Hoovering is one of many tactics used by individuals with a personality disorder (narcissism, borderline, histrionic, antisocial).
Jane sat on her sister’s bed, crying. She hadn’t stopped crying since she arrived last night.
“What is wrong?” her sister had asked alarmed.
“It’s Mike,” Jane said. “We had a fight, again. Last week I had told him if things didn’t change, I was leaving. He said he loved me and insisted things would get better. And they did, they really did.”
Jane was led into her sister’s house, still crying and relating what had happened.
“Then, yesterday, I caught him again texting that slut at work.”
“Oh my,” her sister had said.
“I confronted him and he insisted it wasn’t what I thought. But it was the third time! The third time!” She wailed, fresh tears streaming from her face.
“So why did you believe him this time?”
“I didn’t, but he said he loved me and if I left him he would kill himself. What could I do?”
“Oh, sweetie,” her sister said, unsure what to do.
At that moment, Jane’s phone buzzed. She looked down at it in alarm.
“It’s him,” she said, defeat evident in her voice.
“Don’t answer it,” her sister said, reaching for the phone. She picked it up, viewed the text and dropped the phone. “Oh my,” she exclaimed, her hand drifting to her mouth.
Jane grabbed the phone. On the text was a picture of a wrist, blood dripping down the fingers.
What is Hoovering
Hoovering is the act of sucking (like a hoover vacuum) someone back into a relationship. When a personality disordered person gets left, they don’t react well. Actually, they react extremely poorly, surprise, surprise. They want to win, they want to be in control. They WILL NOT be the one that gets dumped. What to do?
That’s where they hoover ya’. They start manipulating you, pushing all the buttons they know will control you, and suck you right back into the relationship. Why? Because you’ve been trained to react to their methods. The methods are usually subtle and designed to make you think things will get better or it’s your fault and you should give them one more chance.
Examples of Hoovering Techniques
- text messaging that seems nice, but are just designed to make you question why you left
- asking if you want to go to something they would never have agreed to before
- they will make up illnesses, theirs or another family member, to make you feel bad about not being there
- if nothing else works, they may start to make false accusations, to get you to have some response that they can then use and make you feel worse
- you may also start getting all the attention you always wanted, they remember things they never remembered before
How to Handle It
The response that is wanted by the personality disordered is basically anything. They want you to react and give them control again. When you do, that’s it, you’ve lost, they’ve won, and that’s what makes them happy. They have control and you are back in their life.
The best tactic and strategy for you is to avoid contact and don’t fall into their trap. They may sound like they are making an effort and wanting to do the right thing. That’s what you always wanted and here they are doing it. Well, at least doing it now. Just wait. When they get you back under their control, it will change and go back to how things were before. Everything that they did that made you want to leave will start up again. Except they will make you feel like it was all your fault. Again.
If you avoid any contact, guess what? It will drive them crazy and all of their hoover techniques won’t work. Take a step back (metaphorically), and look at what they are saying. You will start seeing the pattern of what they are saying keeps changing but is all designed to make you feel like you were the one that was wrong. Think it through, think of why would they be trying to contact you and say what you want to hear?
So what do you get after all of this? You get a better outlook and you don’t feel like you are crazy. You aren’t stressed any longer. At some point, they will stop. It will be rough on you and may take some real willpower. You will definitely need some support and help with this. Before you respond to any communications, stop and get someone else to help you fashion a response. Maybe it won’t be any response. The point is, you can’t be the one to decide. You need someone that is separated from the emotions. At least until you can get to a spot mentally that you can handle keeping that distance and not getting sucked back in.