A Narcissist Always Returns (The Hoovering)

why-narcissists-returnA narcissist will always return to an ex-lover to ensure that his narcissistic supply still pines for him and that she never moves on from the pain he has caused her. Referred to as the hoover (or, as I like to call it, The Hoovering, because, to me, it smacks of a scary movie!), this return is very deliberate and typically won’t occur until the narcissist has been gone just slightly longer than the time before. By timing these reappearances perfectly, the narcissist conditions his victim to not only expect him to come back but also to expect him to come back at a much later date, thus giving him more play time in the interim. All of this is part of the narcissist’s control/validate tactic which, in turn, is all a part of the process of managing down our expectations of the relationship so that we expect less and less and he gets away with more. It’s such a subtle conditioning that victims often don’t even know it’s happening…like a horror show coming soon whether you like it or not.

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As you know, a hoover usually follows a silent treatment (which is really a break-up in disguise, by the way) and comes long after the victim has been completely devastated by the silence. The narcissist may hoover in several different ways and for various reasons, with each hoovering event staged according to that pathological relationship agenda that all narcissists live by.

For example, a narcissist may 1) come back full-on by simply showing up and expecting to pick up right where he left off without a single repercussion, OR 2) not quite ready to return but still wanting you to prepare for the possibility, he’ll begin hoovering with a sporadic text or an email or he’ll ring your phone (hanging up before you answer) from either his number or one he knows you’ll recognize and associate with him. With the second type of hoover, any attempts on your part to return the text, call, or email will likely go unanswered because the intention here is not to actually communicate with you but rather to warm you up to the situation…to get you feeling anxious, confused, and maybe even quietly excited about his possible return.

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Whichever tactic he uses, the narcissist’s intention is to keep your mind spinning with “what-if’s” so that you never even get a chance to move on. Again, as part of his agenda, this manipulative behavior lays the groundwork for the next discard which, of course, will come faster (after his return) and with far more crippling intensity than all the discards before it. This agenda – which all victims of narcissist abuse are familiar with – is described in great detail in my book When Love Is a Lie. Nothing a narcissist ever does is random and that’s a fact.

For my narcissist ex, changing cell numbers before a return (and arming himself with a ridiculous excuse as to why he did it) became his preferred tactic for erasing his tracks. This tactic caused me a great deal of anxiety and sleepless nights and I even created a name it – The Cell Phone Game. It took many years to figure it out but I finally concluded that the timing of each number change and subsequent hoover was directly related to the condition of his relationships and the direction that he felt he had to run.  Of course he never admitted to this,  but I am confident to this day that my theory was spot-on. For 13-years, if he wanted to return, new numbers were not only part of the hoover with me but also a way to disappear from someone else. Like any good narcissist, he knew exactly how to do it and I’m sure you’ll find that it sounds familiar.

Anywhere from 2-weeks to 3-months after a deafening silence, the hoovering would begin. If my ex intended to return full-on, he’d simply text out-of-the-blue from his new cell number, asking to meet me for a drink (and, sadly, those were the only times he’d ever take me out). If he was just testing the waters and not quite ready for me to have his new number, he’d hoover by giving my phone just a single ring from odd numbers around town belonging to businesses and payphones – numbers that no one in the world except me would ever recognize on a Caller ID. In essence, he’d be counting on me to recall those numbers as the random numbers he used to call me from when we were together and he had no phone at all! And he was right… I always recognized them and felt instant anxiety. Again, nothing a narcissist does is ever random. Everything is a strategy. With my ex, I’m sure that the odd locations from where he’d call me when he had no phone (while we were together) became a way to set the the stage for future hoovering when he didn’t want me to know his new number. And I’m sure that his nonchalant disinterest in taking me out during the good times had much to do with his planning for future hoovers where just a single text (out-of-the-blue) requesting a “date” was all that was needed to grab my attention. Sound far-fetched...or does it sound familiar?

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If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this: a narcissist only hoovers and/or returns to ensure that you never move on from the pain he has caused you. No matter what he tells you, this is the only reason. A narcissist’s intention, after all, is to always keep you in the queue, ready and waiting alongside all the others (and there are always others). Hoovers are stuffed with lies and future-fakery and downright bullshit. It’s a sick game of cat and mouse that will steal years from your life if you allow it. At some point we have to simply say “That’s enough” and refuse to be there when the narcissist returns.

No Contact is the key to escaping The Hoovering and the narcissist’s life-long plan for you. It’s also the only opportunity you’ll ever have for breaking the codependency to hope that the narcissist counts on you to cling to while he’s gone. Remember, the narcissist is never worried about what you’re doing while he’s gone or that you’ve found a better love because he’s conditioned you to wait for him…to wait for the hoover.

It’s time to ignore the subtle signs of hoovering  and get on with your life. No one has a right to manipulate our emotions and it should never be acceptable to any of us. By enabling the narcissist’s behaviors, we set ourselves up to fail each and every time and we deserve better. Say “no more” and mean it! Remain committed to No Contact and to creating your happiness.  I, for one, know you can do it!

Stay strong and I’m here to support you….

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  • Stephanie

    February 18, 2017 at 4:46 pm Reply

    If you post my recent comment will you please not show my last name.. I didn’t realize when I used my g-mail account it added my first and last name when it sent. I don’t want my ex nowing I am trying to get help.

    • Zari Ballard

      February 19, 2017 at 1:31 pm Reply

      Consider it done! Last name removed and your comments will be posted very soon as I respond to them…xo

  • Stephanie

    February 18, 2017 at 4:23 pm Reply

    Dear Zari,

    I need your help please. I don’t know if my ex was an Narcissist or not. Some of what he did sounds like it. We dated for 2 yrs and in the 2 years I endured so much. I now suffer from not being able to sleep, not eating well, and I have deleted my social media accounts. When we first started dating he would tell me stories about his ex wife. How he had to make her leave because she got hooked on drugs, and how they got in an argument one night because he came home drunk one night and woke up with a women’s skirt on. I fed in on his stories about how he was treated and felt so sorry for him. For the first 6 months I was in cloud 9 and thought he was eveeything that I wanted. Then out of the blue one night he started calling me names until the point I started crying. I didn’t know what to do so I just sat in his bathroom crying. I eventually left that night. I was going to leave him a lone for good and then he called me crying saying how much he loved me and I was everything he ever wanted that he was so sorry. So I eneded up staying with him. Things would go food for about a month or two and we wouod run into someone that new his ex and later on that night he would call me names, the he would start showing me pictures of other women saying that he could have that person if he wanted them, and call me more names. This time both of our kids was there. I tried to go in another room and he would find me and keeo going. I was supposed to watch his kid the next day so I went in his son’s room and told him that I was sorry I was going to have to leave and take my son. When he found me in his kids room he flipped and told me to leave. I didn’t have my car with me, so my son and I started to walk and I called a friend. While we was walking my ex ran after me telling me how sorry he was and to please come back. He loved me and he didn’t want to loose me. I told him to leave me alone and kept walking. The next day I had a text from him wanting to know why I left, and telling me thanks for leaving him stuck to where he had to call in. I texted him and told him he knew why I left and he swore he didn’t know that he was drunk and didn’t remember anything. I tried to ignore his text, so he had his mom call me. She was telling me how much he loved me and how he was so sorry. That he would go get help, blah blah blah. I believed her and went back to him. I love him so much and wanted to believe that he would get help. Things seemed great for a while, but off. I noticed he was texting more on his phone and when I asked him who it was he said an old friend. It was a girl ! He swore it was nothing, but after our past arguments it was kinda hard for me to believe. So when he wasn’t looking I did go through his phone. There was a couple of girls. One of them was showing a pic of her in her bathing suit. I was upset, but said nothing until he started in on me one night calling me names again, putting me down, and throwing a women up in my face saying she was hott and he didn’t know why he was with an old B*!ch like me. I left when he started to do that. And the next day he came to my house got on his knees and startes crying saying that he was sorry and he would do anything to make it up. Of course I gave in because I love him. This went on a couple more times. It got to where I was starting to be depressed and not wanting to go anywhere. I checked his phone again and he had 3 other womem he was talking to. This time he was sending them pics of his body and talking bad about me. It broke my heart!! My friends where telling me to leave him, but for some reason I just couldn’t. Until the last time he called me names I told him I was done. I left for 2 weeks and for some reason I felt so lost with out him. So I called him and told him I missed him. He said why should I believe you, you left me like 4 times. Like everything was my fault on the times that I left. He would call me sneaky and conniving, and say he didn’t want to be with someone like me. I would cry and go a couple of days without talking to him and then he would text me. I would get happy it was like I had forgotten about what he had done in the past. Then out of the blue he would tell me to loose his number and he was with someone new. That she was a perfect 10, she buys him things, and that he really thinks that she is the one. This had broken my heart. I felt like I was going crazy. I went a few days and he would text me again and ask how I was doing. I would text him back saying ok and how I wanted him back and I was sorry that I kept walking away from him. He just would say how can I trust that. And then say he missed me and the great times. Then out of the blue again you know I am with someone leave me alone. I told you she was the one. I went to feeling confused to feel more crazier and like something was wrong with me. So I stooped so low and texted him from a number that he didn’t know acting like someone else. When he didn’t respond I texted his son acting like my son to see if he actually had someone else. His son said he did. And then my ex ended up texting me saying how crazy I was and to never text him again that he was done and he and his new girl was moving in together that she is the one. They had only been together for a month. But I have no idea if she is ine of the girls that he was talking to while he was with me. So far he has left me alone since that day he told me he was moving together, but he does make sure that I hear how happy he is with this new girl. It tears me up. Since I have deleted my social media there is know way for him to rub anything in my face. And I am starting to feel a little better, but I am so scared that if this girl doesn’t work out that he will try to contact me again. I just want to feel like me again and don’t know how, because I still find myself crying and thinking about him. Some days it will even feel like he is here cussing me and calling me names and putting me down again. So I would start to cry again. Please help!! Was he a Narcissist and if so how can I move on? And if he does come back how do I deal with it?

    • Zari Ballard

      February 19, 2017 at 4:16 pm Reply

      Hi Stephanie,

      Let me ask YOU a question, girlfriend…what is there about this creep that would lead you to believe for even a split second that he ISN’T a narcissist?? I would go a step further and say that he borders on sociopathic! Now that he is gone, you MUST move on. Thank God it was only two short years…learn from my mistakes and do NOT do what I did, hanging on for NOTHING and wasting what could have been the best years of my life. Do not put yourself through it. Do not put your son through it. Block this jerk’s phone number…call your cell carrier so that he can not even leave a message. Do not allow your son to continue a relationship with his son…it’s just not worth it and your son will get over it.

      Read every article on this website (there are over 80 of them) and my book When Love Is a Lie if you can. If you’d like to talk about it, I do offer phone support and am always happy to help. Other than that, I would say that reading and re-reading the very post that you wrote to me above is all the boost that you need to kick this memory to the curb. A sociopathic narcissist cheater and emotional abuser has no place in your life. And I wouldn’t let that slip in the beginning of how he awoke with a woman’s skirt on fly by either. He told you that to see if he could get away with it and he did. After that, to him, the rest was easy. I have no doubt he’s not only a narcissistic sociopath but a sexually deviant one as well. Run and do not look back. This guy is the worst of the worst and you and your son deserve a happy, peaceful life. YOU did nothing wrong.

      Stays strong,

      Zari xo

  • Maria

    February 15, 2017 at 7:26 am Reply

    Hi what does it mean when my Narccisst never hooverd or tried to contact? We broke up 3 years ago?

    • Zari Ballard

      February 17, 2017 at 10:52 pm Reply

      Hi Maria,

      I don’t know why he hasn’t tried to contact you but THIS IS A GOOD THING. The majority of narcs do try to return at some point but there is no way of knowing when they will do it. We have to assume that they won’t and make it an impossibility by blocking, etc. Again, his not contacting you is a very good thing.

      Zari xo

  • Ashley

    February 14, 2017 at 4:39 pm Reply

    Hi Zari, i hope you can provide a answer,I posted this on several blog no one wanted to answer it. But mine Narcisst broke up with me here years ago and he never ever hovered neither did I. How come he never tried since they always do? Not that i want him too l I just wonder . Thanks in advance

    • Zari Ballard

      February 17, 2017 at 10:36 pm Reply

      Hi Ashley,

      I don’t know the whole story, girl, and you’d have to fill me in. Maybe he was just an asshole and not even a narcissist. Not every asshole cheater is a narcissist. He could have just been a jerk and the relationship just didn’t work out. Not every story follows the pattern exactly. To me, the fact that you think he’s a narc means that he’s nothing nice. I would stop wondering about why he hasn’t contacted you and just count your blessings!!

      Zari xo

  • Sherrie

    February 12, 2017 at 12:01 pm Reply

    Hi Zari,

    I have been reading through your pages for the last few days and they have really helped me. If only in the fact that they have kept my mind busy and able to resist the temptation to txt him.

    I have been with my narc for 5 years and we had a good first year. The sex was mind blowing and id never felt such chemistry before. When we had been together a year we had a little row about the amount of time he spent on the phone to his ex wife. It was nothing major but all of he sudden he went quiet on me and then sent me a txt to say it was over. His explanation was that he thought the world of me but that he wasn’t the man for me. He ignored me for 2 days and then came back saying how much he was attracted to me and how if he saw me he would rip my clothes off. I was back there straight away.

    Everything was peachy for another 6 months and then I caught him out on a lie. He ignored me for a week. The pattern continued like this for the next year or so. He did exactly as he wanted and I rarely complained but the moment I did, he would disappear and give me the silent treatment just to punish me. Once it lasted 4 weeks and I even went on a date with someone else. The minute he found out he sent me a random txt asking where I was because he had made me dinner ?? And I went !!

    This time round I felt that he had finally realised what a great relationship we could have because he asked me to move in with him. I was overjoyed and felt that finally we could have a proper ‘grown up’ relationship. (I am now 40 and he is 52). We lived together for a year and it was the worst of my life. He would be busy every night and made me beg for his time, he would ignore me for days, he would lie about where he was going and say that he was at the gym but my friends would tell me that they had saw him sat alone looking sad in pubs. After a year our lease come up on our flat and I kept asking to look at new places but he kept making excuses about why he couldn’t. Eventually he called me from work to tell me that he had bought a flat and he wanted to live there without me !! I was completely heartbroken. And so it seemed was he when the day came that I moved out. He cried like a baby.

    I got myself a new place and I stupidly gave in and allowed him back in my life and he stays at mine almost every night. All of his things are here and I make dinner for him every single day but our relationship causes me nothing but anxiety. Every night he has things that he has to do, going to see his parents, dealing with his kids, sorting out his van, getting stuff for work. He will tell me every lie going but I know that 9 times out of 10 hes at a bar or pub.He then turns up at mine about 9 – 9.30 (he finishes work at 4.30 and works 5 mins from my house) eat his dinner, makes his lunch for work and then fall asleep, I don’t actually get any decent time from him. I am not one for questioning and I think that I’m pretty laid back but occasionally I will question the logic of what hes told me and just gets annoyed, goes quiet for the evening and disappears for a few days.

    That’s is where I am at today. I had barely seen him for days and I was hoping that he would come straight home from work but he txt and told me that he was taking his son for dinner and that he would come to me afterwards. I replied and asked what about the dinner I had prepared and why hadn’t he let me know earlier. He phoned me 3 or 4 times in panic, assuming I was angry and said that his son was just eating then he would take him back to his mum and come down. He was at mine within 20 minutes, the logistics just didn’t work so I knew he’d been lying but I didn’t feel in the mood to question him. The next evening he comes down with his son and I ask him, how was your dinner with dad last night and his reply was that he hadn’t seen him. Something in me just clicked and I knew that Id had enough. He could tell I was mad even though I didnt want to make a comment in front of his son. He txt me later that evening to thank me for dinner and said sorry for telling a little white lie, he said he’d had a bad day at work and needed a drink. I txt him back and and told him that I was done !! That was 2 days ago and i’ve heard nothing since. I have no desire to contact him or see him and I feel much stronger this time but I am trying myself up in knots wondering what he’s thinking. Does he care, is he glad, does he feel relieved ? I have never been in the situation where I have had made no contact with him and its bothering me that I think he doesn’t care….does any of this make sense.

    I’m so sorry for such a long winded post but it feels so good, almost cathartic to explain this to people who I think will understand as all of my friends just think I’m crazy for putting up with his bullshit and hearing me mope about it.

    Is he a narc or just not a very nice person? I could write so much more but won’t. One extra point though, he has never in 5 years told me that he loves me and if I dare to tell him, he replies ‘I know’.

    Thank you for listening.


    • Zari Ballard

      February 17, 2017 at 10:32 pm Reply

      Hi Sherrie,

      I am going to go to my personal email right now and send you a copy of my book When Love Is a Lie because it discusses everything that you’ve shared in your post. This guy is a typical narc and he needs to go along on his way. This pattern will continue until the end of time if you allow it, girl. My ex did the EXACT same things. I, too, didn’t say much or questions things but when I did, he’d leave, go silent. These types of guys manage down our expectations so that we accept nothing but crumbs and they get to do what they want. Mine too, did the disappearing act and then would text me with the benign invitation to drinks or dinner and I would go. Ridiculous!

      Check your email for the book – I’ll send it now. There is a way out. Five years is way too long…don’t do what I did. Learn from my mistakes…

      Zari xo

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