A Narcissist Hoovering Q & A

narcissist-returns-hooveringNarcissistic hoovering so often becomes our epic downfall after a break-up with an N simply because we allow it so easily to lure us back to the abyss. It is this hoovering – this  preferred narcissistic tactic of our toxic insignificant other – that invariably sucks us in for another no-win round of cat and mouse time after time after time.  It is the hoovering that gets the best of us – more often than not – and makes it nearly impossible for us to put an end to the narcissistic nonsense.

Why do narcissist’s hoover and why does it appear to have such a hypnotic effect on the broken-hearted? I mean, how can this be considering that he who hoovers is, without a doubt, the perpetrator of the original crime? Why do the victims of a narcissist not only expect to be hoovered but will even wait for it, hope for it, and even beg for it at some point in the relationship? Because there are always a slew of questions about the hoovering maneuver in the wonderful emails I receive from website visitors and from readers of my book,  I thought the time was right to create the following Hoovering Q & A:

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What exactly is hoovering?

Hoovering is an “action” that describes how a narcissist tries to weasel his way back into your life after a break-up or after he’s vanished for a period of time (i.e. a silent treatment). A “hoover” is the tactic he uses to do it.

What are hoovering tactics?

Hoovering tactics, which come in many forms (text message, email, letter or card, by proxy via someone else, phone call/voice mail, etc.), are always deliberately subtle at first in order to hide the deception behind it. How the hoovers continue is based upon your response to the first few. Also, because each relationship is unique and your narcissist has created a mental list of all the special things he can use to tug at your heart strings or pull on your conscience, he or she will combine/include what he knows about you with his hoovering methods.

So, for example, text message hoovering tactics out-of-the-blue after a silent treatment could involve:

  • text messages pretending to be oh-so-sweet: “Hi. How are u? Are u ok?” or “R u there?” or “Hey, it’s me:(“
  • text messages on special occasions: “Its my b’day. Really miss u being here” or “Happy b’day. Wish I was there”
  • text messages about the kids (especially if they’re not his): “Hi. I was thinking about Joey today. Is he ok?” or “I know u hate me but wanna wish Suzie a Happy 8th b’day”
  • text messages about a convenient upcoming event: “Foo Fighters r coming. Wanna go? Couldn’t go w/o u”” or “R u going to Maggie’s wedding?”
  • text messages about things you like to do that he’s never been interested in doing with you before (one of my ex’s favorites): “Hey, I was thinking, wanna go bowl a few strings?” or “Hey wud u like to go for a drink?”
  • text messages about bogus family illnesses (including his own) (another of my ex’s favorites): “My mom had a stroke. need to talk to u” or “I don’t no, think I might have cancer. Can I c u?”
  • text messages about sex: “Don’t u miss us being together?”
  • text messages that attempt to flip the hoover back on you: “Did u just text me?” or “Did you just call me?” or “Did u just drive by?”
  • text messages, when all else fails, making bogus accusations to get some type of emotional response (my ex’s all time favorite and it usually worked): “I know what u did” or “U better tell ur boyfriend to stop calling me” or “I know u hacked into my fone” or ” or “I’ve moved on. Why r u bugging me?”

All of the above can be swapped for use in emails, letters, notes taped to cars, voice mails…you get the idea. The point is..it’s all a crock of shit to get a response from you so that communication is initiated and he can worm his way back into your life.

Why does a narcissist begin to hoover?

A narcissist hoovers for a few different reasons (none of them good, by the way) but the main one is to keep you from ever moving on from the pain that he caused you.  Successful hoovering (i.e. you responding) keeps you in the queue with all of the narcissist’s other victims (and there are always others) and this, in turn, ensures that he will never run out of narcissistic supply.

What has happened to the narcissist for him to start the hoovering?

A narcissist only hoovers because things aren’t going his way wherever he’s at – and that’s the only reason. So, if the narcissist in your life starts hoovering suddenly after a long (or brief) absence, it’s because 1) he’s had enough fun with whoever he left you for, 2) his current fling did something he didn’t like and he’s getting ready to blow her off, 3) his current fling is getting too close to finding out about you or others and he knows the end is near anyway, or 4) he’s in need of something you’ve got (i.e. money, transportation, sex, etc.)

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What will happen if I fall for his hoovering tactics?

He will expect the relationship to pick up where it left off with no repercussions from you and the next time he leaves (and he will leave again) he’ll make sure it’s more painful for you than the time before. Nothing good ever comes from falling for a hoover.

And it only takes one (1) response from you for the hoover to be successful. If you notice, a narcissist will often hoover with a text or email or phone call that gives you hope and then, as soon as you respond in kind, he disappears. That’s his way of just checking on your status in his queue of victims – and then he goes back to whatever or whoever he was doing.

Is it ever possible that the narcissist really misses me and feels bad about what he did?

No. A narcissist has no conscience and, although he knows the difference between right and wrong, he doesn’t care about that. He doesn’t miss you or love you or miss the kids or have nostalgic thoughts (not like we do anyway) or feel sorry for what he did or for hurting you. Nope, it’s none of that. He might be missing the sex but that will only be temporary because after you’ve let him back in, he will eventually leave again to go back to wherever he was because he now misses that sex.

Well, I hope the above clarifies the hoovering method of the narcissist a little. As always, no contact is the only way to rid yourself of the narcissist. The more we understand the reasoning behind each and every hoover and that it’s all a big crock of shit, the better our chances of recognizing and ignoring future hoovers.


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  • littlevoice

    June 7, 2017 at 10:10 pm Reply

    I am at the end of my ‘run in’ with a Narcissist. He was my Musical Director and Singing Teacher. We are both married, and I fell VERY quickly for his charms…..the Love Bombing Stage was not a very long process with me, I already worshiped him. I noticed the manipulation techniques very early on as I am a psych student Majoring in Profiling and I STILL was completely conditioned and obsessed with him even while being aware.

    Over the course of 8 months, we never got to the point of a sexual relationship though he cryptically would tease me that it was coming if I had patience and followed the ‘rules’ that he would issue to me via subtext and through song choices (he has had many mistresses in the past). During the Devaluation Phase, he was preparing me for the Discard with songs about affairs/relationships ending and learning how to ‘Hide Your Feelings’. He, myself, and his wife were all working together in the Theatre Company 4 days a week so it was all very risky.

    I questioned the nature of our relationship via text stating that I felt like I was being pushed and pulled, he touched me in a way that was subtle but intimate, there was flirtations, and we were messaging each other late into the nights where the next day at the Theatre he would act like I didn’t even exist to him. I asked him to clarify if we ‘were friends or not friends’ because I couldn’t handle being lead up a garden path and all the confusion.

    That night, at reheasals, he approached me and tried to completely gaslight me, saying my attentions were ‘unwanted’ and that I needed to stop! I mirrored and became aggressive back saying it ‘WAS unwanted’ and HE needed to stop! He cancelled my lessons, I became distressed, we were both pulled into separate meetings with our Theatre Company Committee and were individually advised that there are rumours we were having an affair and now there is animosity. We both denied this but my discomfort and distress grew, I was messaging him every 3 days to please talk to me and acknowledge me. He then vilified me to the Board members of the Music Conservatorium (that he runs) and the Theatre Committee stating; that I was harassing him, and sending him constant texts. He started to CC the Committee and the Board into our emails where I fell right into his ‘stalker’ trap. I requested a meeting to discuss the professional implications of recent events with him and stated I felt harassed, to this email I received a reply from the Vice President (honorary solicitor) of the Conservatorium drafted up as an illegal mock AVO in which he CC’d in my Theatre Company Committee, the entire Board and Admin staff of the Conservatorium, his wife, and his long term mistress.

    I have taken legal action back at him and we are currently in a position for me to receive an apology for the ‘lawyer’ about the fake AVO and defamation…. and an apology from the Narcissist for his inappropriate behaviour with me as a student, substantiated by text messages from him that I have as proof that I am not a stalker and in fact an upset woman trying to preserve her career in the local music industry.

    I guess what I’m getting at is; I’ve been reading about Hoovering, and he does Hoover (I’ve seen it) but, given the public and very FINAL nature of my Discard I don’t believe I will be Hoovered. Is this naive? If there is a Hoovering I fear it will be Malign

    • Zari Ballard

      July 5, 2017 at 3:10 am Reply

      Dear littlevoice,

      What a sticky situation. Well, the best way to debunk a narcissist’s smear campaign is to stay very, very quiet. This way, no matter what he says, how much shit he talks, your silence casts doubt on his story. The good news is that you really DIDN’T have an “affair” affair so you aren’t/weren’t technically lying when confronted by others. I imagine the whole thing has been very embarrassing and since it’s not really still ongoing, I’m not so sure if I would keep bringing it up to the Board and pushing the issue unless you truly felt you might get the boot. It sounds as if you have a very high position in the Theater Company…one that can’t be easily replaced…so maybe you should take it in stride. This guy obviously has a reputation that precedes him. You mention that he already has not only a wife but a long term mistress as well so you can hardly be faulted for what has happened.

      As for him hoovering, he may because narcissists have no shame at all but when and if this happens, you will have to document it but completely ignore it. I wouldn’t worry about it. There’s nothing that can come of it if you don’t allow it. Please let me know how this turns out. I will be curious!


    • Travis

      September 9, 2017 at 8:23 am Reply

      That is just about the most ridiculous and absurd description of something that you very much just generally applied to your own relationship gone bad, making only one thing true about only one of you (you & your ex).. Trying to get back with people you’ve had a bad break-up or relationship with is relatively normal. People get lonely and, so, if there was ever anything good, sometimes it’s just a human thing to go back to the familiar & comfortable, because at some point, even that feels better than being alone, being consumed with pain & misery. You also act as though Narcissism is something that specifically identifies types of people who are all literally the same in thought and action, which is ridiculous. Lots of people exhibit those traits, especially in, during & after relationships. It’s like you could apply these things to anyone after having had their worst day or after having been in a horrible relationship. But you can’t, because the only truth is that you have a victim mentality and are likely the person also exhibiting the narcissistic traits. You can’t get enough of it, because that’s your role – not the one you get to blame on someone else to sell a book. And hovering. Jesus, your so-called definition of that and the tactics, examples, etc. made me laugh harder than I have in quite some time. Those were all like pretty much the most common texts that anyone could’ve and probably has sent to someone at some point or another. You can’t just throw a bunch of interesting topics out that you have no real grasp of or date on etc. and rely solely on the fact that a lot of people will simply choose to buy into it, and your book, so they can justify their own pains, etc., become victims themselves, perpetually, and apply all guilt upon the lover who left them with the biggest scar… Because that’s what you’re doing with all of this garbage – and that makes you the abusive ‘narcissist’ and anyone who pathetically buys into this your victim, as you’re doing nothing more but preying on weakness. Otherwise you’d not have to write long, detailed essays to describe and hopefully promote/sell your BS. Good luck with that though.

      • Zari Ballard

        September 9, 2017 at 7:05 pm Reply

        Hi Travis,

        First of all, the word is “hoovering”, not “hovering”, and it pertains to a specific behavior of narcissistic partners so my “so-called definition” is not one that I made up…it just is what it is. In other words, my so-called definition is the ONLY definition and what I describe as the behavior is spot-on. Anybody who has ever been involved with a narcissist understands what “hoovering” means, Travis, and if they don’t, they have an “a-ha” moment as soon as they read my article. This is exactly why I write my articles….to give information so those who are dealing with this shit can understand what’s going on. And you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about, right? Right.

        Since you don’t say what brought you to my website in the first place, I can only assume that 1) you are a trolling for another website, or 2) you are a narcissist who feels basically “called out” by the words that you’ve read here. Thus, your snarky, illogical way of thinking. My ex (the narcissist) was fascinated by his own disorder as well so I recognize it. I’ve been doing this a long time and, believe me, your intention shines through. Save yourself further embarrassment and move along as your contribution clearly isn’t for the better good of those who come here for support.


  • LALA land

    May 2, 2017 at 7:03 pm Reply

    Hi zari do i have an email? I need to talk to u.

    – victim of N

  • Jo

    February 12, 2017 at 10:08 am Reply

    My N dumped me out of the blue after telling my family and his family we were going to get married. He love bombed me in the beginning, moved me in right away, and we began ring shopping. I thought he was my soul mate.

    After several months the devalue, criticizing, verbal/emotional abuse began and I found myself constantly walking on eggshells trying to please him. Nothing I ever did was good enough and he continually raised the bar. I was paying the bills, meeting all his needs, working full time, and yet he always complained about something I wasn’t doing right. Would throw temper tantrums and give me the silent treatment. I never knew what was going to set him off. Yet all of this was peppered with moments of intense love, passion, great sex, and tears from him. I isolated myself from family and friends, my social life became almost non existent, and I was turning into a shell trying to make him happy. I didn’t want to be abandoned and I tried harder at this then in my own marriage. I am divorced.

    My N kicked me out after 2 years in January so I hired a moving company and left when he was at work. I deleted social media and went no contact. He recently emailed me on a Friday night after a month of no contact saying he has some “important” mail of mine and would like to know how I want to get the mail.

    Is this hoovering?

    • Zari Ballard

      February 17, 2017 at 10:20 pm Reply

      Hi Jo,

      Yes, of course this is hoovering. Block his email – and all of his phone and cell numbers for that matter. He will try to suck you back in just so that he can hurt you again. This is what they do. This is who they are. Do not fall for the ruse. You did the right thing by leaving and laying low. He shouldn’t be allowed to contact you at all.


      • Jo

        February 18, 2017 at 5:49 am Reply


        So after the “mail” ordeal he got really nasty and was telling me to return his key and treating me like a total pos so I blocked him. Then a few days later l had multiple people tell me he is now plastered all over FB and IG in a “new relationship” after 4 weeks of me moving out!!! He dated this girl years ago for a few months when he was going through his divorce. They never got to really know each other. Anyway all of his family is congratulating them on social media. I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone.

    • lily

      March 6, 2017 at 1:38 pm Reply

      Have someone else come and pick up the mail if you can, do not let him know where you live if he doesn’t already. I was with a narc for 10 years and he kicked me out after I ended things. This is not so much a hoovering tactic. This is still the “discard” phase. It hasn’t really been long enough for “hoovering”. Hoovering will come many months later when it doesn’t work out with whoever he’s left you for (I promise you, there is someone else in the picture). I was already dating someone else two months after the breakup and my ex did the exact same thing. “I need to drop off your important mail, tell me where you live”. Not only that, he had to the nerve to actually open my mail (a federal offense, thank you very much) to tell me, “You have a really big bill from the tax department”. Narcissists relish in your anguish. Know this and never go back. I made that mistake 5 times and left him 5 times. I lost what should have been the 10 best years of my life. The person I dated after him is a closeted homosexual who also started with the same kind of abuse. Be very, very careful who you let into your life after this experience. Until you come to terms with what has happened to you you are at risk of having another narcissist come swooping in to feed on the leftovers. They have a sixth sense for the perfect “supply”. If I can give you any comfort at all I would say this: Narcissists seek out women who are strong and talented. They do this to showcase themselves and will try to hijack any of your friends in the process. You are traumatized right now. The person you fell in love with simply does not exist….you created him in your mind and he simply mirrored that.

      • Zari Ballard

        March 7, 2017 at 1:38 pm Reply

        What great advice to share with Jo and everyone….thank you! I know all too well about those lost ten years…xo

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