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7 Facts to Know About Narcissistic "Hoovering"

Narcissists will try to suck you back into contact with them. Resist it.

Key points

  • Narcissists often hoover a person to get them to resume contact with them.
  • If you resume contact with a narcissist, your relationship may be just as dysfunctional, if not moreso, than before.
  • Responding to a narcissist's hoover gives them a payoff.
 Nordwood Themes/Unsplash
Narcissists will try to hoover you back into a relationship.
Source: Nordwood Themes/Unsplash

When a pathological narcissist is out of your life, they may eventually try to “hoover,” or suck you back into contact with them. Hoovering may be done by emailing, texting, calling, or snail mailing. A narcissist may send you a long email or text “hey.” Hoovering is practiced by a wide range of narcissists—family members, friends, co-workers, employers, former spouses, and significant others. It is usually preluded by the narcissist needing to fill their narcissistic void or a bottomless pit of need—in other words: it’s not about you. Don’t respond to a hoovering attempt.

Hoovering is not about their love for you

Hoovering is only about the narcissist needing attention—they are trying to fill the narcissistic void they are experiencing. It has nothing to do with feelings for you or wanting to reconcile. An empathic person would consider how contacting you would upset you. The narcissist doesn’t think about that because it’s not about your feelings and needs—it’s about getting their next attention fix. They usually hoover when they don’t have a narcissistic supply or are bored with their current supply.

Responding to a hoover doesn’t mean a narcissist will engage with you

When you respond to a hoover, the narcissist’s needs are automatically met—even if you respond with “leave me alone.” Narcissists crave attention—they don’t care if it’s good or bad. It’s a rush for them to know they are on your mind. If you respond to a hoover, you reward the narcissist’s behavior. If you reestablish contact with the narcissist, you will eventually be discarded by them again.

Block them

A narcissist will continue to contact you, even years later. It’s easier for a narcissist to go back to their old supply than to find a new supply. They tend to keep their exes in “rotation.” Please don’t allow them to upend your life again. Block phone numbers, email addresses, and social media accounts. You may also need to block a narcissist’s friends if they are passing along messages from the narcissist.

You don’t want to be hoovered

If you are feeling upset that your ex hasn’t hoovered you, it’s a normal feeling. You are among the lucky people whom the narcissist hasn’t tried to suck back into their scheme. Just because you haven’t heard from the narcissist doesn’t mean the narcissist has a great life. A pathological narcissist is a person that will never be satisfied. Eventually, they will contact you again. Stay strong, and don’t engage. I have yet to meet a client that successfully responded to a hoover.

Notice their apology isn’t an apology

If the narcissist creates an apology (rare), watch for the qualifiers that show they still hold you responsible for their behavior and actions. Phrases such as, “I’m sorry I wasn’t more tolerant,” and “I’m sorry I wasn’t patient enough with you,” are about shifting the blame to you. The narcissist still isn’t owning their behavior. When someone makes a genuine apology, they state their hurtful behaviors and take full responsibility for them. Don’t validate a narcissist’s false apology by responding to this hoovering tactic.

They’re trying to avoid feelings of guilt and shame

Feeling guilt can be a foreign concept to a narcissist. So, when they get a clue that they have acted poorly or been abusive, they seek attention and validation to soothe their ego and avoid accountability. Don’t let them off the hook by engaging with them.

Consider how much more peaceful your life is without them

After the initial shock and trauma of cutting off contact with a narcissist, you may have felt a sense of relief. There’s no longer a “push-pull” dynamic in your life. You have had opportunities to meet healthy people who have no hidden agenda. You may even feel like life has gotten “boring” since you no longer have the extreme ups and downs in a relationship with a narcissist. A narcissist’s excitement and drama are not what you want to invite back into your life. You can get that need for excitement filled in healthier ways.

More from Stephanie A. Sarkis Ph.D.
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More from Stephanie A. Sarkis Ph.D.
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