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Hoovering: What It Is, How Narcissists Use It & How to Avoid Falling for It

Narcissists have many tricks up their sleeves. If you’re wondering what is hoovering, it’s just another of their petty games. Avoid at all costs!

what is hoovering

A narcissist is not someone you want to be around. They’ll use a range of different tactics to manipulate and control you. You’ve probably heard about gaslighting as one of their go-to options, but what is hoovering? Well, it’s another strategy they use to keep you right where they want you.

Hoovering is a technique used by people who are either narcissists, borderline personality, sociopaths, or any other type of personality disorders where other people on earth are nothing more than an instrument or tool to get what they want. [Read: Loving a narcissist: How to tell if you’ve fallen for a narcissist]

What is hoovering?

It is called hoovering because it is a situation where a person literally sucks someone back into a dysfunctional relationship once the victim found their way out. Someone who is the victim of narcissistic abuse often experiences symptoms like post-traumatic stress syndrome. They exhibit anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, cognitive dissonance, and panic attacks.

When they finally do break away and find a new normal outside the abuser, the abuser tries to “suck” them back in, hence hoover. Once more, the abuser treats the person like dirt, so it makes sense on all fronts.

When a narcissist is hoovering someone, all bets are off. They use every emotional hot spot and vulnerability to get them back. Once they suck them back in, they no longer want them. A horrible form of abuse; if you get out of a narcissistic or emotionally abusive relationship, it is imperative that you block all communication, to stop getting sucked back in. [Read: 16 subtle signs a narcissist is abusing you]

Why do narcissists hoover?

A narcissist lives and dies by the attention and adoration they receive from those around them. When they have someone, they no longer want them. But, if you pull away and they fear they can’t siphon all your emotions and leave you dry, they turn on the charm to get you back.

In addition, narcissists often display the following traits:

  • An inflated sense of self
  • A desire to be better than everyone else, to the point where they will befriend those who they identify as helping them to look better
  • Exaggerating their achievements, talents, and anything they have done
  • Using and abusing those around them to get what they want
  • Dominating conversations
  • Expect everyone to bend to their will and to give special treatment
  • Have to have the best of everything, e.g. the latest car, phone, etc.
  • Arrogance and become jealous easily
  • No care for the feelings of others

A narcissist has a pathological fear of not being respected, loved, or that they are worthless. They use someone to fill their emotional need to be important. They do it covertly, however, through emotional manipulation. [Read: Emotional manipulation – 14 ways people mess with your mind]

Hoovering tricks – 8 of the most obviously ways people try to suck you in

A narcissist needs people who give them attention. Not just one fan but many, who they use to make themselves feel important and worthwhile. Being empty on the inside, they find love and acceptance from others to survive.

Much like a predator, they choose their victims wisely, usually highly-empathetic, low on self-esteem, or co-dependent on the need to be loved. [Read: Selfish people – How to spot and stop them from hurting you]

If you finally let go of a relationship that felt abusive, you are probably confused and trying to heal from the emotional turmoil. If you had any questions about if you made the right decision, don’t second guess yourself and let them gaslight you. Or make you feel as if you made the entire thing up in your head. You know what they were doing wasn’t right. You finally made the break. Stick with it and cut them loose.

These are all tactics of hoovering you must resist. Remember, they aren’t in love with you. They are in love with the way you made them feel. The love they promise isn’t real. If it were, you wouldn’t have left to begin with. [Read: Gaslighting – 16 signs your lover is toying with your mind]

Here are a few signs that hoovering is happening to you.

1. They act like the relationship never ended

A hoovering technique is to pretend that you never ended the relationship. Negating you leaving, telling them goodbye, or that you told them it was over and wanted nothing to do with them, is a tactic to make you second guess what really went on. A narcissist often acts as if you are still a couple no matter how many times you say “it’s over.”

2. They try to flatter you with unexpected gifts

Since you are a possession to them, to get you back, they think giving you a gift is the way to win you over. Whether it is flowers, tickets to an event with an invitation, or even lavish jewelry, a narcissist does what they can to win you back through buying your love.

Since their love is based on something other than emotion, they use whatever tactic they can to suck you back in. [Read: What causes narcissism? The facts & theories to read a narcissist]

3. They apologize, but it’s hollow and meaningless

It isn’t that they aren’t willing to say sorry to win you back, it is that they aren’t truly sorry. Since they know that is what you probably look for; they have no problem saying, “I am sorry” for their behavior. Beware! That doesn’t mean they really own up to their mistakes or even feel remorse.

It is just an attempt to use your vulnerabilities as a good-natured soul to win you back. [Read: Relationship without trust: Can *or should* it last?]

4. They indirectly manipulate you like a puppet master

If they can’t get to you directly because either you blocked them or just refuse to answer them at all, they have no shame about going behind your back to find the person to get to you. They know if they just get to you, they can hook you again.

The key to circumvent manipulation is typically finding someone in your heart which means the most to you. Children are always a good target, as are those you trust most. Going to the people who you confide in to plead their case, they manipulate you into taking them back.

Other forms of manipulation are coercion. If you share children or even dogs with them, they have no problem using them as pawns in their game of hoovering. [Read: Manipulative people – How to spot them and stop playing the victim]

5. They find reasons to message you

Even if you made it clear that the two of you are over, someone who hoovers you, continues to send you mundane messages. Things like “tell your mother happy birthday for me” or “did you take my photo album?” when you haven’t ever seen their album collection.

The randomness of the messages keeps you on your toes. They continually interject themselves into your life, waiting for the opening when you just give in and answer back. [Read: 12 reasons why the no contact rule is the only thing that works]

6. Telling you how much they love you

The trickiness to this maneuver is that they are incapable of love, but know love is all you crave. They turn on the charm and try and get you to see their good side, although it’s not in existence in reality.

A narcissist goes to great lengths, even feigning love for you or telling you things like you are their “one and only soulmate.” Or they “loved you the first time they met you.” It is all a ploy to suck you back in.

7. If none of the above works, they’ll try and create some drama

When you no longer adore a narcissist and cut them out, and all their efforts fail, they might give it one last ditch effort by creating drama. Whether it is spreading lies or making up scenarios about what you did to them, revenge is going to be their last effort at getting you to give in and come back.

Like a two-year-old stamping their feet, they have no problem making your life hell to get you to give up and just come back to make it stop. [Read: 23 secret signs of narcissism people overlook until it’s too late]

8. They pretend they really need you

Since you are a giving soul *which is why they targeted you to begin with*, a narcissist pretends that they need you back because they are in trouble.

Knowing you are the type of person who can’t not step in to aid someone who needs them, regardless of how you feel about them, they do whatever they can to get to you, including faking scenarios like a sudden or dramatic illness to lure you back.

To a narcissist, there isn’t anything too far reaching or out of bounds to get you back in their adoration net. Either covertly or overtly they do anything in their power to suck you back in, just like a vacuum. So they once again feed off of you to make themselves feel fulfilled. [Read: Am I in an abusive relationship? 17 Sure signs]

How to avoid falling foul of hoovering

So, what can you do to help protect yourself against hoovering?

1. Remember why you left

The whole point of hoovering is to suck you back in by showing you their so-called good side. Narcissists in particular will use the charm to attract you and then drop it when they think they’ve got you where they want you. When they sense that you’re slipping out of their clutches a little, they’ll turn the charm on once more. Remember why you left. It’s hard to do, but pull those painful memories of how they treated you to the forefront of your mind and use them to stop you from going back.

2. Surround yourself with support

It’s possible that you became isolated from your friends and family during your relationship with this person, because that’s what narcissistic people try to do. However, they’ll always be there for you, waiting for you to ask for their help. Now is that time. Surround yourself with people who love and care for you and lean upon them during this difficult time. Let them be your strength and you’ll find that your own strength comes back much faster. [Read: How to leave a narcissist & free yourself from their web of control]

3. Block all contact

Delete and block their phone number. Block them from all forms of social media. Do not read any messages from people you do not know, as it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to create fake profiles to try and get to you. Do not respond to any type of contact at all – they will lie and do whatever they need to do in order to start the hoovering process but you must be immune to it. Block, block, block!

4. Start planning your future

The best way to start building your confidence is to focus upon yourself. Start planning your future. What do you want to do? Is there something you’ve always wanted to try but not got around to yet? Do you want to change your hair? Whatever you want to do, go for it now! You’re free. Your life is your own. You can create any new reality you want now you’re free from the clutches of this abusive relationship.

You might still have lingering feelings for them and when they try and reach out, it’s normal to have a twinge of something inside of you. However, remember the bad times, don’t focus on any good times because they’re nothing more than a fake memory or an illusion. You walked away and you were strong. Now you need to be strong for a little longer, to avoid their manipulative hoovering tactics.

[Read: Controlling people: 14 common traits and ways to deal with them]

No matter how hard it is, if you gave up and moved on, continue moving. Don’t get within the suction range of their hoovering.

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Julie Keating
A writer isn’t born, but created out of experiences. No lack of subject matter, my life reads more like fiction than anything that could have been imagined in...
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