12 Signs You're A Victim Of A Hoovering Narcissist (And How To End The Abuse)

Photo: ESB professional/shutterstock
sad woman in her room

If you've ever broken up with a narcissist or been dumped by one, you know what a relief it can feel like. It may look like you're free of the manipulation and emotional pain of never being good enough for them.

Unfortunately, in some cases, you may end up stuck in a relationship with someone who is "hoovering" you, so even leaving the relationship no longer feels like a consolation.

RELATED: 20 Extremely Brutal Signs You're In Love With A Narcissist

What is narcissistic hoovering and how do you know if it's happening to you?

"Hoovering" is a form of narcissistic abuse in which your ex tries to convince you to return to the relationship through manipulation and lies. This can happen to anyone with a narcissistic ex, regardless of whether they did the dumping or the narcissist broke up with them.

So, do narcissists try to get you back? Yes, but this isn't because they love you — it's because they love themselves.

What does hoovering someone mean?

"Hoovering" is an emotional abuse technique used by narcissists and other manipulative personality types to suck their victims back into a relationship with them because they're running low on their narcissistic supply.

According to Donna Andersen, who specializes in recovering from loving narcissists and sociopaths, and is the founder of the website Love Fraud:

"Relationships with narcissists are highly addictive. What you feel as 'love' is actually an addiction, or trauma bond — a strong emotional attachment to someone who is destructive to you. Because of the addiction, or trauma bond, you want to be with the person. You feel compelled. So, when the narcissist shows up again, apologizing or promising that everything will be wonderful, you want to believe. You're sucked back in. You're hoovered."

This dilemma is named after the Hoover vacuum cleaner, and it makes a lot of sense because the "hooverer" is basically treating you like dirt.

When someone with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is out of a relationship, it occurs to them that they need the attention from you, their ex. They'll attempt to drag you back in with promises to be better or stop behaving in certain ways.

Narcissists hoover because they need to be adored, and who better to suck that energy than someone they decide is still vulnerable to them?

The hooverer can be at a low point in their life and may need a quick-fix, so they look for the easiest and quickest source: you, someone they know how to manipulate and be emotionally abusive to.

Does a narcissist ever stop hoovering? Sadly, the answer is no. They'll likely just find a new victim to focus on, but even that may not stop them from reaching out to you every so often and making you feel bad.

12 Signs of Hoovering Narcissistic Abuse

If you want to end these abusive cycles, you must learn how to recognize when you're being love-bombed or hoovered, and begin setting boundaries.

1. Narcissists send you messages pretending nothing happened.

One day with no warning you get a message that says, "Hey stranger, long time no talk," or, "What's up?" Do not engage.

2. Narcissists use the pretext of a special occasion to make contact.

Just translate "Happy birthday" or "Happy New Year" to mean, "I need some attention."

3. Narcissists ask you seemingly random questions.

"What was the name of the sushi restaurant we went to in Santa Barbara?" Feel free to answer any way you want, but they don't really want to know the answer; they just want to get you to focus on them.

4. These abusers reach out under the guise of concern.

"I was thinking about you" means "I was thinking about me," and "How I can use you to distract myself." Don't be fooled.

5. Narcissists drag your kids into the discussion.

And that's especially if they're not the narcissist's kids. This can sound something like, "I know you hate me, but please tell Jake to score a goal for me."

6. Someone who hoovers will invite you to activities they know you love.

They may say something along the lines of, "Hey, want to catch up on some of the Oscar-nominated films with me?" The answer? "No, I absolutely don't."

7. Narcissists fawn over or praise you for no reason.

For example, "I read your piece on the philosophy of Miley Cyrus and I was riveted. Your writing speaks to me." 

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

They know that you likely miss them or are struggling after the breakup, and hearing kind words will build you up. But this is just an attempt to love bomb you.

RELATED: How A Narcissist Thinks (Warning: It's Pretty Messed Up)

8. Narcissists ask for your help or claim they have a crisis.

Any hooverer knows that it's very difficult to resist when someone reaches out during a crisis.

But there's no need to be concerned — there's no aunt with cancer and the hooverer isn't concerned about a mole on his left shoulder. He's just using every trick in the handbook.

9. The abuser will send you 'accidental' calls or texts.

Who says that narcissists can't be evil geniuses? A mistaken call can deliver a whole lot of pain with a few strokes.

If you get a "See you in ten minutes. Love you" text, this is supposedly for his current girlfriend but is sent as a stab in the heart. Then, there's the "Karen called and said Curtis is in the hospital. Call him right away" text, so that you'll feel compelled to call the hooverer.

10. Hooverers promise to get better or stop bad behavior.

This includes the "I'll go to AA if you come back," or, "I might do something harmful to myself if you don't respond" texts. They may even claim they've gotten medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment to get help. They haven't.

The narcissist manipulator knows that it's very difficult to say no to something when someone's life is in the balance.

11. Narcissists will pretend that you are the hooverer.

"Did you just call me?" or "Was that you driving past my house just now?" are phrases they will say. No one likes to be accused of hoovering someone, but the hooverer is just trying to get you to respond.

12. A hooverer will accuse you of trying to get their attention.

It's just a ploy to get you to respond so they can drag you into a conversation again, however. Maybe you received a text that says, "Stop stalking me." You're annoyed and intrigued, because, after all, you were just minding your own business.

As enticing as it may be to have them clarify their text, reaching out in response means the hoovering is working, so don't do it. You know you're not stalking them, so leave it at that.

It's tempting when you finally hear the things you've wanted to hear since you got dumped, and you think this will help heal the pain. But it will do just the opposite.

The hooverer doesn't really care about you because you're only a part of their sick game. Choose to let them go and not to play.

People with personality disorders like narcissism don't have lasting relationships, and they don't feel love for anybody but themselves. The reason they're hoovering you is 100 percent for themselves — you aren't even in the equation.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse at the hands of a narcissist, you are not alone. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474, or log onto thehotline.org.

RELATED: How To Deal With A Narcissist — 8 Smart & Simple Steps

Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, and Woman's Day. Visit her website or her Instagram.​