use
1. PROMISE OF CLOSURE:
- “I must explain something to you.” or “I need to explain everything.”
- “I’ll let you ask anything you want to.”
2. ONE MORE NIGHT:
- “I wish I could see you just one more time.”
- “I want to spend one more night together even if we can’t be together.”
3. APPEAL TO THE HEARTSTRINGS:
- “I found these pictures of us. Ah, memories.”
- [Sending me flowers]
- [Sending me a link to love songs on YouTube] (one of his favorite techniques-I had an entire playlist of songs)
4. FALSE ACCUSATIONS:
- “Someone told me you were on a dating app. I can’t believe you. It’s only been three days!”
- “I can’t believe you’re hanging out with my friend!”
5. REMEMBERING IMPORTANT DATES:
- “Good luck at your new job.”
- “How did your doctor’s appointment go today?”
6. JUST REACHING OUT
This example of hoovering is when narcissists do something passive to put themselves into your mind to try to encourage or provoke you into reaching out first.
- [sending blank texts]
- [putting random likes on Facebook posts]
7. CAN’T STAY AWAY:
- “I’m addicted to you.”
- “I can’t stop thinking about you.”
- “I can’t live without you.”
- “I know what I did was wrong and I won’t do it again.”
- “Please give me another chance.”
9. PHYSICAL OBJECTS TO RETURN:
- “I still have your Christmas presents.”
- “You left your charger at my apartment.”
10. HEARD SOME NEWS:
- “Someone told me you posted something about us.”
- “Someone showed me a picture of you on Facebook with a guy.”
11. THE APOLOGY:
- “I’m sorry, I was immature back then.”
- “I hurt you so much and now I just want to show you I can be good to you.”
12. ELABORATE PROMISES:
- “Let me take you on a trip, anywhere you want to go.”
- “I want a chance to make this right and if everything works out, I want to marry you.”
13. UPCOMING EVENTS:
- “I bought us tickets to the ______ show because I hoped you would go with me.”
- “Will you go see that movie with me when it comes out? I don’t have anyone to go with me.”
14. HERE IF YOU NEED ME:
- “Let me know if you need help moving.”
- “If you ever need me, I’ll be here even if it’s twenty years from now.”
15. OUR BOND IS TOO STRONG TO BREAK:
- “We have a connection no one else can understand and we can’t let anything break it apart.”
- “We’ll never have this again with anyone else.”
- “No one will ever love you like I do.”
16. ALONE IN THE WORLD:
- “You’re the only one I can talk to.”
- “No one cares how I feel.
17. THE REVERSE HOOVER:
- There were times I reached out to him first for various reasons for a specific purpose, such as to apologize because I hadn’t liked the way our last conversation had gone. The conversation inevitably turned to his heartbrokenness and undying love and request to see me again.
18. OUR CHILD NEEDS YOU:
- If you have children with the narcissist, he or she may use the children as an excuse to contact you. All divorced or separated parents need to communicate about their children, but narcissists may do so in ways that make it appear as if you must respond imminently. They may contact you dramatically and cause you to worry, or they may demand to talk to one of the children immediately about something dire.
19. USING AN EMERGENCY:
- A narcissist may reach out to you and say he or she is sick or has had a death in the family, or has otherwise fallen on hard times. If you’re a man and your partner is a woman, she may suddenly reach out and say she is pregnant.
20. BAD FEELING:
- “I had a dream that something bad happened to you.”
- “I suddenly got a bad feeling that I should reach out and make sure you were okay.”
21. HOOVER BY PROXY:
- This occurs when the narcissist gets someone else to reach out to you on his or her behalf. That person may try to persuade you that the narcissist has changed and you should give him or her another chance. Or perhaps the narcissist has never seen the narcissist’s true colors in the first place and will accuse you of being too hard on the narcissist. Often, narcissists are able to “play the victim” with others that they know and may use that role to cast you as the one in the wrong for setting boundaries.
22. THREATS OF SELF-HARM:
- This is an extension of #16, but takes it a step further. The narcissist actually claims that he or she will hurt himself or herself in some way if you don’t get in contact with him or her.
When people reach out for help, it should be taken seriously.
Narcissists, however, do not seek help except when they want attention from others. They also generally do not seek treatment and do not try to gain insight into themselves to change.
This does not mean they do not feel pain–it means that they manipulate others with what they feel. If a narcissist tries to hoover you with self-harm, the best thing you can do is call 911.
23. RELIGIOUS HOOVER:
- “I know it’s God will for us to be together.”
- “You’ve gotten away from the Lord, and that’s why you’re not responding to me anymore.”
- “The Bible says divorce is wrong.”
Narcissist Hoovering Tactics Play on Your Emotions
Hoovering methods often catch you off guard.
The narcissist may intrude into your life with something that reminds you of the early love-bombing days.
You may receive a picture from the past, an excessive declaration of everything you’ve ever wanted to hear, or an elaborate promise. The hoover may also come in the form of a tempting offer so the narcissist can get a foot in the door.
Narcissists may make up something to be angry with you about, hoping you’ll respond.
Or they may try to get you to feel sorry for them so you’ll drop your guard once again.
These are all strong plays on deep emotions that they have learned exactly how to work to their advantage. You’d love it if the narcissist would change “this time.” You really don’t want to seem cruel–because you’re not.
There is an undercurrent of manipulation through these methods, as shown by the pattern. These methods are so similar and predictable, it’s worth it to question their validity.
Who does the overture benefit–you or the narcissist? Why is the narcissist back now to hoover you if the implied drama in the hoovers is sincere?
The point is to be ready if you see any of these so that you don’t do something you’ll regret.
What Makes Hoovering Tactics Insincere?
A “hoover” is exactly what it sounds like: an attempt to suck a person back into the relationship.
But what is it about it that makes it uniquely a narcissistic act? In other words, why is this discussed in the context of narcissistic abuse? Isn’t it true that in normal relationships, sometimes one of the partners tries to draw the other one back in after a breakup to try again?
I believe that the latter is not what we would call a “hoover.” In other words, there is a component to the definition of hoovering that isn’t apparent just from reviewing the examples alone.
Love. Hope. Sympathy. Guilt. Fear. Shame. Obligation.
Each of these hoovers is carefully designed to appeal to something deep in us because it makes us feel a particular way when we hear it or it will make us feel a certain way if we ignore it.
There is a particular insincerity behind these narcissist hoover examples implied by how they behave when they’re not with you.
A narcissist is not having an epiphany. Genuine change or remorse does not accompany these words. When you do not respond the way they want you to, they often become angry. If you do, they often revert back to their former behavior.
Hoovering is just an empty act for the narcissist to try to get what he or she wants.
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Don’t forget to check out these free resources:
- Taking Your Life Back After a Relationship With a Narcissist – Recovery Toolkit
- Comprehensive Narcissistic Abuse Dictionary
- The Best Resources for Narcissistic Abuse Recovery