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A relationship with a narcissist can be super challenging and draining. They repeatedly build you up and tear you down until you lose your confidence and question your self-worth. Once you determine that your partner or loved one is indeed toxic, you’ll get fed up with their abuse and manipulations and want out. This is when hoovering rears its ugly head.

Hoovering is defined as a behavior where the narcissist tries to suck you back into their life, much like a vacuum cleaner sucks up waste and dirt.

Hoovering can also be seen as love bombing Part 2.  Just as you’re distancing yourself from a narcissistic person, and they haven’t found someone else to feed their needs, they will try to dazzle you with compliments, gifts, and promises. Worse yet, they may manipulate, threaten, or guilt trip you into doing what they want.

This toxic behavior often stems from a deep fear of abandonment, a strong sense of entitlement, and a need for control.

It’s extremely important to protect yourself by recognizing this pattern and seeing through their behavior. Set boundaries with them and distance yourself so they can’t manipulate your emotions. Stay strong and don’t let yourself get sucked in!

“When a narcissist senses that a relationship is ending, they will try to extend it by engaging in hoovering,” says Dr. Jamie, Executive Director of TAR Network

Typical Behaviors of Narcissist Hoovering

Narcissistic hoovering may involve these manipulative behaviors:

  • Love bombing – just as they did at the outset of your relationship, the narcissist may love bomb you by showering you with affection, compliments, and gifts. This can be intensified to reconnect with you.
  • Apologies – the narcissist may apologize for past behavior, promise that things will be different, and present themselves as a changed person.
  • Promises – the narcissist may make many false promises to try and get you to stay.
  • Guilt trips – the narcissist may try to guilt trip you into staying in their life. For example, they may claim that you’re responsible for their happiness or that they can’t survive without you.
  • Manipulation – they may use manipulation tactics aimed at controlling you. They might try to convince you that no one else wants you, or borrow money from you just so you won’t cut ties with them until you’ve been paid off.
  • Threats – the narcissist may use threats to try to keep you from leaving them. For example, if you’re trying to divorce a narcissistic partner, they may threaten to ruin you financially or destroy your relationships with your children or extended family.

Why Does A Narcissist Hoover?

A narcissist hoovers for several reasons, most of which revolve around their need for control, validation, and attention. These reasons may include:

  • Maintaining narcissistic supply – narcissists require a constant supply of attention, admiration, and adoration from their victim to maintain their inflated self-image and grandiose sense of self. To feed their insatiable ego, they will attempt to dominate their environment and the people in it because, in their minds, control confirms their superiority.
  • Inducing guilt – giving you lavish gifts, taking you on expensive trips, or making grand statements of their love for you serve the purpose of making you feel you owe them.
  • Keeping their mask intact – narcissists have a carefully constructed persona they present to the world. Hoovering is a way for the narcissist to prevent you from sharing their experiences with others and exposing their true nature. They might use hoovering tactics on your friends and family to maintain this mask. Other people will have a hard time believing your accounts of their abusive and manipulative behavior because they “seem so nice” and “wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
  • For their personal gain – narcissists might simply use hoovering to get something they want. For example, they might tell you they are in financial difficulty and ask you to borrow money. Or they might tell you how much they love and miss you, but once they get what they want, they disappear.

How To Respond To Hoovering?

Responding to hoovering can be challenging, as it involves dealing with a manipulative and potentially abusive individual. Also, you might be missing them and a part of you wants to believe what they say and that they have indeed changed.

If you broke up a while ago, you might have repressed or forgotten all the abuse and toxicity – you might find yourself asking, “Why did we break up in the first place?”

A narcissistic relationship is an emotional rollercoaster with extreme highs and lows. Remind yourself of the reasons you chose to distance yourself from the person in the first place and stay focused on your well-being.

Unless you want to end up back in a relationship with an abusive and manipulative person, you must not engage. If possible, maintain no contact with the individual. Avoid responding to their messages, calls, or attempts to reach out. Any contact you have with them might be used against you to draw you back into the toxic relationship.

Although they might be telling you that they love and miss you, that they have changed, and that they want a future together, hoovering is a tactic used to regain control and manipulate your emotions.

You must establish clear boundaries and communicate with them assertively. Narcissists will constantly test and overstep; you must let them know what behavior is unacceptable and that you will not tolerate manipulation or abuse.

Prioritize your well-being and engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Take care of your physical and emotional health, and practice self-compassion during this challenging time.

Stay firm in your decision to protect yourself and don’t give in to their manipulations.

If you feel unsafe or the hoovering escalates to harassment or threats, consider seeking legal advice or assistance from law enforcement.



TAR Network™ is a 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to bringing worldwide awareness and treatment to those whose emotional reality has been distorted by narcissistic abuse. The mission of TAR Network is to support men, women, the LGBTQ+ community, tweens & teens, families, parents who are alienated from their children, workers, and caregivers going through or emerging from TAR. With subject matter experts, affiliates, organizations with supportive resources, and our individual donor community our programs will help you out of the fog and into the light. TAR Network is currently developing several innovative projects: TAR Tales – a safe place to share your truth TAR Centers – a safe place to get vital CPTSD treatment TAR Anon – a safe and nonjudgmental worldwide support network. There is strength in numbers. We’ve all suffered from trauma and abuse at the hands of someone close. Please join us in this worldwide effort toward recovery.

1 Comment

  1. So what if someone actually has changed? Shouldn’t you include some signs to look for to validate that?

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