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How narcissists suck you back in

The “hoovering” technique was named after the famous vacuum cleaner company, and it’s one of many common manipulation tactics employed by abusive, toxic narcissists.

This is when a narcissist sort of “sucks” their victim back into the relationship, or some version of it. It often begins innocently enough, sort of subtly, but it always happens with one target – to regain control.

Hoovering usually begins after the devalue and discard phases, when the silent treatment has stopped giving the narcissist pleasure, and when they’re ready for more of the supply you’ve been feeding them all these months or years. Or, it’ll start when you’ve left the narcissist and they fear you won’t return.

The idea is that the narcissist needs to reestablish contact with you in order to get the narcissistic supply you’re so good at providing.

Art Imitates Life: How Charlie Brown and Lucy Demonstrate Narcissistic Hoovering

charlieHere’s a pretty simple example of what hoovering looks like.

Remember in the Peanuts cartoons how Lucy would always hold the football for Charlie Brown, but every time he would try to kick it, she’d pull it away? And, when he’d fall, she’d smile like there was no tomorrow – actually enjoying that pain.

Charlie Brown did what any kid would – he’d stop trusting her to hold that ball. But inevitably, Lucy would promise each time that THIS TIME, she’d really let him kick the ball. And inevitably, she’d pull it away at the last second, and then she’d bust out that big smile just as he fell, yet again.

Hoovering is a dangerous tactic because once the narcissist gets a foot in the door, you’ll often find yourself being love-bombed and hearing promises of brighter days ahead – but just like poor Charlie Brown, you’re bound to fall again.

Have you experienced hoovering before? How did you deal with it?

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2 Responses to Hoovering: How a Narcissist Keeps Sucking You Back In

  1. Hi Angie,
    Actually I’m going through this right now. I’ve been married for 25 years, I think he is a “medium Narc”. I left him 2 weeks ago and he’s been “love bombing” me and making promises of how he will change and how wonderful things will be. I left once before and felt guilty and pressured so I went back. I’m not in love with him, all I feel is resentment and pain from all the year of his selfishness and manipulation. Our kids are grown but they want me to try to make it work, seeing that I don’t love him and my heart isn’t in it I don’t see that going back will do anything but start the cycle over again. He texts or calls me every day even though I’ve asked for time and space. When I’m with him he constantly wanting to touch me or hold my hand(which he never did before). I’m a very passive person and have had a hard time telling him NO, but I’m trying to make boundaries and be more assertive. Any suggestions, advise, etc is greatly appreciated.

  2. I was hoovered back twice, the favourite way is text ‘I miss you’ or just ‘xxxx’
    They begin with simple little texts & progess to ‘I’m sad’ ‘I wish you were here with me’ ….’I’ve changed’ and so on.
    Rarely are they actual phone calls, for some reason they are not capable of real conversation – I’ve read this is a feature as they can’t control you if you are talking about their disappearance or rage.
    So texting or messages work as testing the water prior to a conversation.
    They Will even say sorry in a text, never happens in real life.

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