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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  • 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!!

  • Shirley

    January 3, 2017 at 2:39 pm Reply

    OMG, I was reading your “tap nd run” comment and did not understand until it happened to me. I gave been no contact since September 2016. I got a Merry Christmas text and Happy New Year text. On New Years night about 8:30 pm. I was in the bathroom when I heard this tap on my living room window. What is so funny he bypassed by bedroom window (light was on) and walked to my living room which (no lights) tapped several times and that was it. WTF ——- This crap is beginning to be funny. I want nothing to do with him and I made it perfectly clear that I was no longer a part of his “haram” and I am done —– so done you can put a fork in it. smh Thought I was in the clear til now, but he gets no reply from me. Like the bible say, “ignore the devil and he will flee from you.” I know what he is trying to do but it ain’t working this time. Can’t stand the fact that he insults my intelligence to not know that he is with someone else. I see him a an attention whore, they all are. The cause of no contact was that I called him on what I knew it was doing and like a little bitch, he disappeared. He knows I am on to him.

  • Genoveve Deary

    December 31, 2016 at 7:43 am Reply

    I was with a narcissist my second narcissist boyfriend for a year now this one was far more malignant then the first one he was the type that would throw you to the wolves and enjoy watch you get eaten.he was sadistic in his nature evil and down right heartless.in the beginning he was so amazing he told me he loved me on the first day the sex was amazing he could go for hours trying to go out his way to please me and showered with me attention and told me how beautiful I was and how happy he was that I wanted to be his girlfriend he wanted to get a place together immediately spoke fondly of marriage and how badly he wanted a family I was still recovering from my previousl relationship with a narc so I thought I was saved by this man but as the relationship began to progress he became extremely possessive and controlling he would go through my cell phone in front of me and swear at my friends I had on my phone including my family members he Turned my own sister against me I think she had given up on me when she told me so many times what a heartless narcissist he was and Still I was with this monster but it was already to late I was already in to deep when I would not answer his calls he would stalk my place threat end to break my things especially my phone he would smack it against his steering wheel or run his key along the screen telling me how much he wanted to break it because he was convinced I was sleeping around he found out I went out once and came to my flat and smashed one of the tentants cars aswell as stole her possessions out her car all because he was convinced I was seeing someone he left messages on my phone calling me names like whore bitch c%@and telling me how no man would want me as I have three kids and reminded me that he has lots of young sexy women after him i presume the other girls he slept with and that he can pick and choose and that I am a piece of shit to him that could easily be replaced and that he would kill me and the man I am with and make me suffer and enjoy watching me suffer he said this to me on a daily basis I became a nervous wreck he physically assaulted me and treated me like a sex slave he would want it whenever he felt like it irrespective of how I felt when I was on my period he demanded it and then said how disgusting piece of sh%@ I was for making him dirty the next day he was apparently done with me and blocked me and just like that I was gone two days later he suddenly unblocked me and began rubbing it it on my face at how amazing his new girlfriend was and how I worthless I was after all that I still took him back and he became more controlling and possessive over me he said he would keep me prisoner in his place so he could watch me like a hawk two days he locked me in his place while he went to work depriving me from seeing my kids I broke out and he came to my place and began smashing my personal belongings it was that very day he punched me in the throat and threw me into the ground and caused trouble with my family trying to turn them against me he turned all my friends and family against me aswell as good decent men that may have been interested in me he reminded me on a daily basis that no man would put up with what he puts up with I got to a point where I wanted out I was so miserable being with him that I disappeared for a month already finding out I was three months pregnant with his child he went into a narcissistic rampage and began stalking my Facebook bombarding me with messages contacting all my family members about my whereabouts and that he had every right to know where I was as I had his baby inside me this was after he had smashed my phone in my place in front of my dying father all while blaming me everything was my fault his messages to my family soon turned into being in tears and how madly in love he was with me and that he is dying without me in his life and begged my family how he would change and be a good man well I stupidly caved and contacted him I went to his place and he soon proposed to me and everything was back on track again well so i thought until he became more abusive to me he would go from saying he loved me to how he would kill me and the unborn child inside me he demanded my attention 24 7 and expected it on demand all while treating me like a piece of dirt I would spend weekends at his place with my daughters and he became spending a great deal of time with my oldest daughter who is 7 I would catch him spooning her in bed and he pushed for sex in front of my kids as I got heavier in the pregnancy he became more and more heartless and abusive and I suspected him of cheating he would show me pictures of very young attractive girls he was talking to behind my back and how he would marry them and take our child away and have them mother my child he threatened me on a daily basis how he would put my kids in Foster care all because I would not do as he said he said you need to listen to me and do as you told otherwise this will not work when I went into labour two months earlier then expected all due to the stress he inflicted on me caused me to have a premature baby while I was going into labour I phoned him and begged him to take me to hospital his reply was cold and uncaring and said he could not as he was at his dads and had no car as it was in repairs well I had the entire birth and labour without him soon after I was discharged he had an almost 6th sense I was out and came after me begging to see me and the baby and that he loved and missed me he barged into my place and told me he is going to the UK for 6 Months to earn money as he sees no future in this country I was of course upset that he was going to up and leave his new born he was he then stared fighting with me telling me how he hoped I died and that his child was everything to him and that I was nothing I ended things with him and he confessed to being in a relationship with a women and confessed to cheating on me with her while i was going into labour with our daughter I was hysterical and told him I was done and that it was over and to get out my life he tried to break the bars of my gate to get in and hurt me he was out raged I wanted out of the relationship and was not having it he told me how gorgeous she is and that she is a swim suit model he even sent a video of them making love of course I was devastated he blamed me for cheating and that if I had just been what he needed he would never have gone for her and that he still wanted me but I had to listen to him the cheek!!!!!!well of course it has been 10 days and I qm currently in NC he hasn’t tried to contact me as he said his new girlfriend( the swim suit model)was down for Xmas and spending a few weeks with him this is the longest he hasn’t contacted me I suspect its because she is down so he is lavishing in the glorious supply she is feeding him I have spoken to a previous ex of his and she experienced the same treatment as he gave me and that he harassed her for 6 months before giving up every one who knows him and me knows he will be back to use the child to further control me and manipulate me he is leaving to the UK in a months time so I know I will have 6 month’s more respite from him but I definitely feel he is gone this time his new supply is rich aswell and loved to gloat how she gave him money whenever he needed it he is doing all this and not paying a dime for his child I’m so depressed and the thought of him being with this women is making me sick I feel he has discarded me and our daughter I don’t want him in my life I hate him for everything he has caused me when my father died he actually said how happy the old bastard was dead and how he hoped he suffered a painful death I am no psychologist but I am convinced he is a narcissist/sociopath he has no empathy and is highly abusive he even proudly confessed how bad of a criminal mind he had and that him and I could have been the next bonnie and Clyde had I played my cards right with him I hate this man so much and I dread the day he hoovers again If he does I’m seriously traumatized from this even though I’m 10 days in NC I’m straggling with depression and hope this nightmare ends soon

    • Zari Ballard

      January 3, 2017 at 6:07 am Reply

      Hi Genoveve,

      I am pretty speechless at your story. Yes, he is a narcissist and also a sociopath and also a psychopath. I believe that he could kill you, I really do. I understand that you are traumatized but there are children involved here. This man wanted you to have sex in front of the children…you found him spooning your daughter…Good God. This “bad” that he is is as good as its ever going to get! How on earth can he be punching you in the throat, dissing you during childbirth, cheating on you, holding you hostage, yet he is turning people against you? Your own family? Are you sticking up for yourself I hope?

      I believe that you hate this man but I do not believe that he will go to the UK. You have to make your own freedom, girl. You must disappear, block him, change your number, GET OFF SOCIAL MEDIA…if you can’t do it for yourself, please do it for your daughters. Do you really think that he HASN’T molested them? I doubt very much they would even admit that it has happened given that he threatens…you must assume that it has. Look, I understand everything about staying with narcs and sociopaths that treat us like shit. I understand the addiction. But when these monsters become child molesters (real or perceived, it doesn’t matter!) and allude to sexual activity with your children and eventually their own, it all comes to an end. It has to.

      Let this girl have him. Who cares? I hope and pray that he never comes back…you and your daughter will be just fine without him. But I would hide where he couldn’t find me. His jealousy all that time was just a projection of his cheating that entire time. Narcs, sociopaths, and psychopaths will bombard you with so many accusations of cheating just to distract you from the fact that they are cheating the whole time.

      The nightmare will not end unless you end it. Let him have his new girlfriend…let her take his punishments and abuse. I don’t even know what to say. Please find some help before something very bad happens. God Bless you, my sister.

      Zari xoxoxo

  • Justine

    October 29, 2016 at 6:24 pm Reply

    Thank you for this article! I am so in awe of the generously and help offered in the writings on this subject and this article, is a pearl. That ‘time’ is irrelevant and frozen to the narcissist (just as their ability to love) has hit me like a bursting balloon. I am aware of the many intricate and other special characteristics these creatures contain but this thought is perfect and new to me – it makes complete sense!! It’s hilarious that we are driven half crazy first, before crazy sounds sane… Such is the life of our recovery… But thank you, a thousand thank yous – I am ‘Frozen’ to my hoovering ex who has the kids (weekends) as his permanent version of keeping an eye on me which is unfortunate but I have got gray rock down – I’m all over it and we all ‘work’ very well – until I love again, which is yet to happen… I learn more every day on how to go about dealing with that when the time comes…

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