Trying to break free from someone who won’t let you go?
Wanting to end a relationship with someone who keeps trying suck you back in with manipulations?
You’re being hoovered!
Some toxic people will let you leave a relationship without caring one bit. They never really cared about you, and if you don’t want to be used and abused anymore, they’re simply on to the next person before you can say, “Bye!”
The toxic hooverer doesn’t truly care about you either — they just want to keep you around to feed on emotionally, and when you decide to go no contact, they don’t plan on letting you get away that easily.
Many hooverers have traits of borderline, narcissistic, antisocial or histrionic personality disorders. You can click the green & purple buttons to the lower right to find out if that may describe the person hoovering you. People with Dependent Personality Disorder may also hoover.
Hoovering is manipulation to gain control over your choice to distance yourself, and typically takes the following forms:
- Ignoring your requests to break off the relationship and attempting to continue on as if nothing has changed.
- Asking you when you’re going to “get over it” and return to your past actions.
- Sending you a fake apology to give you hope that things have changed.
- Trying to trick you into contact by saying someone needs you, is sick, or in trouble.
- Triangulating with others, communicating things to you through them.
- Saying they’re worried about you, concerned about whether you’re okay, need to know where you are, etc.
- Sending unwanted cards, messages and gifts, sometimes gifts for your children, as they know you are likely to feel guilty about keeping a gift from your kids. Don’t allow this – exposing your children to manipulation is far worse!
- Returning old items you left behind.
- Baiting you with drama games.
- Contacting you about “important” things they “forgot” and suddenly have to tell you.
Don’t Fall for Hoovering Tactics
Attempts to pull you back into a toxic relationship are not valid expressions of caring and concern — they are attempts to regain control over your behavior. Beware — hoovering attempts are often disguised as caring, loneliness, hurt, desperation, fear, illness, and other things designed to play on your sympathies and pull you back. Abusers know that pulling on heartstrings works very well. (In the case of BPD, it may be simply out-of-control emotions and fear of abandonment more than an attempt to control you per se; however you will likely still feel that you are not being allowed to end a relationship you no longer want).
If your wish to end a relationship is not being honored, whatever a toxic person thinks will work best on you will be what they try, so when one angle doesn’t work, they will try another, and another, ramping up their efforts until it seems they might never stop. Typically, hoovering DOES stop if the person being hoovered does not fall for the hooverer’s tricks.
The sooner the person being hoovered completely ignores everything and does not respond to anything at all in any way, the sooner the toxic person finally understands that they do not have the control. Some toxic people may still make the occasional attempt on holidays, anniversaries of events, etc. Don’t bite the bait. Simply ignore any attempts.
If you have already made it clear that you do not want a relationship (or if it’s obvious) then DON’T ever contact the person doing the hoovering to tell them to stop again, or how angry you are. That is a reward. They will be thrilled to receive your attention and pleased to know that their efforts have paid off by snagging you, so they’ll be contacting you even more!
If you have told someone you do not want contact, and they continue to bother you, the police can assist you. If you ever feel that someone you are trying to break off a relationship with may be capable of more than simply annoying you mildly, contact your local police for assistance. They are well-accustomed to dealing with skillful manipulators and have many smart ways of handling them, so do not hesitate to ask for help. (And remember, you have nothing to be ashamed about; you’re not the one behaving badly, and the police are there to protect you from abuse.) For more information, visit the Light’s House Harassment Page.