Is a Narcissist Hoovering You After a Breakup? What to Do

Is a narcissist hoovering you after a toxic relationship has ended? There are plenty of tricks up a narcissist’s sleeve to get you back in that case. And if you’re not prepared, you could find yourself returning to that broken relationship even when, deep down, you know it’s not best for you.

You left that romantic relationship a shell of your former self. You likely had to regularly deal with gaslighting from your partner too. Your ex acted like the victim while inflicting the real abuse on you. But by the time you finally understood what was going on, a lot of damage had already been done to the core of who you are.

And now that you’ve left a relationship that was killing your soul, your narcissistic partner is doing all they can to get you back. Is it possible your partner is a changed person and will treat you better this time?

When it comes to someone high on the narcissistic spectrum, it’s unlikely. So, how do you stand firm in your decision to leave the relationship and take better care of yourself without getting sucked back in? Here are a few thoughts.

What is Hoovering?

When speaking of relationships, what’s a good hoover definition? Hoovering is a term derived from the Hoover vacuum cleaner. It’s a slang term that’s become popular to describe the process of a toxic partner you’ve cut ties with who’s trying sneaky ways to get you back into a relationship.

Inherent in the hoover meaning is often what’s referred to as covert narcissist hoovering. It’s a secretive effort designed to get you back into a toxic relationship that preys upon your wellbeing. It’s also referred to as the ‘hoover maneuver’. 

This process can also happen outside of a romantic relationship with friends, co-workers or family members who’ve badly harmed your self-worth in the past. Sometimes this tactic happens especially at the beginning of an adult child/parent estrangement too. Now, they’re showing up acting like they’ve changed and that they care. 

What you may not realize is that things will likely be much worse for you than before if you cave to these attempts to vacuum you back into an unhealthy relationship. 

Going No-Contact with a Narcissist

If you’ve been the ongoing victim of narcissistic abuse in a relationship, your only healthful course of action is to leave the relationship and to ‘cut the bridge behind you’. 

Once you do so, however, your former partner likely won’t be happy about your decision. Those with strong narcissistic tendencies need to have a parasite/host type of relationship to feel good about themselves. They need to regularly put someone else down while elevating themselves to fuel their toxic sense of self-worth.

Once you leave, your partner will lose their narcissistic supply (you). And unless they quickly find someone else to fill that void, they’ll do whatever they can to get you back (even though it’s with the goal of further using you to feel better about themselves). 

Common Narcissist Hoovering Tactics

When you go no contact with a narcissist, it’ll be with the ultimate goal of cutting off narcissistic supply. That means it’ll have to be absolute in every way. 

In her “Psychology Today” article entitled, “Why Is It So Hard to Leave the Narcissist in your life?”, Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D. shares the following:

“Unless you walk out immediately and never look back, you are well on your way to becoming this person’s psychic prisoner. You will find yourself’ ‘Trauma Bonded’ to someone who is destroying you. This is like your own personal opiate addiction crisis.” 

That means no social media, drop-overs, texting, phone calls or anything. If you respond in the smallest way, your ex will use this to get an emotional crowbar into your heart to exploit the personal wellness you’ve fought so hard to regain. Here are a few of the many hoovering techniques you may experience once you go no-contact.

  • Saying They’ve Changed: This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Your former partner will tell you how they’ve changed only to pull you back into a terrible relationship again. 
  • Pretending Nothing Happened: Your ex will contact you again and try to hold a ‘perfectly normal’ conversation with you, acting like nothing bad ever happened. The goal is to get you to think maybe you imagined the previous relational abuse.
  • Appeal to Compassion: Many who end up in relationships with narcissists are caring, empathetic people. Your previous partner may contact you with some personal tragedy (real, embellished or completely fabricated). And you’ll be tempted to feel like a terrible person if you don’t respond. Resist the urge to respond.
  • ‘Accidental’ Contact: Your former partner may claim to have accidentally contacted you. This could be a loving message intended for a new flame to make you jealous. This ‘accidental’ contact could also be a way to test the waters or to get a response from you.
  • Charming You: Your ex may try to tell you exactly what you want to hear. Those high in narcissistic tendencies tend to be charming. Your past partner may flatter you to try and get you back. 
  • Blackmail or Threats: The worst types of narcissists may try to hoover you by threatening to ruin your reputation or business. They also may threaten to take your kids, house or to ruin your finances. If this is a concern, take necessary measures to protect yourself, but don’t give in.

Is a Narcissist Hoovering You?

If so, it can often be tough navigate without professional support. If you would like to find evidence-based strategies and support to resist hoovering and to heal from narcissistic abuse, feel free to get in touch with us

The OC Relationship Center offers marriage counseling, couples counseling and individual therapy in Mission Viejo, CA and Newport Beach, CA

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