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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  • 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

  • elvilipendiosocial

    December 6, 2016 at 1:14 pm Reply

    Dear Zari

    I´m in a lot of pain right now. I am an Airbnb host and I had a guest at the start of october 2016. She seemed wonderful, very charming, her laughter was amazingly contagious. We would speak for hours and sometimes even until dawn, I felt I had met an amazing woman whom I had a lot of things in common with, she seemed perfect in fact, my dream woman. I had a girlfriend (5 years relatonship) at the time from whom i moved out ( I left for Spain and she stayed in Denmark – her home town) due to the fact that I was frustrated on many levels (including the relationship). I shared this information with the airbnb guest whom also shared intimate stories about herself (eating disorder, obsession with control, being perfect ) also mentioned she had many failed relationships due to the fact that most men cannot handle a strong independent alpha female like herself. She was having some holiday fling with a guy she met on the street and would constantly tell me about it (i thought it was to make me jealous) but she seemed to be toying around with him a little. She was very flirtracious with me and being good looking I ended up falling for her charm and we had almost spiritual sex. She cried in my arms and told me about this important professional transition she would soon face (leaving a 8 years job to beggin a complete different one) she seemed very fragile, vulnerable and insecure although she portrays a tough woman image. I am a transexual male (have gone through all stages in my transition – and am now 29 years old). I decided to share my personal story with her just to see her reaction and because I wanted her to really get to know me (it took a lot of guts). She cried and told me she could not imagine the amount of pain I must have gone through and told me she was surprised of not being surprised at all. I was deeply moved by her reaction and really thought hey! I found someone really special here. When she had to return I went with her to the airport, from this day on she would text me everyday and call me at least 3 times a day and Skype on the evening. She would tell me I had changed her life, I was her miracle, that one day she would be perfect because she had me. That she missed me and wanted to see me, she told me she desired me, that we had a soul connection and it was beautiful. She even told me she would like to live with me in Copenhagen next year, as I felt stuck in my relationship with my now ex, I felt the most honest thing to do was to break up with her so i could freely pursue what was happening with this other girl. We made plans for travelling, even booked a hotel to spend new years eve together, I sent her 2 postcards and she invited me to Poland.
    She frequently made comments on men admiring her beauty and sometimes even sent me a picture of a waiter who called her “his queen” – I thought this was odd.

    I wanted to show her i appreciate reality more than fantasies and went to Poland. From calling me “handsome” “darling” “honey ” etc from one day to the next, literally just 1 day before me travelling, she changed. She had even asked me if i wanted to meet her best frend some days ago, to which I replied I would think about it and she insisted until i agreed and said yes. (this whole thing lasted nearly 3 months)
    When i got there, she didn´t seem like the same person i met on holidays. She told me to be careful not to get her lipstick on my lips first time i kissed her and saw her, seemed uncomfortable in my presence. We had amazing sex at her place but I still felt something weird was cooking in the air. On the following day she went to work and i even made dinner, she would rant about herself being stressed due to work, stressed with losing weight , stressed because she had to travel the next day (business trip) when i asked for a goodnight kiss she flipped out and told me she was very stressed and told me she was difficult and she could not do something she did not feel like! I was shocked and hurt. She never apologised, on the following day she seemed eager to leave and when she hugged and kissed me it seemed almost forced. She then texted me (nothing like before) simple flight status and telling me when she finally arrived to the hotel. When I replied she saw my messages but decided to ignore me for a whole day. I did not text nor called back, giving her space, she then wrote once more and even colder – finding an excuse on why she was not writing much. I then confronted her and told her that her stress did not justify bad behavior and that she had changed completely in literally 1 day and none of it made sense. She replied she felt awful that she did not feel what she had to feel and knew it was not ok with me. I said I have self respect and know when something is not good for me and i did not deserve such treatment , she said I know you dont deserve it and that is why i feel so sad inside and do not know what to say. I was very hurt and confused so i told her I would change my flight and that i hoped she became better at figuring out her emotions before involving other people. I got no answer, no calls, not even trying to apologise or ask me not to leave until we talked things over, I was there at her flat seeing the same things i saw when we held many skype chats when i comforted her while she cried and told me about her issues (sort of like a life coach). It was devastating to me, I felt used and stupid and to make matters worse in a foreign country. I managed to change my flight on the same day she returned, she had ” Think positively ” with a heart written with lipstick on her mirror and I needed to express my frustration and anger over the fact she did not even spoke to me, I completed this message with ” AND use people to hide who you truly are EMPTY” wrote as well that I was not her fucking joke. ( I am not like this and I am not proud of it now but I did not know how to deal with those horrible feelings). I thought i would have some reaction, some apology, something from her but days passed by (4 days) and i did not get any answer – I was going crazy and decided to write her an sms saying that I was sorry about the way things turned out between us and that hoped she found happiness within herself. She then replied telling me that I was very important to her, that she lived with this thought everyday and memories, when i arrived she felt awful that she did not feel what she should feel. Also said she did not deserve the messages i wrote on her mirror… As I saw this sms i decided to call her, she did not take my call. I explained why i wrote that message and asked her what she thought she deserved? – she then dismissed me by saying ” I am with a friend now”. I then erased her from my phone, facebook, and everywhere. I am still trying to figure out what the hell happened, reading to make sense of things and trying to move on although It hurts a lot – I have come to the conclusion that she must be a covert narcissist or some sort of emotional vampire who obviously used me for emotional security and then for some reason, discarded me. I just wanted to share my story with you to hear your opinion – I am also longing for some sort of closure or sense for justice, since she has not even apologised to me after what she put me through.


    • Zari Ballard

      December 13, 2016 at 4:18 pm Reply

      Hi evilipendiosocial (what a moniker!),

      So sorry that you are going through this. It is clear to me that this girl is a narcissist and women narcs are the worst of the worst. Nothing you could have done would have changed the outcome. Do not feel an iota of guilt for the message on the mirror or anything else you may have said or done because this is how they make us feel! The good person that we love and the narc persona are as different as night and day. There was no way for you to have known!

      As for justice or closure, unfortunately it never happens. We have to make our own closure by realizing what they are and that they will never ever change. Narcissists KNOW right from wrong, my friend, they just don’t give a shit – and thats the truth. Everyone she meets gets treated exactly the same way. She had no problem wasting your time and making you feel that awful sense of betrayal. They do what they want in the moment with no sense of consequence and without a moral compass. It’s simply horrible and unless a person has experienced the madness for themselves, they will never understand.

      I just sent you my book about the female narc (When Evil Is a Pretty Face) from my personal email. I sent it to the email that you used to submit your post so please look for it. I believe it will help you get a handle on exactly what happened. YOU were never the problem, brother, and we are all here to support you:)

      Zari xo

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