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 a hoover (or, as I call it, The Hoovering, because it smacks of a scary movie), this return is 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.

Click to Book!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 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.

Whatever 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 and with far more crippling intensity than all the ones before. 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.


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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. I even created a name for this tactic – The Cell Phone Game – and it caused me a good deal of anxiety. It took many years but I finally concluded that the timing of each number change/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 a hoover but a way to disappear from someone else. Like any good narcissist, he knew exactly how to do it and I’m sure you will find it familiar.

READ  The Pathological Liar: Sifting Thru a Narcissist's Word Garbage!

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 would get an instant knot in my stomach. Again, nothing a narcissist does is ever random. Everything is a strategy. With my ex, even the 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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  1. I’ve been “on and off” with my N for a year now, and it’s been nothing but pure mental hell. I can’t even tell you the amount of times he has broken up with me, of course giving me the silent treatment following, only to come back to me begging forgiveness and promising he’ll change”, that he truly wants to have a family with me and my 3 yr old daughter. It’s all a lie! Lies, lies, and more lies. He will even lie about the dumbest, most minor things. Absolutely anything and everything he can get away with. What’s worse is I work with him. He has destroyed me amongst our coworkers, who once used to be some of my closest friends. I can’t tell you how many people warned me about him, told me to leave. Eventually they get tired of seeing you in mental anguish and hearing about all the the bullshit he’s put you through that they stop being your friend. They can’t take it anymore, and either can you. But you can’t stop going Back! it only gets worse. Today I cracked and I’m so upset with myself honestly. I lasted 1 whole week without texting him. Just 1. I was driving to work and I couldn’t help but have this sick feeling in my gut that he was going to text me right before I went into work. Sure enough, he did, same thing as always “I really feel we need to talk…blah blah blah”. The whole time I’m at work he’s blowing up my phone with texts. I get off work and ask him what he would like to talk about, only for him to say he doesn’t want to talk anymore as it will probably escalate into fighting and to “have a good night”. All night he pleaded for me to give him a chance and when I finally try talking to him, nope. I can almost picture the smirk on his face as I write about it. Mental mind games. I vowed to myself after tonight that I will not tolerate this behavior anymore. Oh if I could only tell you the terrible things he has done to me, the amount of times he’s kicked me out of his house bc I didn’t say the “right thing”. Yet, I’m the one that is foolish enough to keep coming back.Its all part of my codependency and probably due to my childhood. Anyways, I’m trying to heal. I truly want to be free of him. Enough is enough. He is blocked from my phone and will remained blocked. I’m grateful to have sites like this that iI can lean on for support.

  2. A bit ashamed of how long I allowed this man to occupy my mind and heart. This site has truly opened my eyes. All the signs were there and I ignored them. It finally has a name. Narcissist. All makes sense now. I feel empowered to be done with it. Encouraging to know I am not alone. I wish strength and happiness to you all

  3. I’ve been dealing with my N on and off for 4 years now. I met him at a bar. I was with a few friends, he had just gotten off work and was alone. He flirted with me and was sweet, I was fresh out of a terrible relationship and got sucked in immediately. That same night a friend told me to stay away, that he had a girlfriend and it was serious. I listened, keeping him at arm’s length most of the summer but with much persistence on his end, by the end of that summer I had become the other girl. This lasted for months, on and off. Him vanishing, me trying to keep my distance. I allowed the game to go on until one night at a bar I heard rumors about him planning to marry said girlfriend. I went off the deep end telling a few people what was going on, how we’d been together a few nights before, and just full on melt down. Of course it got back to him, but I didn’t care. I was hurt, I was angry, I told him to leave me alone and never speak to me again. He obliged, but it was easy for him as just a few days later he was leaving for the military and would be without a phone. The day he got his phone back, of course my phone pinged.

    For awhile I was strong. It had been months and while he did have some control over me before that it was nothing compared to what it later would become. I was borderline annoyed when he started talking to me and he sensed it. It caused him to check the waters every so often, but not come full force. A few months later when he returned home the girlfriend dumped him, and unfortunately for him I had someone by then as well. He backed off completely, tail between his legs. Every so often though he’d check up, only via text, but he always let me know he was still there.

    Eventually my relationship began falling apart. My guy was a workaholic and not giving me any attention, and my N was checking on me daily. I felt wanted. I ended it with my boyfriend and even though my N was still serving started a long distance relationship with him thinking our time had finally come. He was amazing while away. Sweet, kind, caring. I felt so good about us and where we were headed. He had me looking at rings, talked about family, he had me hook line and sinker.

    He came home and things were okay, but then they got bad. The rumors started that he was cheating (he adamantly denied), his drinking was out of control, he couldn’t hold down work, he’d be just plain mean for no reason. He’d push me away, he’d pull me back, he’d tell me his friends didn’t like me. We’ve been doing this for months, only now has the silent treatment started. Yes, there were times where he’d want “space”. There was still talking though. A call, a text, something at least once a day. The full on silent treatment was introduced a few weeks ago and it is driving me mad. I’ve been fighting it. Calling from other phones, emailing, but I know that it’s in my best interest to stop. I know he’s getting off on my desperation, and that is what it is. I just genuinely feel like I can’t breathe. I crave his attention, and even though I know he’s so damn toxic I’m sitting here anxiously awaiting his return and hoping he really isn’t as done as he seems. That this is just his newest game.

  4. I discovered that the man I was dating could be or is a Narcissist. Our relationship has been on and off for 4 years. Our relationship was a constant roller coaster. He would get upset over the slightest thing I did break it off and then returns. I am emotionally exhausted and drained. Will he return will he stay away forever. I am struggling with trying to get him out of my mind all of these shoulda woulda coulda done differently. He has been silent for 2 months now. He said he could not date me because i support and attend bodybuilding contest that my son participates in, and because I spend to much time with my family. There are so many reasons that i can’t believe. He has been silent for a little over two months. I hope it stays that way. I look back now and I am ashamed at how I have let this man take over my life.

    • Hi Tat,

      Don’t be ashamed…we’ve all done it. There is so much to say about this and if you read through my website you will find all the answers. Also, please consider speaking with me because there is so much we deal with together one-on-one to get you through it. Will he return? Probably but you need to find a way to move on as if he won’t return. We waste our life waiting and they count on that…it’s as if the relationship never ends but believe me, a silent treatment is just a break-up in disguise!

      There are many survivors here and I’m here if you need me…

      Zari xo