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.

Change Your Life!
Download When Love Is a Lie
from Amazon Today – $3.99


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.

Free Ebook Bundle OR Audio Book with
Consult Booking!

Click Image Below

zari - narcissist-abuse-support

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?

Get Zari’s Book Today!

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….

Speak w/ Zari – Click Here


(Visited 283,820 times, 181 visits today)


  • Tony Ridler

    September 7, 2017 at 3:17 pm Reply

    Narcissism has a domino-effect, and like gravity, really sucks! If we don’t fall, we won’t fly!

  • Erica

    August 11, 2017 at 11:55 pm Reply

    Thankyou for this article.
    My ex and I were together for 7 years, off and on.
    He ended it at the end of April. Sent me messages about how he missed me (although it was a “good” decision to leave me) then finally turned up at the home we used to share and tell me he missed me but was moving to Europe. I had no contact with him at all and ignored his messages. He moved to Europe (we lived in Australia) and has been there for two months now. He contacts me every few weeks to “keep in contact” and every time I hear from him (all different avenues, I’ve blocked him on everything I can think of) and although I continue to ignore him it makes me miserable all over again. Which is extra shit because I know he’s sleeping around (which is fine) and always sounds so lighthearted and fine when he contacts me.

    Some part of me thinks that if I had spoken to him before he left I would have that closure. I don’t know.

    He seems to have moved on so quickly and I’m still so upset about the breakup. I have insight on how much better off I am without him but these feelings of grief are still so overwhelming. As bad as it is il still holding on the hope that he’ll change (he won’t) and will persue me when he gets home in January.

    It’s just so sick. What should I do next?
    I have a great family and lots of friends. I’m keeping busy and I work full time. I just don’t know how to move on.

    • Zari Ballard

      September 13, 2017 at 5:52 pm Reply

      Hi Erica,

      If he can contact you at all, then you haven’t covered all your bases as far as blocking. Why should he be able to call you and make you unhappy? A narcissist only returns again and again to ensure that you never move on from the pain. This is what he is doing. As for closure, you are never going to get it because it just doesn’t happen. You have to make your own. I’m grateful that you have great friends and family because that will see you through. Your suffering changes nothing, girl, but as long as you allow him to creep in and out of your life, you will always feel it…that sadness. He’s a jerk….Read my book When Love Is a Lie because it will help you put it in perspective…and read through all the articles here as well…

      Stay strong…you deserve to be happy!

      Zari xo

      • Erica

        September 14, 2017 at 4:09 am Reply

        Hi zari
        Thankyou for what you’ve written. He’s now blocked on all avenues.
        I’ve recently been told he’s in a new relationship (four months after we broke up) with a girl he met while travelling. Although I really really don’t want him back and I genuinely hope they are both happy with each other, I’m still so sad and hurt that he’s moved on so quickly. We were together for such a long time and I feel so hurt that he’s found someone so quickly. He’s apparently blasted her all over social media. His friends are in support of the relationship too.
        I don’t know. I just feel like our relationship didn’t mean anything to him and that’s what’s getting me down the most.
        Please help, any advice or insight would be fantastic.

        • Zari Ballard

          September 15, 2017 at 5:42 pm Reply

          Hi Erica,

          Social media can make any relationship appear to be any way a person wants so we can only take that with a grain of salt. As for the four months, that is really not as “quick” as you think and it was probably much quicker. If your ex is indeed a narc, then it’s likely he was “moving on” throughout the entire relationship. Refresh my memory, girl, so I can give you better insight. Your post was held for moderation so it appears that this is your first one. If you wrote under another name let me know.

          Break-ups always hurt no matter who you are involved with. If the ex is even an iota normal, then it’s possible the relationship just didn’t work out for whatever reason. Again, I don’t know the details. Don’t get down about yourself. A guy’s decision to leave should never be a basis for how you feel about yourself and that’s a fact. Consider it his loss. If he’s a narc, then this new girl will be next without a doubt and that’s a fact too.


  • Cat

    August 5, 2017 at 5:41 pm Reply

    The narc has been gone since 3/3/16. Long story short, in May ’16 I told him he was dead to me….that as far as I was concerned, he didn’t exist. We work in the same place but on different shifts, except for the rare occasions one of us works overtime. He worked with us one day last winter and kept trying to start conversations. I was polite, but cold. Any attempt to speak of anything that was not work related was ignored as if he hadn’t said anything. I’m still getting bills addressed to him….insurance and property tax bills: Return to sender. Not at this address. Two weeks ago a package addressed to him was delivered here. Funny thing is that he orders from this company at least every month or two…and you have to verify both shipping and billing address every time you place an order. I believe this was a Hoover attempt. Again: Return to sender. Not at this address. I won’t give him the satisfaction of acknowledging that it happened. I think I’m mostly over him (no more feeling like I want to throw up when I see him) and refuse to let him even make any attempt to stir things up. I mentally buried him…and he can stay buried. The Hoover will NOT work!!!

  • Catherine Lopez

    July 29, 2017 at 12:26 am Reply

    Hello Zari 🙂 I want to commend you for writing this post. It helped more to understand what I went through in the hands of my ex narcissist. I just figured out that he was a narcissist lately when I happened to pass by an article regarding it.

    We started the relationship with me having the strong personality and he was the charming, patient, romantic, submissive and all that you could ever imagine in a perfect guy. I even told him that “he was to good to be true” and he just laughed at it. He love-bombed me by sending me gifts at work, messaging and calling me every now and then and taking me out of town. He made me feel that I was the center of his world. Well, not until we had sex. After few days when it happened, I felt that there was something wrong. I was in-denial at first but when I happened to open up a topic about our relationship, he just said “this is not a relationship”. It made me feel confused coz just the other day he told me that he’s my boyfriend and discussed future date and getaways. So I asked him if he just wanted as to be “friends with benefits”. He didn’t give me a definite answer, he changed the topic and I was left hanging. I don’t even know what happened that he suddenly gained control over me. I became submissive to whatever he wants me to do or to think. The compliments he used to give me suddenly disappeared and he started telling me what he didn’t like about me. I tried to make it right by showing him that I can manage to adjust myself and my lifestyle for him. I’m an outgoing person. I have friends around to hang out with. I like dressing up in skimpy clothes since I have the curvy type of body. He didn’t like that. he would often tell me that he considers girls who wears skimpy clothes and hang out with friends at night slutty. So I changed that. My life became just a “work-home” routine. I inform him of my whereabouts even if he seldom inform me about him. Sometimes I even know in my guts that he’s lying about where he is or what he does. I let it pass coz I thought I was just being paranoid. A couple of months later, he seldom shows up to me. He would suddenly cancel plans and it really made me feel frustrated. He just communicate through text and calls since he said he’s always busy with work. When he didn’t like the way I compliment him, he would ignore me. He gets bored if we’re not having a fight or argument. I often tell him why can’t we just both have peace. He cannot stand it. He would provoke me and the last thing I know I was already freaking out and very upset. When I start to become emotional and tell him how bad I feel, he would suddenly stop responding to me. It will take a week or two before he would contact me again. These days are the most miserable days of my life and I don’t even know what I have done wrong. He would send me a message as if nothing even happened. If I try to talk it out he will always tell me that its my fault and the more I argue the more he will take my words against me. I could never win. But when he knows I’m so down already in that argument , he will suddenly become sweet and tell comforting words. I gave in eventually. These phases happened over and over again. I felt like I was trap in a limbo loop and thought I was going insane for being too submissive.

    Months passed by, most of my friends were really disappointed with me because I still let that guy be the center of my world. I know there was really something wrong. I even feel that he’s meeting up with other girls but I couldn’t find any solid proof since we’re not living on the same roof. He withhold having sex with me. We did it only once a month. What’s worst is he would only meet up with me for that thing. He would accused me of cheating if I don’t receive or reply to his messages.He doesn’t want me to talk to other guys. Even just sending my condolences to my ex’s family when my ex’s mom died became a big deal for him and I ended up deactivating some of my social media accounts. I was even paranoid he hacked my Skype account. I felt like he’s always watching me. It was a horrible feeling to lose my freedom. Also, he would often mention some girls he met and how wonderful these girls are. I felt insecure knowing that he’s giving compliments to these girls and I receive none of it. He would also mention about my not so big breasts or my not so sweet attitude.

    Eventually I have noticed that every weekend night, I couldn’t reached his number. I had the courage to ask him later on and he gave me stupid alibis, funny thing is I believed those lies. When I ask more questions, he would give me rage and ignore me again. This went on for 3 months. Until I decided that I had enough. One day he told me that his phone wasn’t working well and that he might stop communicating with me on that night (which is the night he would always disappear). So I told him that I’ll be out for clubbing also. He freaked out but I didn’t give a damn anymore. I turned off my phone the whole night. I didn’t answer his calls and messages the next day although I was just really at home the whole time. I wanted him to feel what I’m always feeling everyime he does that to me. Later that day, he went for a drive in my area and he sent a pic letting me know he’s just outside my flat. I didn’t respond and he was so angry as hell that accused me of cheating and being a bitch to him. He blocked me. After a day he unblocked me and I decided to tell him that we should stop the BS. He changes the topic by persuading me that I need him, reminded me how great he was with having sex with me. I told him to back off. That’s the time I decided to block him in all possible ways that he can contact me.

    He tried to call me yesterday using a different number. He told me that he waited outside my flat for almost two hours and was trying to make me feel bad (I had a feeling that he was telling a lie tho). What he didn’t know is I already know his mental disorder. I managed to finished the call without letting him control or change my mind. He begged that I unblock him but I said no. It was a relief knowing I managed to get myself out of that loop. I still miss him but I know that I can’t tolerate any mind-fuck games with him anymore. I really hope that I can manage to continue this “no contact” thing. Fingers-crossed.


    • Ali

      September 22, 2017 at 5:38 am Reply

      Cath, I’ve read many comments on here but for some reason yours has really resonated with me. I’m sitting with tears in my eyes going through the same thing. I feel heartened to hear of your strength and your ability to see your decisions through. I’m really hoping that, some months on, you are maintaining your no contact and continuing to heal. I am just beginning my healing process

      Good luck!


  • 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

    • Catherine Lopez

      July 28, 2017 at 12:14 pm Reply

      You made me think we had the same guy. You really describe the exact things my ex narcissist did to me. Even the physical appearance reminded me so much of him.

  • 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.

      • Linda

        July 28, 2017 at 2:35 pm Reply

        Hi Alice! Glad to hear my writing was helpful. I read it somewhere that narcs love long distance relationships, because it makes it so much easier for them to play games and develop romantic affairs behind the victim’s back. Makes sense, right? My narc ex also made me feel like however horribly he was treating me, somehow it was always my own fault.. They are really talented in manipulating the emotions of others. You did exactly the right thing when you blocked him, I hope he doesn’t try to crawl back into your life like my narc ex did. In situations like this, distance is a bliss…

        All the best and stay strong!


1 16 17 18

Share your thoughts & get advice! Only first post is moderated.

Get Zari's Book
Read more:
A Sociopath Exposes the Narcissist – (Part 1/3)

In my opinion, there is are no differences between a narcissist and a sociopath. Both follow the exact same pathological relationship agenda and can be equally as evil to the...