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Signs the Narcissist You Know is Hoovering You

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Narcissists don’t break up with you. They give indefinite silent treatments because it gives them control. Sometimes they put us in a deep freeze, but what are the signs of narcissist hoovering? 

What is hoovering? 

Hoovering is a slang term for the return of the narcissist into your life to try to bring your relationship back from the dead. [See The Ultimate Narcissistic Abuse Dictionary to review unfamiliar terms]

Who ended it?  You or the narcissist?

It doesn’t matter.  A narcissist may try to hoover, regardless of which one of you cut off contact. It doesn’t matter how nasty the end was. 

It doesn’t even matter how long ago.

Narcissists may even reappear after years or decades, declaring undying love.

Why Do Narcissists Hoover?

Hoovers are always about the ebb and flow of partners in and out of the narcissist’s life.  To understand narcissist hoovering, you also have to consider it together with the silent treatments–or the period of absence. 

If it were up to them, they would never let anyone go who they have drawn into their web.  However, that’s obviously not a possibility because they don’t have total control.  They are constantly juggling and moving people around, based on their interactions with them. 

What causes narcissists to cycle you in and out of their life?  

1. They needed to punish you or condition your behavior. 

When you have done something that threatened them, they may disappear.  They’ll return to hoover when they think you are sufficiently sorry and will accept the terms of their demand. 

For example, they may require that you never question them again about something or never see a certain friend again. 

2. They need to repair a different relationship or build a new one. 

If they need to hoover another partner they have in their current orbit, they may manufacture an argument with you to buy them time to spend with someone else. They may even block your number so you can’t contact them to make it easy to create the illusion for the other partner that you don’t even exist. 

3. The time away will assist their smear campaign.

If they are cheating and lying and acting controlling and saying hurtful things and getting into overlapping relationships, and other people in their life know it, they have to come up with an explanation to feign normalcy. 

When you aren’t around during a silent treatment, if you repeatedly try to contact them, they use your behavior to make you look obsessive and “crazy.” They plant the seeds with the smear campaign when you aren’t around that you aren’t the person they fell in love with. 

The things they are doing to you and then your reactions are being used to make others feel sorry for them so they can continue to look justified in your continued abuse.  

Their later hoovering will be blamed on you too.  

4. One of their other partners has hurt their ego.

When they come back to you, they need attention they think their current partner isn’t giving them.  Their partner may even have just done something normal like you often do.  Like called a friend or asked them who they were talking to on the phone.  Maybe it was you. 

Maybe the narcissist is punishing them by hoovering you. 

23 Signs of Narcissist Hoovering

Hoovering tactics are easy to spot and categorize, once you know what to look for.

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 your emotions that they have learned 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. These methods are so similar and predictable, it’s worth it to question their validity.

If you’re prepared for these signs of narcissist hoovering, you can’t be caught off-guard. 


  • “I must explain something to you.” or “I need to explain everything.”
  • “I’ll let you ask anything you want to.”



  • “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.”



  • “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)



  • “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!”



  • “Good luck at your new job.”
  • “How did your doctor’s appointment go today?”



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]



  • “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.”



  • “I still have your Christmas presents.”
  • “You left your charger at my apartment.”



  • “Someone told me you posted something about us.”
  • “Someone showed me a picture of you on Facebook with a guy.”



  • “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.”



  • “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.”



  • “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.”



  • “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.”



  • “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.”



  • “You’re the only one I can talk to.”
  • “No one cares how I feel.



  • 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.



  • 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.



  • 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.



  • “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.”



  • 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. 



  • 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.  



  • “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 is Manipulation 

You likely have doubts about your relationship and wonder, "Is my partner a narcissist?" And, let's be honest, you don’t want to believe it’s true.

Hoovers are deadly.

Each time you return, you lose just a little more of yourself and replace it with a piece of the narcissist, because you’ve given up trying to resist that much more.

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?

A narcissist is not having an epiphany. 

When you do not respond the way they want you to, they often become angry. If you do return to the relationship, they often revert back to their previous behavior. Genuine change does not accompany their words.

What characterizes a hoover is insincerity. Hoovering is just an empty act for the narcissist to try to get what he or she wants.


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Kristen Milstead

Kristen Milstead is a narcissistic abuse survivor who has become a strong advocate for finding your unique voice and using it to help others find theirs.


  1. It is both maddening and hilarious at how accurate these all are re: these demons called narcissists, especially the covert ones because you don’t see them coming until it’s almost too late.

    Thanks for doing your part to spread the word so that others may be enlightened.

  2. Seriously Over It

    Many of these examples made me laugh in recognition. I’m being hovered right now… ughhhh. AGAIN. The patterns are so clear, we are in idealization phase again. It’s a 2 week cycle with him. I just say in my head… narcissist disorder. narcissist disorder. narcissist disorder. I prefer to just tell him I’ve started dating someone so we can get that potentially dramatic, explosive part over with.

    We do have a little one together. He’s so cryptic sometimes – as if someone can read his mind and fill in the blanks of what he’s saying – and dramatic. His “stable” nature seems legit for barely a few hours, but it can’t last long.

    I don’t even care anymore. I take my daughter to see him when I think he’s mentally capable of handling her for a few hours. Otherwise… whatever.

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