A Narcissist Always Returns (The Hoovering)



A 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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  • Marquita D Curry

    June 13, 2017 at 5:08 pm Reply

    I am so relieved to know I am not crazy. I just went no contact with a man I believed to be a narc.

    He was charming, very handsome, eyes the color of honey, beautiful brown complexion, physically fit, well dressed, and intelligent. He came off as caring, and he worked hard for my attention. He had his own everything (something I’ve never been lucky enough to land in a man), he is 32, and has been at his job for 12 years making great money. I couldn’t give him as much attention as he wanted in the beginning since I am a single mother, but I am a college graduate, kind, an empath, easy on the eyes, also my own everything, and a good job (I felt I was targeted by him).

    I was able to work out my situation and go on a date with him and I felt that he was worth it and the fact that he worked harder for my attention than ANY other man I have ever met.
    When he got my full attention and my love, it’s like a switch flipped. He was someone different.

    He would ignore me but then pop up days later as if nothing was wrong, he began throwing insults at me, he no longer offered dates or wanted to go in public with me, he stopped making any type of eye contact with me, he stopped smiling, and he became very dry and odd.
    The sex was amazing but it became more rough and less passionate. He would completely ignore my feelings when I tried to express how I felt, he would literally not respond and he never ever gave me a compliment. Not once. He even told me I had issues (???). At times I questioned myself and if I was being too emotional or too sensitive and that I must be losing it. This man is really not throwing jabs and insults at me, is he? He never apologizes, ever. He is busy, he isn’t disregarding me, is he? He wouldn’t do that. He much rather just hang at my place, not go out anymore; I guess?

    I made excuses and tons of them. He was manipulating me so bad, he was lying to me often, he hated to see me happy or having a good day. He wanted me to be miserable. He became upset to know I wanted to go back to school and further my education more. He was jealous and controlling and needed to know my every move until the point that I was paranoid. I felt that he was watching me, he just seemed to know when I was home or that I had been home, etc..but yet I knew NO details of his whereabouts and his doings. He never even responded nor reciprocated when I told him I loved him. Although, A week ago he said it during sex after he got me to say it again first…

    A couple of months prior after so much confusion, exhaustion, and not hearing from him I told him that I am moving on…I had actually went on a date with the man I blew off for him. He asked me: “Who’s the clown you call yourself going out with?…what he doesn’t know is that I have power to push him out the way.”
    Voila! Something ticked! I started to think about all the odd things he would say…”I am never going anywhere,” all these other men thirsting after you, but I already re-arranged your guts,” I want more children, boy or girl?” Often he would bring up a baby, etc. (Keep in mind he didn’t even commit nor want to talk about our future. He just wanted to get me pregnant. I couldn’t imagine his strange self with a child).
    That was the point that I started to Google sociopath, psychopath, and narcissism, and even his astrological sign (haha).

    I now understand why his ex did not want him to know where she lives and that he said she was evil. Truth is, he is the evil one. I could go on for days with how manipulative, odd, unemotional, controlling, vain, and negative this man was but I am sure you get the picture. I had never been so confused and hurt like this…and I still don’t fully understand how someone could have no care, love, or remorse. I am just lucky I did research and had the time to process that I can’t do anything for this man and that he might seriously have narcissism or the full blown personality disorder. I know that he may not leave me alone anytime soon and that he will Hoover just as he did every time he thought he was going to lose his fuel (me), but I am prepared for No Contact; I couldn’t be more prepared at this point. I know who he really is now.

    Thank you Zari!

    • Zari Ballard

      July 2, 2017 at 4:05 pm Reply

      Hi Marquita,

      You’re awesome! What a story…sounds much like my own and like so many of those you may read here. You are a strong person and NO you are not and never have been the crazy one! Bless you and thank you so much for sharing your story. Keep strong and true to yourself and never look back…he is a complete disaster and always will be!

      Zari xo

  • Girlfedup

    June 9, 2017 at 11:00 am Reply

    Mx has been at it for a year. He seems to go looking for other women just before he vanishes or turns cold or suddenly to business. I caught him soliciting women online. He emailed like 50 women for dates. He begged for my forgiveness, just to later oretend to be busy, cancel dates last minute, claim he fell a sleep and forgot we had a date though he was reminded the day before.
    When we first met he treated me like a queen
    The last time he cane back he claimed he had a child and was asking me out when he had his child. I realized it was to be their personal free driver.
    Then i notice he was coming back only on my pay days, asking to go out.
    In between the time when he would suddenly become to busy or blow cold, i would find out that he managed to have a sexual relationship with someone new. He wasnt to busy for her. He started talkin bad about people alot, and bragging about him

    I am actually done and find him appalling.
    I wrote him back today and told him, i am done.

  • Linda

    May 28, 2017 at 2:24 pm Reply

    Hi Zari and all you readers out there!

    I posted a long comment on this very same post some months ago describing my relationship with a narc. Now my life is wayyyy better since I’ve gone no contact with the man, and this comment is rather a message of support to all the readers than a question in itself.

    In short: I had a nightmarish (and fortunately short) relationship last year with a man who behaved like a narc. He lived in a different country and there was distance. The guy kept disappearing and giving me silent treatment, then hoovering me back just to disappear again. It was ridiculous: he kept changing his mind 24/7 and I foolishly let him do it. At some point we called it quits and I blocked him on all social media and on the phone.

    Going No Contact was absolutely the best choice for me. It was hard in the beginning, but very rewarding in the long run. I felt like I could finally breathe again. Now the guy has somehow found my professional fb page (I have a job where maintaining a public page is a must) and sent me a message months after I blocked him everywhere. He’s wishing to have contact with me again.

    Now, let’s take a closer look at this. When the guy asks me “How are you doing?” after months of no contact, he’s actually not interested in me and my life. (For the record, he never was.) Instead, he wants to say these three things:
    1. “No matter how hard you ignore me, I’ll always find a way to contact you and pop up in your life without your consent. I’m watching you. You can’t escape from me.”
    2. “I’ll do anything to win you over again and get your attention. I’ll even stalk you and send you desperate messages, because that’s just how fragile I am.”
    3. “I’ll do my best to make you seem like an evil bitch who heartlessly cut me off and quit all contact without any warning.” Like Gotye in his song Somebody That I Used To Know, you know?

    Guess what? I’ll never EVER answer. There’s a small voice in the back of my head saying I should respond since I don’t wanna hurt his feelings. But he never cared about my feelings, so why should I care about his? He’ll be on his knees begging for attention while I go on with my life happier than ever.

    Also, I’ve met somebody new. Someone emotionally stable who treats me for the most valuable human being and not for a piece of trash. I’m telling you: after getting rid of a narc nothing, just NOTHING feels as good as cuddling with your new love knowing that you can trust them and lean on them. It’s euphoric.

    Why did the narc tease me for so long? Because I LET HIM. I could see it was going nowhere, but had so much feelings for him that I put my own wellbeing aside. I had no dignity. Now I know this: the narc will never give up on you unless you cut them off. They’ll treat you like a doormat because YOU LET THEM. Narcs don’t change. Trust me, to move on forward you need to fix your attitude: you need to acknowledge that you are worthy of unconditional love and caring and that the narc can never ever provide you those things. You deserve it ALL, not just a part-time relationship with a part-time lover who can commit to you only part-time. There’s plenty of fish in the sea and there’s someone out there who can give you their everything. Once you meet them, your encounters with the narc(s) will just be a distant nightmare from the past.

    My advise to everyone struggling with a narc is: go No Contact NOW. Immediately. I know that their attention feels flattering – I’ve been there myself and it feels ecstatic when they tell you how much they like you and want to be with you and all that. But there’s always a cold shower to follow afterwards. I hate to say it, but the narc(s) don’t love you. They contact you because they need their fix: your attention. It’s like dealing with a junkie. Cutting someone off is painful at first, but trust me, time heals all wounds. And remember: you’re never alone. There’s plenty of Narcs in the world and thus plenty of people who went through the same struggle as you.

    Once again: thank you Zari for the wonderful blog. It has given me so much hope and helped me get rid of my narc. All the best to you Zari and readers, have a nice summer and STAY STRONG!!! Much love, Linda

    • Alice

      June 28, 2017 at 12:03 pm Reply

      Wow, thank you, Linda! This really helped. I’m going through the exact same long distance thing now. I blocked him today after he blew hot and cold and got with another girl; only to told me it was all because of my faults. It led to a barrage of abuse and judgments so I blocked him in every way possible. I have lost that feeling of care for him now.

      All I can say is…THANK GOD he doesn’t live closely to me! Onwards and upwards.

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