Hayley left Joe six months ago. For the first time since she met him, she was finally free. Free of his criticism, free of his control, free of his cheating and free of his lies. She hadn’t met anyone new, but she was loving her freedom. She rarely thought of Joe and had zero interest in seeing him again—until she got the text.
He’d broken both legs in a car accident and he sounded pitiful. He really needed her. She rolled her eyes and went to the hospital just to be kind. After all their time together she figured she at least owed him that much.
When Hayley saw Joe lying in the bed with both legs in traction and acting like an innocent boy, she felt sorry for him. He kept saying he’d never loved anyone but Hayley and he was so sorry for cheating on her and now that he was a changed man, he’d never lie to her again. She began to believe he really cared about her and she was back wearing his ring before the week was out. Hayley didn’t realize it yet, but she’d been hoovered.
Hoovering is named after the Hoover vacuum cleaner because it’s how a Narcissist sucks their victims back into their web. It usually happens after a prolonged period of silence and distance which could either be imposed by an angry narc or a smart survivor who chose to separate from the Narcissist.
Hoovering might seem like a miracle where the Narcissist has a born again experience, but it’s really just another cycle in the Narcissistic Circus where the narc sucks you back in with gaslighting and other techniques so they can further use and abuse you.
The techniques of Hoovering can vary with each person, but they basically boil down to whatever the narcissist thinks their victim wants to hear. The lies the narc tells while Hoovering often sound like crazy coincidences. It’s just happens that woman was at the same restaurant or someone else put those pictures on his phone or someone from work asked him to communicate to her as a go-between.
The lies are obvious, but what’s really bizarre is the victim believes the lies. Most adults would never believe such lies if they came from their child, but they suck it up when it comes out of the mouth of the narcissist. The adult who believes such nonsense is usually the woman who desperately wants to believe such lies.
Basically Hoovering starts with victim-like drama to attract sympathy and reign the target back into the web. Narc’s are very good at playing the victim so the real victim feels sorry for them and tries to make them happy again. Second, hoovering includes repairing the broken relationship with lies. Healthy people repair broken relationships with truth, but in order for a narcissist to claim turning a new leaf, he has to lie to convince the victim he’s changed.
In Hayley’s case, Joe first reeled her in with his injuries, gained sympathy by playing the victim, then claimed it was a life changing event. If Hayley had listened carefully, she might have noticed Joe was still making excuses for his bad behavior in the past by blatantly lying. Hayley fell for Joe’s hoovering because he said exactly what she had wanted him to say for years. She’d once prayed he’d say these things, so hearing her hopes coming out of Joe’s mouth sounded like a dream come true.
Hoovering sucks, but what really sucks is the way Hayley felt after she got hoovered. She gave up her freedom because it was back to pleasing Joe with her money and time instead of doing what was best for her. She lost her self-confidence because Joe continued to undermine it with his criticism. And she even began to doubt her own judgment because Joe tried to convince her she’d made a mistake by leaving him. Hayley actually began to wonder if he was right.
A few weeks after Hayley got back together with Joe, they went through a fast food drive-thru while she was driving Joe’s car. When she asked for her purse, the purse Joe handed her was not Hayley’s. She took a deep breath and slowly opened it to look at the driver’s license. Just a little mistake on Joe’s part, but now Hayley knew the truth. Such knowledge could not be undone. Hayley learned the hard way that hoovering sucks, but in the future no amount of promises about a new life or lessons learned or excuses for a man’s cheating behavior will ever suck her in again.
If you forget everything else about hoovering, just remember it sucks up your self-worth, your self-confidence and makes you question your own sanity. Don’t be a sucker.