An important subject when it comes to dealing with narcissists is hoovering. Sadly, after breaking up, a narcissist often will try to suck you back into the abusive relationship. This attempt to suck you back in is called hoovering and a narcissist can make attempts to regain contact in many different ways. It can be very challenging to deal with this.
Learning about hoovering and its different forms is thus important when you managed to go no contact with a narcissist, because it’s essential to keep it that way in order to protect yourself and your energy. In this article, I will go into signs of a hoovering narcissist by going deeper into examples of a narcissist hoovering.
Narcissistic abuse cycle
Hoovering is part of the narcissistic abuse cycle, which I explain further in this article. The cycle consists of stages of idealizing, devaluing, and discarding you. The cycle is mostly used to describe the unhealthy dynamics and narcissistic abuse in a romantic relationship with a narcissist but it gives insight into familial relationships as well, such as having a narcissistic parent.
Clearly, it’s very brutal how narcissistic abuse works and it’s important to recognize the cycle in order to break free. A relationship can go endlessly through the cycle until you recognize the truth and you then manage to stop the cycle. It would be great if you eventually are able to shift your attention to yourself again in order to heal, recover and grow!
This article is an addition to my earlier article, which is an in-depth article about why and how narcissists hoover and how to deal with. I will now go further into signs of a hoovering narcissist by going deeper into 10 examples of a narcissist hoovering. Hopefully, this article can be helpful in recognizing this manipulative behaviour and dealing with it.
What is hoovering in short?
Hoovering is a narcissist trying to trick or bait you into breaking no contact and re-engaging with them. If they succeed, you will be sucked back into a cycle of abuse. It’s one of many manipulation tactics of a narcissist in order to control you. It’s thus an attempt to restore the lost emotional supply you were to them. Often they will try anything to get your attention and re-engagement.
10 examples of a narcissist hoovering
Positive hoovering methods:
I have categorized the hoovering examples into three categories: positive, negative, and random hoovering.
The category of positive hoovering is when a narcissist tells you what you want to hear or do ‘kind’ things. They could, for example, love-bomb you, promises you to change, or apologize. Clearly, it’s not really something ‘positive’ as hoovering is a manipulation method. These things could be considered kind or positive, however, if there was no intention of hoovering you and thereby sucking you back into a cycle of abuse.
The positive hoovering methods could be seen as trying to repeat the idealization stage of the narcissistic cycle of abuse. Mostly, the hoovering will start on the positive side and if that doesn’t work a narcissist could switch to negative hoovering methods.
A classic form of hoovering is love-bombing. They could try to love-bomb you, in the same way, they probably did at the start of the relationship. It’s an attempt to influence you with love, attention, and affection. It’s a form of conditional love that fits in the idealization stage of a relationship. After a break-up, they could thus try to start the abusive cycle again by ‘starting again’ with the idealization (until they regain control).
Examples could be the narcissist trying to give you (luxurious) gifts with ‘no strings attached’, sending flowers or cards, treat you on a trip or vacation, praise you for standing up for yourself, or they might declare their newly realized love for you.
2. Promises and apologies
Another form of hoovering is false promises and apologies. A narcissist could try to convince you of how sorry they are and state that they have really changed. They could ask or beg (dramatically) for another chance to make things right. Although a true narcissist will never take sincere responsibility, they will use false/quick apologies or take the blame in an exaggerated manner. Their apologies will, however, never be backed up by actions or true change.
A narcissist can be very convincing, which could make it very hard not to believe they mean it. In their attempts to re-engage, they could even promise you they will explain everything so you can get the closure you possibly desire.
It’s thus important to recognize whether these type of apologies or promises happened before and if this person then changed their behaviour. If they didn’t in the past, you can trust on that and nothing will change. You will see whether it’s sincere when you observe and judge on actions/behaviour and not on words.
A narcissist can thus paint a beautiful picture with words and false promises and they can be very persuasive. Questions to keep asking yourself if you find this challenging are:
– Does their behaviour align with their words/promises?
– Did I believe him/her before in the relationship and did I make a right judgment then?
If you (want to) believe this person or have doubts whether this person is manipulating you or is a narcissist, you need to state clear boundaries to yourself and clearly write down the promises and keep bringing it up. You will see soon enough whether words are true or not. Beware of not fooling yourself and stay focused on the actual behaviour shown. You can read more about the signs of a narcissist in this article explaining the 9 criteria of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
3. Special occasions and important dates
A specific form of hoovering by a narcissist is them remembering special occasions and important dates or events. They could ask you about specific events or wish you luck with something that is important to you. It’s a way of trying to stay ‘involved’ and show their attention is with you.
In the same way, they love to use your birthdays or holidays to make contact. Another example could be using you to have contact with the kids or wish them luck on, for example, a sports game. All these methods are simply a scream for attention and a way of putting (forcing) them into your mind.
Negative hoovering methods:
A narcissist could decide to hoover you in a more brutal and negative way than the above positive hoovering methods. It means they will try to use your vulnerabilities, pity, and negative emotions by using so-called negative hoovering methods. These methods align with the manipulations used in the devaluation stage of the cycle of abuse.
4. Emotional triggers of guilt and shame
A narcissist loves to (ab)use negative feelings such as guilt or shame to manipulate you into re-engaging. They will try to make you feel guilty, ashamed, or emotional. A narcissist has many techniques and ways to try to emotionally trigger you to suck you back into engaging with them. Sadly, they know your triggers and will try to use them.
A narcissist has no boundaries and could try to use your children to trigger guilt, worry, or any response. Another example is using religion and stating you’ve lost your faith and divorce is wrong. They could use the silent treatment as well in order to regain your interest, for example after you re-engaged once to one of their hoovering attempts.
A narcissist could ‘abandoning’ their victim by stating they are done with them and retracting all communication efforts. This can trigger a fear of rejection or abandonment that could cause the victim to panic and try to get into contact again.
To conclude, there are many different methods they could use and it will probably be personalized to your fears, weaknesses or doubts. It’s therefore important to stay aware of whether they trigger you in some way and why. Try to observe yourself when you’re triggered, allow the emotion and then decide you’re choosing a different path and responding is not worth it. Decide you will protect your energy and not re-engage. Know, you have the control and strength to make this decision!
5. Fake injury, vulnerability, depression or helplessness
A narcissist could fake injury, vulnerability, depression or helplessness. They will do so in order to try to make you worried about them and seduce you to reach out to help them. If your quality or wish is to help others (as for example an empath), they are likely to abuse that quality.
A narcissist sadly has no boundaries and can lie about medical conditions, an emergency or use threats about hurting themselves or committing suicide. They might say you’re the only one that understands them and they are alone in this world if it wasn’t for you.
A narcissist thus asks for help in many forms and this can be very challenging. It can be useful to recognize whether you’re sensitive for this cry for help and if you have a strong wish to help others. Know it’s a beautiful characteristic, but keep reminding yourself you need to protect yourself as well.
You will be able to help others in a better way if you’re in a better place yourself, which is without the narcissist. You don’t need to help others if you have to cross your own boundaries to do so. This can be unhealthy and a narcissist will sadly abuse this characteristic. You can read more about the toxic attraction and unhealthy dynamics between an empath and a narcissist in this article.
6. Provoking you
A narcissist could try to provoke you in order to make you angry and respond. This is another form of using emotional triggers and trying to get an emotional reaction. This method is more verbally aggressive, in which they might make all kinds of accusations, devalue you or attack your reputation. There could be smearing as well. You can read more about the brutal smear campaign and how to deal with it in this article about the narcissist’s smear campaign.
A narcissist is really playing a manipulative game in order to get some reaction. Sometimes this invites victims to try to outsmart a narcissist. In my opinion, it’s not smart to try to outsmart a narcissist and it’s better to not play the manipulative game in order to protect your energy. You can read more about why not to outsmart a narcissist in this article.
7. Triangulation and hoovering by proxy
Another form of hoovering is called triangulation or hoovering by proxy. A narcissist uses flying monkeys, which are people in their environment that they control, to reach you and convince you to react. This could be, for example, the narcissist using your friends or family to tell you about how broken they are or how they regret what happened. The flying monkeys might try to convince you how the narcissist has changed or how they loved you as a couple.
When using triangulation, a narcissist thus uses a third person to do the work (manipulation) for them. You can read more about triangulation in my in-depth article about triangulation and my article with examples of narcissistic triangulation.
Often, the narcissist will play the victim or hero to create outside pressure on you. They could, for example, make up they are a victim of your instability and how positive their influence was on you. You can learn more about how a narcissist uses flying monkeys in my article about the narcissist’s web of control.
A narcissist could use the manipulation tactic called gaslighting as a form of hoovering. In this specific situation, they might act as if the relationship hasn’t ended and you’re for example simply going through a phase. They could pretend you’re overreacting and not even acknowledge that you’ve broken up.
It’s thus really a form of gaslighting where they act as if nothing has changed and stick to that.
In general, a narcissist can pretend as if some abuse or situation has never happened and try to continue the usual interaction with you. They could really make you doubt yourself about what exactly happened. You can read more about the brutal manipulation tactic called gaslighting and how to deal with it in my in-depth article about gaslighting.
Random hoovering methods:
Random hoovering methods are a way to contact you without directly seeing the motivation behind the message. It’s neither positive nor negative. This form of hoovering is mostly an attempt to test the water and see if they can get an initial response.
9. Waiting for a long time
A form of random hoovering is simply waiting for a long period before making an attempt to reconnect with you. It can seem very random if they decide to hoover you and get into contact again.
Mostly, there is a reason or need for them to want to re-engage at a certain point, such as breaking up with their partner at that time. A narcissist could use this method with multiple exes when they have a lack of emotional supply, in order to see who takes the bait.
10. Random, small and ‘accidental’ messages
A form of hoovering is sending random messages or texts that come across as small or meaningless. Again, they hope for any response from you and they are testing the water.
It could be a simple text saying ‘Hi, what’s up?’ or ‘Long time no talk’. It could also be a more personal message such as ‘I just drove by the bar where we met and thought of you’, ‘I got a bad feeling and was suddenly worried about you. Are you okay?’ or they might send pictures of when you were together.
Another example of random hoovering is where they ask random questions to get some response, such as asking for the name of a restaurant or one of your cooking recipes they liked.
Lastly, you could receive an ‘accidental’ call or text. This could be a message that was supposed to be for their newly found love or a ‘mistake call’.
The challenge of hoovering
Hoovering can thus occur at any time and in many different forms. This is what makes hoovering so challenging and hard to deal with. It’s essential to not fall for it, because things will only get worse than before. To do so, it would be great if you manage to focus on healing/growing yourself and thus shift your attention to yourself.
Know it’s very tough to deal with hoovering and it’s okay if you re-engaged before. Recognize it’s a mistake but don’t blame yourself for it. Use this energy to try again. It’s important to be compassionate and kind towards yourself in this process. Keep taking care of yourself and consistent small steps in the right direction will get you there!
You can read on about hoovering in my in-depth article about hoovering, which goes into why narcissists hoover, what triggers they abuse and how to deal with hoovering.
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2 thoughts on “Signs of a hoovering narcissist: 10 examples of a narcissist hoovering”
I have found this site very balancing in the way the writer uses a Taoist paradigm to understand and try to grasp narcissism. An angry approach, whilst totally understandable, doesn’t always work in understanding these dynamics or moving through the legacy of loving a narcissist I have used the writers material and questions to develop a sort of Question Sheet which I am using in my own relationships and have also shared with others. Hopefully the person who writes this web site will be ok with me suggesting it; essentially it is their words I have used.
Questions to ask yourself
Am I responsible for the other person’s behaviour; is it reasonable for me to take this responsibility?
Do I want to cross my boundaries (the things that give me identity and integrity) in order to meet the needs of another person; is it ok for them to ask me to do this either directly or indirectly?
If one is open to honest and respectful communication, is it healthy behaviour for the other person to use the silent treatment?
Does the other person always blame me; do they ever take real responsibility for their actions or words?
Is my behaviour reasonable and am I the one who should change my behaviour?
Should I be treated with respect?
Is the other person really interested in my needs and feelings and can I provide examples?
Do I consciously choose to do this or am I doing it for someone else, and if for another person why am I doing this?
What does my intuition tell me?
How can I be more aware of myself today?
Hi Rhon, thank you for your response and kind words. I’m thankful these questions can help you and others in this process of dealing with narcissistic and manipulative behaviour. As long as it’s only for personal use and for others in your close environment, it’s fine to use my words.
Wish you strength and kindness in the future!
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