Narcissist Hoovering – What is it and How to Deal With It

Narcissist hoovering is a manipulative strategy employed by narcissists to draw you back into their life after a period of separation or conflict.

The term “hoovering” comes from the brand of vacuum cleaners, symbolizing how these individuals attempt to “suck” their targets back into the toxic dynamics of the relationship.

narcissist hoovering

Examples of Narcissist Hoovering

Narcissists often employ a variety of hoovering tactics to draw you back into their orbit. Here’s an expanded look at some of these strategies:

Excessive Compliments and Lavish Gifts

Narcissists may shower you with excessive compliments, often out of context or proportion, to make you feel special and desired.

Alongside, they might present lavish gifts as tokens of their ‘affection’, aiming to sway your emotions and win back your affections.

Promises of Change

They might tell you exactly what they believe you want to hear, assuring you that they have changed or will change their behaviour.

These promises can seem sincere and convincing, but they are often empty and merely a ploy to regain control.

narcissistic hoover tactics

Feigned Humility

Narcissists may pretend to be less aggressive or controlling than they truly are.

By showcasing a seemingly humble and submissive side, they aim to convince you that they are safe and have transformed, encouraging you to let your guard down and return to the relationship.

Apologies and Promises of Therapy

They will apologize profusely for their past mistakes, expressing regret and remorse.

They might even promise to seek professional help or therapy to rectify their actions.

However, these apologies and promises are often insincere and used to manipulate your empathy and forgiveness.

narcissist hoovering


Narcissists will not hesitate to resort to guilt-tripping you for ending the relationship.

They will blame you for their misery, making you feel responsible for their well-being.

This is a coercive tactic designed to make you feel obligated to return to them.

narcissist hoover tactics

Rekindling Shared Memories

Another hoovering tactic is to bring up shared memories, especially the good times, in an attempt to stir up nostalgia.

By reminding you of happier times, they aim to make you question your decision to leave, hoping it will spur a desire for reconciliation.

How to Protect Yourself from Narcissist Hoovering

Understanding how to safeguard yourself from narcissist hoovering is crucial for maintaining your mental and emotional wellbeing.

Narcissists, in their attempts to draw you back into their sphere of influence, might employ various strategies such as sending gifts, flowers, or even reaching out to your friends and family to gather information about you.

Anticipating these maneuvers and preparing yourself for any possible scenario is vital. Remember, your primary goal is to shield yourself from their manipulative tactics.

Here are some comprehensive strategies to help you protect yourself against narcissistic hoovering:

boundaries - narcissist hoovering

Set firm boundaries

Establishing clear boundaries with a narcissist is essential in order to protect yourself from their manipulative tactics.

Let them know that any form of hoovering will not be tolerated and that, if necessary, you are willing to terminate all contact with them.

Make sure they understand that your boundaries are non-negotiable and that you will not give into their attempts at manipulating or controlling you.

Hold firm in your position and do not allow yourself to be taken advantage of.

Go Low Contact

Avoid spending too much time with a narcissist and limit your contact with them as much as possible.

This will help to keep their manipulative tactics at bay.

If they do make requests of you, be aware that they may be trying to emotionally manipulate you and resist the urge to give in.

It can be difficult not to give in to their persuasive behavior, but it is important to remember that doing so only enables them and can set a dangerous precedent for future interactions.

Go No Contact

If the narcissist persists in not respecting your boundaries, you may need to escalate from low contact to no contact.

Don’t respond to their emails, texts or calls.

Block the narcissist on social media and block their number on your phone and WhatsApp.

Most important of all, don’t meet up with them, even if they promise to behave.

Remember that the person who is currently acting like you are the centre of their universe is exactly the same person who treated you so badly in the past.

Narcissists never change. Stay strong.

Lean on Your Support Network

Surround yourself with people who support you and have your best interests at heart.

This will provide not only emotional support but also a healthy distraction from the narcissist’s attempts to hoover you back into their life.

Building your self-esteem by focusing on the people in your life who accept and care for you is essential in helping you resist any manipulation or demands for attention or approval from the narcissist.


Talk to a Therapist

Seek professional help if needed, especially if the narcissist hoovering behavior is making you feel threatened or scared in any way.

Talking to a therapist or other mental health professional can help you cope with any anxiety or depression caused by being on the receiving end of narcissistic hoovers, as well as work on creating healthy boundaries that prevent further exploitation from this type of toxic individual in the future.


Final Thoughts about Narcissist Hoovering

In conclusion, understanding narcissist hoovering is key to safeguarding yourself from the manipulative tactics employed by narcissists.

Recognizing the signs and patterns of this behavior can empower you to establish boundaries, seek professional help, and maintain your mental and emotional wellbeing.

It’s important to remember that you have the right to protect yourself and prioritize your own health and happiness.

While navigating the aftermath of a relationship with a narcissist can be challenging, it’s absolutely possible to break free from their influence and move forward towards a healthier, more fulfilling life.

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7 thoughts on “Narcissist Hoovering – What is it and How to Deal With It”

  1. I have a Cluster B family and certain members have been doing this sporadically for some time now. I haven’t shown up a at a family function in over 10 years, since my father passed (his side of the family) and I was no longer obligated into that act of tolerance. And here I thought as an autistic person that I was supposed to be the slowest and dumbest of the lot at reading social cues.

    But they mask what they are doing well enough so that they can protect their reputations. There is always a way to explain away any guilt, even though at this point to almost anyone it should be obvious that this is a blatant disregard for (my) boundaries. With what’s wrong with me I may have misperception or be slow to figure something out, but not wrong about this and they are straight up delusional.

    I have come to the conclusion that no amount of attempting to reason with them would do any good. I’m rational and they would all find that unrelateable, before you even get to the parts of me that are legit unrelateable. But on the other end of the sword I really don’t feel like being stuck with the unpleasantness of it that could strike at any time. The last time they used my nephew’s death and this time it was my birthday. Early on I used to respond to be polite, but never once heard back when I took that route–there is never any dialog or any intention of it. When they try to “reach” me they are so tone-deaf and presumptuous and so far off the mark about who I am that it can be extremely difficult to contain the anger.

    To put things in perspective we never had real relationships or any bonds. Nope just the sharade of tolerance that special occasions are, and plenty of toxicity to go around that was just normal to them. And my father who never missed a chance to correct me in front of everyone if I mispronounced something always played the “didn’t know” when we was present and should have had my back. Whatevs man I’d love to say that I am over it but I am not above changing my name and moving to another country. Maybe if I do they’ll only think I’m weird because I’m foreign and not because I’m on the rectum I mean spectrum. That’s just how it feels sometimes when I’m among others. Nothing for or against others on the spectrum.

    Well if this comment gets approved (they seldom do) it should at least liven things up a bit.

    • Hi there! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. I can only imagine how challenging it must be to deal with these extremely manipulative family members. However, I want you to know that being on the spectrum could actually be what saved you in some ways, as it enables people like us to not be taken in by surface-level charm.

      I understand that you’ve been through a lot, but I want to reassure you that prioritizing your own well-being is never selfish or wrong. It’s important to take care of ourselves, even if that means considering going no contact with toxic people, even if they are family. Please know that things may feel tough right now, but they won’t always be this way. This too shall pass. Hang in there.

      • You make several valid points. Though if I may articulate further, being on the spectrum can be both an asset and work against me simultaneously in situations such as this one. I had to rely on observing and dealing with these and a multitude of other nasty behaviors before being able to sort them out categorically and recognize them as they are happening. That only became concrete when I stumbled upon Cluster B disorders, as a result of reading further about other patterns of fugly behavior that I picked up on while involved in online dating. 30+ years of therapy on no one in or out of the mental health profession ever clued me in on this. So when it comes to resisting charm, not so good at that one in any realtime setting and it will often take several days to a week to even realize when someone’s doing me dirty or working an angle on me–delayed reaction big-time. I’m relying on pattern recognition and having done my homework, not any instincts or some savant-like ability.

        Where it saves me is that being disgusted by things like nearly constant gaslighting can be a powerful motivator. Having my values diverge so far from other people that attempt to present as some form of human, well I had to know what exactly was up with that. We like knowing how things work. Eventually there was a catalyst that was strong enough to create the “keep digging till you hit gold” reaction, gold being some solid scientific answers. Truth be told it’s not the people (with Cluster B disorders) that I hate (OK well some of them but let’s be fair), it’s the behavior–and that’s all that’s wrong with them. Flat-out refusal to behave. I am on the spectrum regardless of what I do or do not do; they could all simply choose to not be Cluster B if even one day passed where any of them cared enough to alter their offensive behavior for anyone else’s sake in the vicinity of them. I do not even see that as a clinical condition unless we start having hypochondria awareness month along with it. Maybe they could share the month with Munchausen’s.

        • Thank you for sharing your experience and insights. It’s incredible how you’ve been able to navigate these challenges, especially given the difficulties that being on the spectrum can present in these situations. Your perseverance in understanding and recognizing these behaviors is truly commendable.

          I can only imagine the frustration you must have felt during those 30+ years of therapy without receiving any guidance on Cluster B disorders. It’s disheartening to know that many mental health professionals still don’t provide enough information on this subject.

          Your ability to separate the person from their behavior demonstrates immense emotional intelligence and empathy. Recognizing that it’s the behavior, not the person, that is the issue allows for a more compassionate approach when dealing with individuals who exhibit these traits.

          • It also took them 30+ years to know that I’m on the spectrum after a few decades of an iron-clad “bi-polar type II” diagnosis when that was a trendy place to stick patients that were just too gray. All those ‘do the work’ slogans and sound bytes and therapy fell down on the job when it was their turn to do the work, at least as it concerns my own experience. No one felt like doing much of anything past a certain point. I got the distinct feeling after pushing each prior the-rapist for more clarity that no one who was ‘helping’ me knew what they were helping with. Answers about diagnosis only got more ambiguous as time went on. Were they helping at all??? The mother of an autistic pointed me to testing after spotting similarities between myself and her daughter and she turned out to be right. Needless to say the first words that come to mind when I hear ‘mental health professional’ are usually along the lines of ‘deception’ ‘false hope’ ‘time waster’ ‘overlord’ etc. Those are just the words I can repeat without this post being flagged as offensive.

            Perhaps more interesting is that we know the NPD numbers are horribly skewed for several reasons. Narcy’s don’t ever think anything is wrong with them, asleep at the wheel therapists either don’t pick up on it or treat the narc for something else for business reasons (the truth would make the narcissists likely not return to that therapist). Then you have the therapists that are decidedly Cluster B, so they are obviously biased and what comes from them is just fruit of the poisoned tree. One even tried to label yours truly as ASPD. That was a colorful chat.

            But (and I just stumbled on this info today) now NPD is being removed from the DSM??? This seems like a pretty big copout. Why not just re-class Cluster B as conduct disorders instead of personality disorders? I mean good behavior means you just don’t meet enough of the criteria, but to not acknowledge that there is something deeply wrong with it in a medical sense seems horribly irresponsible. I guess we are even more on our own than before, and this certainly won’t make the-rapists any less ignorant or more helpful in helping others deal with the bottom rung of personalities.

  2. Yikes. This started happening to me when I became “best friends” with a girl in 4th grade. I would ignore her until she came back to me, then I would act like it never happened. It kept happening with other people throughout my life. It certainly wouldn’t have happened again if I’d have had a mindset and a vocabulary to understand it. We really need to rethink fundamental education.


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