The Narcissist's Hoover Maneuver

Narcissists cannot be alone. Narcissists need people more than anyone. They have very specific reasons for being in relationships, but they are not built on the universal need we all have, which is to love.

Narcissists do not enter or stay in relationships for love. Their motives are quite different. They become involved in relationships in order to ensure their needs are met and someone is always present to provide them with the attention and adoration they require in order to feel alive.

It is important to understand when ending a relationship with a Narcissist, he will inevitably come back to you looking for validation. Whether you end the relationship or he does, you will most likely hear from your Narcissist again. It may take a day, a month or years, but be prepared for his return.

The only time a Narcissist finally leaves you alone is when he knows you have seen right through him and have exposed him for who he really is. If this has not happened yet and he believes he still has some kind of hold on you, he will return to you.

Narcissists feed off of attention. Adoration from others is what fuels them. It is like a drug to them and they are addicted to it. If a Narcissist can't get supply from anyone else, he will come back to us looking for it. They have no shame. Therefore, we must be prepared that at any moment, our Ex Narcissist will re-enter our life to try to win us back. When he does, he will employ a tactic known as the Hoover Maneuver.

According to the on-line Urban Dictionary, the definition of Hoovering is:

“Being manipulated back into a relationship with threats of suicide, self-harm, or threats of false criminal accusations. Relationship manipulation often associated with individuals suffering from personality disorders like Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”

It is important to be mindful of this tactic so you can recognize it and not get sucked-in. The term Hoovering gets its name from the Hoover vacuum. The Narcissist uses all kinds of manipulative behavior to suck you back in to the relationship. He may threaten suicide saying that he can’t live without you. He purposefully plays on your good-naturedness to get you to feel sorry for him.

During this stage, the Narcissist reverts back to the courting behavior he exhibited in the beginning of your relationship in order to win you back. He acts loving, compassionate and supportive. He promises you everything you ever wanted and more. He acknowledges the error of his ways and promises to change.

Narcissists are very charming so the initial Hoovering stage is often quite successful. They are great actors. Not to mention, the Narcissist knows you well enough to know which buttons to push to get you to succumb to him.

Please know that the minute you take him back, he will revert to his old behavior. He is only coming back to you because he is incapable of being alone. He needs someone in his life to validate him at all times.

Anyone who has taken a Narcissist back can attest to the fact that he quickly reverts to his old behavior once he has you back under his control. I encourage anyone looking for proof of this to visit our on-line forum at There is not one story of someone taking a Narcissist back who changed for the better.

Every time you take a Narcissist back, you only end up hurting yourself and prolonging your pain. Narcissists are incapable of change. No Contact is the only way to go when breaking free.

Dec 14 - 7PM
Alexy's picture

Perfect timing for me to read

Dec 12 - 6PM
ATM No More
ATM No More's picture

Red Flag I missed.

Dec 9 - 12AM
ipodrunner's picture

Oh my they try everything to get you back

Sep 9 - 1PM
Jannie In the Sun
Jannie In the Sun's picture

No Hamster Wheel in Hell for me Please!

I second that last paragraph! Thank God It only happened once and that was enough for me. Definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. (Especially with Narcissists) What I have learned: I NOW know that it is up to ME to decide how people will and will not treat me. Furthermore I have had to raised my standards - I don't need a man to validate me or run my life for me or make me look good, nor will I tolerate emotional and passive aggressive abuse. Do I really want a life with a selfish, self centered and promiscuous person who constantly betrays and hurts others? Hell no! Do I really think I can't do any better than a user who sleeps around, triangulates, gaslights, stonewalls, makes excuses and disappoints others? Hell no! Lastly, what kind of example am I setting for my daughter and other women when I keep going back to a liar and abuser? I don't want anyone to go through what I did. Ghandi said it best: You must be the change you wish to see in the world. I am trying my best! Hugs and Happiness to All
Sep 9 - 2PM (Reply to #37)
StudentOfLife's picture


I love your post, couldn't have said it better! :0)
Aug 1 - 6AM
christy_rn's picture

Sums up everything!

This is exactly what happened to me. We were in the most amazing relationship over for a little over a year! But then of course, you know how it goes. After about a year of waiting for him to change back I realized it wasnt going to happen and I also found out he cheated on me. So I broke up with him. So for 4 months straight he texted called emailed and showed up to tell me in tears how empty his life was without me... he would go on and on and I started seeing the person I fell in love with! Well we lived in different towns, about 1.5 hrs away because I had to move for a job, so he ended up moving in with me. It didnt take longer than a couple weeks for things to start going down the drain again. I stuck with it 8 months this time and they were the worst 8 months of my life. The second time around was actually a million times worse than the first. When I kicked him out this time he tried to do the same thing saying he wants me to be the mother of his children and we should go to counseling. I said NO! He called and texted for about a week, but while he was telling me how much he missed me, I saw on facebook that he was going out meeting girls everynight!! So the next time he texted me that he missed me, I messaged him back to leave me alone. When I came home from work he was waiting in front of my apartment. He did his whole crying routine, but this time I didnt shed a tear! I said something like this, "You can leave here knowing you said every great wonderful thing you could have said, but your words have no meaning to me anymore. I listened to you go on and on about how great things will be with us, but all they are are words with NO actions backing them up. A good person is considered good because of the things that they do... not the things they say, and you havent done one good thing for me. So I know the real you now and the real you is a peice of s**t person." well now hes not trying to talk to me anymore, I did run into him one night and he was just plain mean and did end up sending me a bunch of angry messages. But my advice is NEVER go back, they will never get better, they will just worse if anything
Jul 27 - 7AM
Mag's picture


Clover---I so agree with your comment--the mask comes off faster when victims/survivors make them realize you're on to their games!!!!...LOL!!!!
May 12 - 5AM
StudentOfLife's picture

Wondering, is there an

Wondering, is there an average or usual amount of time the hoovering usually lasts before the mask starts to come off again? It's been about a month and a half for me and I've only seen glimpses of the evil twin during this time --- altho it seems he has started to feel more comfortable again, that i've been reeled back in -- because a lot of the old behavior is beginning to emerge a little bit more...
Jul 27 - 5AM (Reply to #33)
clover's picture

how much time before the mask comes off again

There were three iterations with my Narc and each time he hoovered me back in the mask came off quicker. The first time we were together for five months before he left ABRUPTLY with no warning and would not take my calls at all. He basically killed me off. That was devastating, but very common N behavior. I didn't know that then, but do now. We were apart for five months. Then he came back and cried, said he was sorry, couldn't be without me....hoovered. After that, the mask came off in a matter of a month. That was mostly because I questioned things more quickly and more aggressively. I was onto him a lot more than I Was the first time we were together. He left me again (the same way) Then he came back after three months and hoovered me...said he wanted to marry me..I was the only one for him...he didn't want to be alone without me...wanted to have a baby with me (LOL) I was hoovered again. That time it took about three weeks for the mask to come off. Again though, I questioned him on things and asserted my needs. The mask is going to come off a lot quicker when the partner/victim doesn't take the abuse. Just my experience.
May 30 - 8AM (Reply to #31)
StudentOfLife's picture

OK, so.... the time frame

OK, so.... the time frame seems to be (at least in this case) 2 months!! I was noticing a slowly increasing number of times the mask was coming down over the past couple months, tho working really hard to be on the best behavior, definetly experiencing the Narc dichotomy/dual personality stuff that eventually leads to the crazy-making!! However ...two nights ago it really came down. I had my weekly one evening without the kids (single mom). He works second shift and though he usually tries to downplay this, it bothers him very much that I have free time without him. He always tries to fill all of my free time. Well, Wednesday night i had a free night and decided to visit a dear (female) friend whom i have know for almost two decades, lives about 25 minutes from me. I did not report to him my whereabouts, and in the meantime he had tried to text me about 4x --- i did not receive these texts until later after returning home. The routine is he is off work at 10PM then home and calls me for "pillow talk" -- He finally called me at 10:30 and sounded VERY wound up, not tired at all, all the while, not directly asking me about where I'd been, just this time kept saying , "so it was your night without the little one.... " *pause*. I did tell him about my day, and then started telling him how productive my afternoon was, mentioning while having my oil changed i also paid my call phone bill. His reply "Hahaha! Well, keep doing that and you just might have good credit someday". Then proceeds to get into this long drawn out description of how HE handles HIS money, and why HE is so great at it, unsolicited now mind you. He proceeded to cut me down and degrade me and mock me for the rest of the conversation, and of course i found myself on edge. He definitely went into the "I'm so great and now i shall cut-you-down-to-nothing mode/persona of making fun of me and laughing like a hyena. I wonder how much of this jump from the nice Hoovering twin to the evil one has to do with the fact that i did what i wanted to do, something that was good for me rather than wait around for him. p.s. - can't believe i forgot the part where when he finished telling me how wonderful he is with his process for managing fiinances (for the zillionth time), that I said "Well it must be very nice to have everything in you life running like clockwork". He then jumped down my throat. Seriously. And when i asked him why he was offended he tried to put nice-guy face on and say he was "just kidding". (This is a 41-year-old).
May 30 - 8AM (Reply to #32)
StudentOfLife's picture

Anndddd...... now we're back

Anndddd...... now we're back in nice-guy mode! Super nice face on for my family this weekend. You know what tho -- ?? This Jekyll/Hyde transformation becomes creepier and creepier to behold. Every time. Especially when he's putting *nice* face on. It twists something in the pit of my stomach. *shutters*
May 10 - 12PM
Mag's picture

No Contact

Lisa, It is really hard to have "No Contact" with kids daughter is almost 7 years old and she adores her father...what do I do in this case?
Apr 24 - 7PM
Ladydb123's picture

What type of exposure?

Lisa, when you write about a narc leaving you alone do you mean exposing him by letting him know that you have got his number, words from me. Or exposing him to friends, family, and his peers? I understand that they can become very vengeful and vindictive. So for my safety sake I would like to receive an answer.
Apr 24 - 6PM
Jennifer mcBride
Jennifer mcBride's picture

Ex Narc I had KIDS With!

All of these comments and descriptions of narcs are right on!! I have a question, though. Both my significant other and I are divorced from narcissists. Mine uses the "we need to meet and constantly talk on the phone so we can be great coparents together" tactic to bully me into agreeing with his every decision (or he becomes an anger-spewing asshole). My SO's ex-wife demands complete, 100% compliance with her every whim or denies him his parenting time with his son (please don't tell us to call the police -- they won't do anything and told us so). No Contact can't work with us because of the kids... What can we do instead? This week, my ex -- "I AM willing to coparent with you for the sake of our children. Aren't you? Meet with me this weekend." I cancelled our meeting and got, "We definitely need to meet next weekend." He's since asked me four times to pick a time/place for next weekend's meeting and I haven't. My SO's ex -- "If you make your son go to a family outing with the rest of the kids, an outing he doesn't want to go to because he'll be bored, he's not coming to see you." Between the two of our exes, this stuff happens nearly every week. Help!
Apr 30 - 3PM (Reply to #27)
findingmeagain's picture

they love to use the kids

I'm sorta in the same situation except there is no SO yet in my life . But my ex N would use those kids everytime if I was you remain NC. Let the court handle this and get a third party involved if possible. Thats what I'm gonna do. Dragging my kids thru this crosses the line imo . And he uses those kids everytime to bait me in and tell me he is sorry for how he left us high and dry only to D&D me days later for the married woman.
Apr 17 - 8PM
rainbeau's picture

mine isn't smart enough to know how to act charming...

"During this stage, the Narcissist reverts back to the courting behavior he exhibited in the beginning of your relationship in order to win you back. He acts loving, compassionate and supportive. He promises you everything you ever wanted and more. He acknowledges the error of his ways and promises to change." My narc isn't even able to do this. He won't admit there is a problem or if there is one, it's mine, not his....etc. He raged at me for months, then told me to move out. At first, he accused me of planning to move out for months, because if I hadn't, then, why would I leave just because he told me he was done with me and I should? He accused me of having an affair with his slightly retarded quadriplegic friend who I care take. (omg! super disgusting idea) He insisted on moving my stuff out (with me in charge) immediately "to get it over with". I suggested we wait a few days. I fully expected him to wake up to how toxic his anger is and apologize. Instead, he raged at me for "cherry picking reality". Out of all our moments together, why do I have to focus on that? The next week, he decided that I was insensitive and clueless for not seeing that he was only speaking out of anger and pain when he said I wasn't his girlfriend and should leave. A few weeks later, he NEVER threw me out....because I decided not to come back. That makes it even or his mind. Last I heard, I was the girl who couldn't accept the love of his family. I have NEVER seen the patient, kind wonderful man I knew for 13 years before dating him. I think he might be in the early stages of dementia. His father had it at a young age. This guy can't remember anything. Could it be? He is 54.
Apr 17 - 9PM (Reply to #25)
rainbeau's picture


It makes it so easy. If I miss the illusion that I thought he was, all I have to do is talk to him and the pain stops. He is such a pompous, egotistical jerk.
Apr 16 - 12PM
Sandy_64's picture

"No Contact With Neighbor"

I am attempting no contact. Long story, bad ending. He lives about 150 feet away from me, and we were very "close", well, I thought we were, lol. What to do? I haven't the means to move for another year or so, God help me.
Apr 13 - 6AM
Luci's picture

wish I knew this a year ago

we separated a year ago and he rang and said he wanted to come back he missed the animals and hadn't had anything to eat for 3 days. Of course I was stupid and sent him money to come back. Now a year later its over again and he knows it. He gave me flowers a few days ago and today wanted me to take $50 from him to buy easter eggs for my family. I declined and said I already bought them. I am trying to ignore him but it is very hard.
Apr 10 - 5PM
hooklineandsinker's picture

Hmm. Mine never tired of

Hmm. Mine never tired of saying "When I'm done with something/someone, I'm done with them". It's been over a year, and he hasn't shown any signs of coming back. Part of me really wants him to come back and grovel, so that I can tell him to go f**k himself. Sadly, I suspect I'll never have that chance.
May 3 - 8PM (Reply to #21)
eyeswideopen35's picture

Wow mine always said that....

May 3 - 8PM (Reply to #20)
eyeswideopen35's picture

Wow mine always said that....

Apr 10 - 4AM
Angel's picture

It's all my story

Wow! I read each comment and they all could have come from me. The good news, I believe, is that once you know that they are N's, everything becomes completely predictable. You can find safetly in that. My ex's entire family is the same. I recently went to a function that he and his brother were at. I told my friends, that his brother would find some way to be cruel to me and he did. The fact that I could predict it actually made me laugh. They really are caricatures, aren't they? Card board cutouts. I had it all, from the inappropriate 'friendships' with other women (and gay men!), to the mocking and raging during arguments, the 'you don't respect me blah blah' and on and on. I was lucky that my freak out, and thus, the end of the supply for him, had him break up with me. For anyone still with an N and waiting to get out, I would suggest that you find a therapist with experience regarding the effects of narcissism and start right away. In my opinion, the only reason that you are staying is because he has manipulated your sefl respect right out of you. On the other hand, he hasn't broken you yet, so you're still there, providing the necessary supply. A good therapist will enable you to begin building self worth again. And one familiar with Narcissism will help you to find your way out of the confusion caused by the ups and downs. Good Luck x
May 10 - 12PM (Reply to #18)
Mag's picture

it's all my story

I absolutely agree to finding a good therapist was able to help me get out of my unhealthy took 4 years, but I did I'm in the stage where I'm trying to make sense of it all...and of course, he's still trying to get me back, we have a daughter together...which makes it absolutely difficult to get him completely out of my life....
Apr 9 - 3PM
prettypeeved's picture

Am I spotting a shortcut

Am I spotting a shortcut here? Can you inform them that you see right through them and bypass all the hoovering attempts?
Apr 10 - 5PM (Reply to #14)
Lisa E. Scott
Lisa E. Scott's picture

Simple Shortcut?

Prettypeeved - Yes! It is that simple. The minute they know you see right through them and their mask has been lifted, they are done with you. Loveofmylife explains it perfectly: "It wasn't fun for him anymore if I wasn't worshipping the ground he walked on and had the slightest little doubt about him. He needed me to be in love with him unconditionally and believe that he was absolutely perfect. When I stopped drinking the koolaid, I no longer fulfilled his need and I was be-headed and tossed into the closet with all of the other old Barbies."
Jan 1 - 12PM (Reply to #16)
Jonr84's picture


Apr 30 - 3PM (Reply to #15)
findingmeagain's picture

I guess mines likes a

I guess mines likes a challenge now that I think of it yeah he does. Because I told him I know what he is and told him that he was a N. And he listened to every word I said and yeah he tried to down me told me I wasn't good in bed smh lol. I just kept right on with my reverse treatment. Everytime he said something I used the narcspeak terminology on him. He then got mad and got off the phone after he couldn't take it anymore. My son's b-day was that Sunday NC was still in effect. Then two days later the exact same day (tuesday) that I had previously told him off just the next week . He shows up at my door hoovering and crap talking about suicide. I fell for it and he stayed for ten days only to D&D me again for this married woman. smh I'll know the next time not to open the door at all.
Apr 9 - 10PM (Reply to #13)
loveofmylife's picture


That happened with me. As soon as I made it clear that he was causing me massive confusion from his mixed messages, that he was abusive, and that I had massive cognitive dissonance because I had no idea what he meant by anything... he pulled away. It wasn't fun for him anymore if I wasn't worshipping the ground he walked on and had the slightest little doubt about him. He needed me to be in love with him unconditionally and believe that he was absolutely perfect. When I stopped drinking the koolaid, I no longer fulfilled his need and I was be-headed and tossed into the closet with all of the other old Barbies.
Apr 8 - 5AM
StudentOfLife's picture

Thank yo so much for posting this, Lisa!

It is really synchronous with what's been going on in my life lately, and i needed to hear it. My N and I had a (very odd) mutual breakup a few weeks ago, and eventually we finally started communicating again. There was no closure, and i was hoping for at least that, but it's lead to other things. One of them being, he is absolutely in his "nice twin" persona, that same wonderful person i met two years ago. It is odd to behold. It makes me doubt myself. Although sometimes after all i have been through with him, I watch him in this nice guy act, thinking "what a great actor!" (as he has proclaimed himself to be on occasion) -- and then i realize i am actually feeling a little bit angered by this act.