A Narcissist’s Hoovering is a Timeless Control Tactic

narcissist-timeless-hooverTo a narcissist, hoovering is a timeless tactic for controlling a target, validating that control, and periodically checking an ex’s queue-status. And when I say “timeless”, I mean TIMELESS as in time is of NO consequencetime is NOT of the essence…time never runs out…and there’s no time like now to hoover “whomever I want because, well, I want to and because I have all the time in the world!” Now, while the average person reading this (who knows nothing about narcissism in relationships) might ask What the fuck is she talking about?, I’m willing to bet that all my experienced comrades here know where I’m going with this. If you don’t, bear with me and you will in a minute. I have a theory!

As we all know, after a break-up with a narcissist, the discarded partner will often anticipate – and even wait for – the inevitable hoover simply because she’s been conditioned to do so throughout the course of the relationship. The discarded partner knows that a hoover could technically come anywhere from five minutes to five years and longer after a discard or break-up. In addition, the hoover always occurs with the same casual fanfare no matter when it happens which is why we’re intrigued by it at the same time that it repulses us. That the narcissist can deliver a hoover at the post break-up five month mark as if he just left an hour ago and do so as if it’s the most natural thing in the world continues to be a mind-blower.

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As we know, hoovers can come in many forms including the following:

  1. a hang up call from a private number
  2. a call with a lingering silence or soft breathing on the other end
  3. a text from his number or any odd number with no words in it or a text from his number with just one word in it (i.e. Hey) or a text from his number sent to you as a message for someone else (a tactic I call the “phony accidental” hoover)
  4. a FB friend request, an out-of-the-blue de-friend, a sudden unblock from his FB or suddenly becoming blocked from his FB (not that you should be checking, mind you)
  5. ghostly yet familiar taps at the door every few months – a tactic used by my ex that I call the “tap-and-run”. Like a twisted adult version of that childhood stunt where we’d ring a neighbor’s doorbell and then hide in the bushes, my ex would give the obligatory three taps and then simply stroll back to his car sucking on a cigarette, never looking back. The truth is that he really didn’t care if I answered the door anyway, nor did he even expect that I would. The point of a “tap-and-run” is simply to get me wondering – and maybe even obsessing – about those mysterious little taps! Was it him? Was it HIM???

Now, at the same time that we fear the hoover, we kinda sorta hope we get one because then that could mean that the game is still on in some twisted, familiar fashion. We feel empowered when we don’t respond, calling it “No Contact”, but to a narcissist, our non-response doesn’t even matter. It’s a control/validate tactic that takes little or no effort on his part to get our minds reeling – and that’s good enough for him. After all, how hard is it to dial a number and then hang up?? We might claim to go no contact while “forgetting” to close off at least one avenue of communication. Ooops! We begin to see every day occurrences as possible hoovers and we over-analyze them. Some of you even come to my website to have me analyze them for you. I was on FB today and noticed that Ray’s brother’s girlfriend’s son’s father’s mother commented on one of my old posts. Do you think he’s hoovering? I’m only making fun because I did this myself so many times I can’t count. The crazy thing is that we’re usually right! If our gut tells us it’s a hoover, it most likely is.

zari-ballard-consultSo, how does the narcissist justify sending a hoover months down the road…maybe even years down the road…when the break-up itself was so awful and when he knows we’re trying almost everything in the world to avoid him? The answer, to the N, is in the timelessness of the hoovering tactic. You see, the narcissist lives a compartmentalized life where time basically stands still, allowing him to juggle his numerous compartments, break a variety of hearts, go completely silent, and return to the scene of the crime as if nary a second has passed. How does he do this so easily and effortlessly and with a straight face? To a narcissist, it’s easy because time basically stands still.

In my mind, a narcissist views the passage of time during a relationship like this: five years is like five months, five months is like five weeks, and five weeks is like five seconds. Go ahead and substitute any number you like for the “five” in my example. The narcissist never really “moves on” when the relationship ends because he’s actually been moving on (yet standing still) the entire time. He simply has no conception of time unless of course, it’s your time that he’s concerned about and, most likely, inconvenienced by during the relationship. Then and only then does time matter. Aside from that, time is of no consequence at all. It simply does not move along in a normal manner for these creatures and the never-ending or out-of-the-blue hoover is proof of that.

Part of me believes that the narcissist’s “problem” with time has much to do with the fact that he (or she) lacks genuine human emotion. I mean, think about it: the conception of time is actually connected to everything that is emotional. We feel better or worse with time, we use time to heal our wounds, we look forward to a certain time or we wish a certain time would never come, on some days time appears to move slow and on other days it flies by, people age with time and attitudes change…it goes on and on. For a normal person, the passage of time is typically riddled with all different types of emotion. A narcissist isn’t affected by emotion because he has little or no capability for it. Therefore, to a narcissist, time stands still!

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My theory would also explain how a narcissist can do the same bad things over and over day after day only to admonish you for “living in the past” when you bring this repetitive bad behavior to his attention. To him, yesterday is NOT the past. He doesn’t know what it is exactly but he’s just knows it isn’t that! It’s just yesterday. This also explains why he keeps all exes on a phantom tether to be yanked back with a hoover at any moment in time. What’s an “ex” anyway, to a narcissist? To a narcissist, an ex is basically is just someone he once had a “relationship” with and who is now being subjected to an indefinite silent treatment.

Does this all sound crazy? Of course it does! Would anyone other than a person who has been involved with a narcissist even begin to understand it? Of course not! The hoover, if we really think about it, is some crazy shit! The hoover keeps us mentally connected to the narcissist even before it comes and long after the relationship is over. If we didn’t have to worry about anticipating hoovers, no contact would be completely unnecessary. After a bit of sadness, we could simply move on with our lives like most people do after normal break-ups. It’s only when we realize that hoovers occur because narcissists basically can’t “feel” the significance of time that we can begin to move on. We have to see hoovers for what they are and accept that they lack real feeling or substance of any kind. Narcissists don’t hoover because they love and/or miss us. By it’s definition according to my theory, a hoover is far less important than, say, the infrequent called-to-say-hi phone call or text from an ex-boyfriend or husband with whom we parted amicably and from whom we didn’t have to block ourselves post-break-up to keep our sanity.

It’s time to forget about the hoovering, my friends. It’s time to stop worrying and wondering if he’ll ever hoover again…if the last hoover was really the last hoover or if every insignificant but related event could possibly be a hoover. There’s no way for you or for me to ever know for sure if our time in the queue will come up. The bottom line is that we have to live our lives as if he’s NEVER COMING BACK – EVER. While we might not always be able to completely destroy every avenue of communication, we have to do our very best to try. The truth is that our exes never went the extra mile to do ANYTHING while in the relationship and they’re not about to start now. Usually blocking social media and all cell phones numbers is good enough to keep them at bay. If you do at least that, you should be just fine.

For 2016, make a commitment to NOT allow the narcissist to move in and out of your life as if time doesn’t exist. If he had his druthers, he would keep you standing still (a.k.a. frozen in time) just like him so that you never move forward. That’s’ the whole point of everything he does. He will try until the end of time (which, of course, is ENDLESS) TO KEEP YOU IN THE QUEUE. And what we allow, will continue. Let’s promise to help each other to never allow this type of life intrusion ever again.




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  • ASH

    May 9, 2017 at 2:12 am Reply

    He does drive bys at my work. Every couple of months. He gets bold enough to pause right at my window before driving off.
    Sometimes he runs by.
    He never contacts me. He’ll look for me like to see if he’s seen, but I stay gray rock. Zero response. No acknowledgment.
    It’s been 10 months. Will this ever end? Can I make it stop?

  • Sonja

    March 12, 2017 at 12:50 pm Reply

    We are separated now for 6 months after a 37 yr marriage . I have had cancer for 6 years. At least the last two years of silent treatment. The sicker I got the more he retreated. He cheated on me during chemo and I suspected but held my tongue until I was well. Things got much worse when I accused him and was actually relieved when he finally left me. Still suffering sporadically. BUT my problem is this. He now calls my sister regularly out for dinner (for company – or to spy on me) regardless. My sister now is sympathetic to him and keeps telling me everything I did wrong instead of siding with me so I get no support from her. I’ve told her to stop telling me when she sees him as she won’t listen to the narcissism theory. She sees him as generous and stressed by a sick wife. She is charmed by him. And never listened to my complaints during my marriage. She actually says well u wanted this. I feel a double whammy. Lost my husband and misunderstood by my last remaining family member. How can I ever get her to understand my pain? And of course it’s still so new I’m looking for the magic that was once there. Still very confused. But firm that he is a N.

    • Zari Ballard

      March 18, 2017 at 5:41 pm Reply

      Dearest Sonja,

      I am so terribly sorry for your situation and I can only imagine the pain. As you know, your sister is behaving VERY badly – almost to the point of it being UNFORGIVABLE. From a narc, we expect this type of horrendous, hurtful behavior but not from our own sister! He is doing this on purpose and she is playing right into it. This being said, what she is doing is WORSE in my eyes and there is something dark under her actions. As hard as this is, she need NOT be in your life right now as you continue with your recovery. YOU ARE A SURVIVOR at six years in, sister, and these two people do not have a single thing to do with it. You are RIGHT to be separated from this man and he deserves an even further punishment. After 37 years of hell, I hope that you are getting financial support from him and if not, DIVORCE HIM so that you be sure to get it. Do not allow him to cause you further stress. He is hanging out with your sister to hurt you to the bone and it is UNACCEPTABLE. He will never ever change – never.

      As for your sister, she is committing the ultimate betrayal. And I don’t care if she’s sleeping with him or not. She shouldn’t be speaking with him – let alone seeing him out – AT ALL. I have a feeling that she has always “liked” him and he has always known this so as soon as you were separated – and maybe even before – he jumped on it because what better way to hurt you? Again, from him, I would expect this but from her? HELL NO!! I know she is your only remaining family member but she is not really “family” at this point because true family would NEVER do this.

      Focus on YOU, sister. This is about YOUR life. I say cut them both off completely and focus on you and you alone. If you can still be here fighting after six years of cancer, YOU CAN SURVIVE THIS glitch in the family matrix. Do you understand this? You are an amazing person and to hell with both of them!

      Love to you, my sister…..please write anytime….

      Zari xo

  • MaryEllen

    February 21, 2017 at 1:24 pm Reply

    I was just discarded the second time within a year of our relationship. For reasons that are just not worth breaking up if you really care about the relationship. He even said I still want to be your friend the day he broke up with the second time. I do not know how to tell his daughter we can not continue being business partners because this
    would still link me to her father. I know they are both very close and get
    along very well. She lives with him and practically the only person she
    speaks to , other than her sister who is very different from her. I am
    afraid this is one way of him having control over me, of what I do, knowing
    how I am doing etc. I am afraid that once I tell her , she and father can
    buy the domain name, or do something against me. I want to start this on
    my own now, and I have another person, a professional that is willing to
    help me with the website. I want to tell her that I will pay for her
    finishing the website, but then we must each move on and go our separate
    ways. Not because of her, but of her father. Am I wrong in doing so ?
    Can I still maintain this young women as my friend , in a work related
    business? I need your advise.

    He is not contacted me thank God, it´s been a month already. and I do not honestly think he will. I
    think he already has another source of supply. A visit from his deceased wife´s
    friend that is Malaysian and is divorced contacted him about 6 months ago to
    tell him she is going to visit him in March. She is older than I am, 70,
    but to a Narcissist age nor beauty matter, just what they can get from their
    victim. So I know he is done with me, like me with him. At times I even
    feel hate for him . Then other times I feel sorry for who he really is. I
    feel so mad at myself for not seeing this sooner, but I sure did learn a
    lot. Now I know what I truly want and expect in a healthy loving

    • Zari Ballard

      February 28, 2017 at 11:58 pm Reply

      Hi Mary Ellen,

      Thank you for writing and I’m grateful you found your way to my website. Don’t blame yourself for anything (it’s not allowed here – LOL!). All you did was fall in love and want to believe in the person you were in love with. The narcissist takes advantage of that and this is how we end up in the rabbit hole.

      It truly is a live and learn situation, sister, and this is all that we can do in life. Now that you know exactly what you want and what you expect, go for it with gusto. I wish you all the happiness in the world….

      Zari xo

  • Lynsey Tomlinson

    January 28, 2017 at 12:38 am Reply

    Since the discard ,after a disagreement were i tried asserting myself he left me at his house alone, went out and text me telling me its over and never to contact him again and immeadiately blocked me from any way trying to contact him .knowing he would of gone for a couple of days i went home .That was two weeks today and ive still heard nothing . Going from everyday talking to him constantly messaging each other when were not together for two and half years to this deadly silence which sometimes makes me feel like im going to human combust at any second is somthing im finding harder and harder each day .I keep having urges im trying to supress of writing to him of how hes making me feel , would this make me feel better that ive stuck up for myself a little , im not sure .Im wishing the days to go by as tommorrow might bring on the hoover or am i gonna go a life time now of feeling like a ghost .

    • Zari Ballard

      January 28, 2017 at 7:35 pm Reply

      Hi Lynsey,

      Yes, the silent treatment is a killer. If you can, read my book When Love Is a Lie because my story is all about that – the deafening silence and how I dealt with it. The silent treatment was my narc’s favorite thing to do – and the blocking. he controlled all of the communication. It nearly made me insane. There are articles on the silent treatment all over this website so please read them. You will survive it but you have to remain strong. No one should be allowed to treat us like that…like a piece of shit on their shoe. He certainly may return but I guarantee he will do it again and again, staying away just a little bit longer than the time before each time. My book explains all of it and how I mentally broke free from the madness.

      Stay strong and turn every day into Silence Appreciation Day!

      Zari xo

  • Lisa

    January 14, 2017 at 6:14 pm Reply

    Thank you for your reply Zari! He will most definitely stayed blocked on my social media (I only do facebook). I hadn’t thought about calling my carrier to see if I could have his number blocked! As I said, he is blocked on my phone, but I’m thinking he knows that iphones keep blocked messages so he assumes I’m listening. I didn’t even know my phone kept them myself until I stumbled upon it and there was a pile of them there! Thank you for the suggestion!

    Yes, I am well aware that he would die without tons of female attention, so he’s not pining away for me for the past year. Thank goodness his many schemes, tactics and lies no longer work on me and I no longer even for a second wonder if he has “really changed”. After a long road, it’s a good place to be!!

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