Narcissists are very manipulative and controlling, even once they’re no longer a part of your life anymore they do their best to find a way back in. While they will allow a period of separation eventually there will be a moment during which they come back to try and see just how much of a presence they can make of themselves in your life.
When a narcissist that we have gotten away from comes back around trying to weasel his way into our lives we refer to this as hoovering. The hoovering narcissist is dangerous and should not be overlooked. Rather than just wanting to check in on you as he says, his intentions are sinister in ways you should already have a hunch in regards. Just because he says he has changed does not mean he actually has and keeping that in mind is imperative.
Narcissists are very toxic and while they may reach out after a little time has passed, you should not greet them with open arms. By hovering over you and trying to gain access to your life this person is working to suck you back into the same situation you escaped from, to begin with. You see, you were once his supply and now that he sees you’re doing well and moving on he wants to bring you back down again and start the cycle over once again.
This hoovering could come in the form of an “innocent” text checking up on you, a missed phone call, a pleading voicemail, e-mails, an “accidental” run-in at places you frequent or even via third party contact. It can even be orchestrated by provocation: sneakier narcissists can hoover indirectly by posting lies about you, anticipating that you’ll respond defensively or by manufacturing scenarios in which you’re likely to come into contact.
Rest assured, hoovering is a power play, not an indication that the narcissist actually values you. As one narcissism expert puts it:
“Narcissists hate to fail or lose, so they will do what they can to maintain some connection if they didn’t make the choice to end it…They can experience narcissistic injury when rejected by a partner and have difficulties letting it go or healing from it… they may stay connected [to exes in order to] have access to valuable resources. They also have inside information about their exes’ vulnerabilities and weaknesses that they can exploit and manipulate which gives them a sense of power and control.” – DR. TONY FERRETTI, NARCISSISTS AND PSYCHOPATHS LOVE TO STAY FRIENDS WITH THEIR EXES
Unfortunately, hoovering can be incredibly nefarious and insidious in its impact. Many survivors of narcissistic abuse can be left reeling as they are thrown back into self-doubt and the temptation to reengage in the cycle with their narcissistic partners.
This is due to what Dr. Patrick Carnes calls “trauma bonding,” the intense bonds we formed with our toxic partner in an attempt to survive our abusive experiences. Hoovering has the ability to trigger the trauma bond and unhealed wounds, bringing them to the surface and compelling us to go back to the source of the trauma as a form of comfort or survival.
You see, when this kind of thing happens and our narcissist comes back around claiming to have changed, we are at risk of giving in because of the things noted by Psych Central above. We are in some way addicted to the narcissist who hurt us even though we would prefer not to admit it. Being aware of the abuse you faced and staying grounded in reality is important when narcissists come trying to find a way to sneak into the backdoor of your life.
Survivors of narcissistic abuse should not be fooled by the hoover maneuver. Such an action is not a sign that the abusive person loves the survivor or that he/she can change and suddenly develop reciprocity, authentically own responsibility for mistakes, and consistently show emotional maturity. The analogy of a vampire sinking fangs into the jugular vein works here. The abusive person may home in on the target’s vulnerabilities (wanting to be accepted, loved, attractive, etc.) and try to hook that person back into another abuse cycle, solely for the benefit of soothing the abusive person’s ego—no more, no less.
It’s advisable for a survivor to continue with no contact and block the abusive person from email, text, phone, and any other form of communication. In most circumstances, assuming the survivor does not reengage, eventually the “hoovering” will stop. However, if the abusive person harasses or stalks the target, the survivor may want to consider seeking legal action and/or getting the police involved, including but not limited to filing a restraining/protective order.
Awareness of the emotional abuse tactics deployed by a person with narcissism, and going no-contact, is the beginning of empowerment and healing for survivors of narcissistic abuse.
Whether he tries to create drama, asks to be friends, or even works to use your caring side against you refusing to allow him a place in your life is crucial for your own wellbeing. You do not have to justify yourself to this person and you damn sure never have to explain why you’re refusing to give them the time of day. Keep your contact with them to a minimum or cut it completely if possible. Regardless of the tactics, he uses to try and win you back over or rope you back in you must remain strong.
For more information on hoovering please check out the video below. While it might seem like letting him back in is the right thing to do, it isn’t. While you can forgive him you should never forget the things he has done to you, you deserve better.