Narcissist hoovering describes when a narcissist makes contact after a breakup or an absence. Narcissists contact you, even though the relationship has ended. Make no mistake, this contact doesn’t necessarily mean you’re important to them. In fact, hoovering shows a lack of respect.

When a narcissist hoovers you, it’s because they think you’re an easy target. They believe they can manipulate you and use you again. It’s not because they love you and want you back. A narcissist hoovers to maintain control and power, or because their current supply of attention has ended.

“The best karma a narcissist can receive is actually the weight of your indifference and success after you leave them.” Shahida Arabi

So, how can you spot narcissistic hoovering?

18 Signs of Narcissist Hoovering

1. They reconnect after a long time

The best example of narcissist hoovering is unexpected contact after a period of absence or silent treatment. Out of nowhere, you get a text or call from your ex-partner. It can seem innocuous enough. An innocent text or voicemail asking how you are, what are the kids doing, etc., as if nothing has happened.

This is the narcissist testing your reaction. Will you take the bait and reply? If this doesn’t work, they may have to resort to more serious tactics.

2. They tell you they have changed/had therapy/worked on their issues

Did you experience gaslighting or other manipulative behavior during your relationship? Narcissists use this to manipulate you back into the relationship. They’ll insist and promise they’ve worked on their issues and there’s no reason you guys can’t try again.

Of course, they haven’t. They don’t think they have any issues.

3. They’ll apologize and ask for forgiveness

One common tactic narcissists use when hoovering is the insincere apology. They are so sorry for their actions. They take complete responsibility for how things ended.

This is a joke. Narcissists don’t take responsibility for anything they’ve done wrong. Everyone else is to blame.

4. You are the only one they’ll ever love

Narcissists use love bombing at the start of a relationship to lure you in. But they also use it when the relationship is over to entice you back. They’ll make sweeping declarations of undying love, promising you the earth and more to get you to return to them.

5. The narcissist wants your approval of their new partner

If the narcissist doesn’t get his or her own way, they up the ante to force your attention.

Several forums for narcissist survivors describe the same story. Their ex-partner has moved on with a new partner, however, they ask you to approve of their choice. It’s a seemingly civilized and mature gesture, but it’s designed to upset or provoke jealousy on your part.

6. Using other people to get to you

You may have the courage to block or ignore a narcissist hoovering, but this doesn’t mean they’ll stop. A narcissist will sidestep you and head for your family and friends.

They’ll play the victim to your parents or tell your friends how much they love you and want you back. They will even use your children to get to you.

7. They use fake reasons to contact you

If random texts such as ‘How are you?’ or ‘I was thinking about you’ don’t work, the narcissist will use phony reasons to contact you. They might be random questions like ‘What’s that word you always use for beautiful countryside?’ or ‘There’s a film on Netflix I know you’ll love.

Remember, this isn’t about you, it’s about them reestablishing contact to manipulate you again.

8. The narcissist pretends nothing has happened

You know the relationship is over; you’ve said so several times. As far as you’re concerned, you’ve moved on. Then your ex-partner shows up at your house or workplace out of the blue as if nothing is wrong. They act as if you’re still friends. This is another gaslighting trick.

9. They become clingy

narcissist hoovering

When a narcissist realizes you are going to end the relationship, they become desperate to hang onto you. As soon as they think their supply is over, they sense this and become clingy and needy. These are desperate attempts to pull you back in.

10. They guilt-trip you

Some narcissist hoovering involves exploiting your weaknesses. If you have a caring nature, the narcissist will use this to keep you in the relationship. They will make themselves the victim and put the responsibility of their care into your hands.

11. They threaten to self-harm or commit suicide

One of the biggest signs of narcissistic hoovering is threats of self-harm. How can you not respond to a text or call from an ex, telling you they’re going to kill themselves? Well, you don’t have to respond to them. Instead, call emergency services if you think they might be in danger.

12. They contact you with nostalgic memories

A narcissist will pull on your heartstrings any way they can to get you back. They may post pictures on your social media of special places you visited together. Or they might re-post a memory with a caption of their sadness at the breakup.

13. They create drama to get your attention

If suicide or self-harm threats don’t work, there are other ways of creating drama to get your attention. If you have children together, they’ll be late or a no-show at pickup time. They fake serious illnesses such as cancer to make you contact them. They post hospital pictures online or leave cryptic messages like,

I can’t go on like this anymore.

14. They make up outrageous allegations about you

A guaranteed way of forcing your response is to make up something so outlandish about you, you must respond. Lies such as ‘I know you slept with my father’ or ‘Why did you steal money from my cousin?’ force you into a corner where you must defend yourself.

15. They use your fear of abandonment

When we invest time and effort into a relationship, it is difficult to let it go. However, if you have abandonment issues from childhood, it is even harder.

Any good manipulator will sense this about you. That’s why many of us stay in abusive relationships, because being alone is worse. The narcissist will play to your fears, telling you they want to look after and protect you. It’s all nonsense of course. They don’t give a toss about you.

16. ‘Why can’t we just be friends?’

It seems innocent enough. Let’s break up on good terms and remain friends. In any other ‘normal’ relationship, I would say this is a civilized way of dealing with ex-partners. But not with a narcissist.

This is an insidious form of narcissist hoovering. They want something from you. You are still useful to them, whether it’s money, accommodation, attention or whatever they need from you.

17. They spread fake gossip about you

If someone started a vicious rumor about you that wasn’t true, you’d confront them, right? And that’s exactly what your narcissist ex is hoping for. They just need an ‘in’. They don’t care whether it’s a negative way in or a positive one.

18. The narcissist contacts you on special anniversaries

The narcissist can use special dates or events as an excuse to contact you. It’s a perfect form of narcissist hoovering and can work well if you don’t understand the manipulation behind it. The following messages help wheedle their way back into your life:

  • ‘Good luck with your exam today.’

  • ‘Happy Birthday for tomorrow. I wanted to be the first to message you.’

  • ‘Thinking of you on the day of your dad’s funeral.’

So, those are the signs, but why do narcissists hoover?

Why Do Narcissists Hoover?

need constant reassurance in a relationship

Narcissists hoover because they need constant validation. Inside, they are vacuums, lacking emotion, compassion, personality and empathy. The narcissist relies on others to exist. They need an audience, a supply of attention. It threatens a narcissist when their supply ends.

They resort to any measure necessary to claw back that supply. Narcissists often keep many sources of supply on the go at any one time. It’s a little like how a hyena will stash several carcasses so they can return at their leisure and pick at the meat.

What Narcissistic Hoovering Really Is

Narcissist hoovering is not love. When an ex-narcissist makes contact, they are telling you their current supply isn’t working out and they need you to fill that void. They want their ego stroked and they reckon you’re pretty easy pickings, so they’ve opted for you.

It’s not a compliment, it’s them showing how little they think of you.

How to Stop a Hoovering Narcissist

The only way to stop a hoovering narcissist is to go no contact. Block them, don’t react to anything, ignore their messages/threats/cries for help. Don’t give them any attention and you’ll stop feeding their supply. Think of them as an addict and you are the drug.

“It is the narcissist’s ability to affect you that gives them power over you.”

Final Thoughts

Narcissist hoovering comes in different forms, but it has the same purpose; to reestablish contact. The narcissist wants something from you. Going no contact is how you can stop them repeatedly manipulating you.


  3. Featured image by on Freepik

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. JulieA

    Thank you Janey. Helpful information.

    1. Janey Davies, B.A. (Hons)

      Thanks so much Julie. I really appreciate your comments.

    2. Janey Davies, B.A. (Hons)

      Thanks Julie. Much appreciated.

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