Hoovering? Isn’t that a vacuum cleaner?
I’m not gonna lie, that’s the first thing I thought of when I heard the term hoovering.
But as I dug deeper, I found out that it’s something I experienced over and over again.
Hoovering is what your abuser will do after you leave the relationship to try to get you back. I didn’t realize the importance of realizing this until a year into my recovery journey.
In today’s post I’m not just going to tell you what it is, but I’m also going to share how to protect yourself from it.
What is hoovering?
As defined by PsychologyToday, hoovering is “where the abusive narcissist tries to seduce and convince the victim to return to the abusive relationship from which she had previously escaped.”
What this means is that once you’re out, the abuser will try to pull you back in.
I’ve experienced this on more than one occasion. The time I remember most clearly is when I was 17 and I finally left. Not an hour later my phone was blowing up with “I’m sorry” and “You deserve better” and “I promise I’ll do better.”
While skeptical, I gave him another chance. He went to the gym with me, took me out to dinner and a movie, he said a lot of nice things that made me feel good.
And once he had me back under his thumb, the tables turned and he ended up cheating.
All he wanted was to be the one in power, the one to get the last word.
If you’ve left an abusive relationship only to be pulled back in, you were hoovered.
Why does it work?
When you’re hoovered, they don’t use things like “hey, get over it, I hit you. Oh well. Come back for more.” They say things that they know you want to hear in order to pull you back in.
They tend to shift from the gaslighting blatant manipulation to a fantasy.
“You’re right, you deserve better. I’m sorry.”
“I love you too much to lose you, I promise I’ll get better.”
“I finally called a therapist! You wanted me to work on myself and I am. I’m doing this for you.”
“I have a dinner reservation this weekend at your favorite restaurant. Will you at least come to dinner with me?”
They play into the fact that they hurt you. Because they’re aware that they hurt you.
By acknowledging that they’re the problem, it gives you a glimmer of hope. That glimmer of hope is all they need to pull you back in.
They do this when you’re the weakest because they know how hard it was for you to leave and you’re mentally exhausted. They’re going to prey on your weaknesses.
How do you fight it?
In order to fight hoovering, the most important part is to recognize that they know what they’re doing.
“But Karleigh – what if he’s actually changing? What if he’s different?”
There are two parts to this answer: one, they’re relying on you to feel that way. They’re going to tell you how special and beautiful and amazing you are because they know that’s what you want to hear. But the fact remains that unless there is consistent work happening, he’s not changing and he’s not different.
Two, if he’s actually sincere, then honey he has to prove it. One therapy session, one dinner, or even a month of wonderful behavior means that he’s changed.
If he actually recognizes that he screwed up, it’s up to him to take a step back and say “I love you enough to know that I need to work on myself before I try to win you back.”
He’ll take time to work on himself, to attend therapy (a lot of therapy), to show that he’s changed before he tries to convince you of it.
If he’s truly different, that’s what will happen. If he’s not doing that, then you’re being hoovered.
The absolute best way to fight hoovering is to go no contact.
Yes, no contact. At all. Under ANY circumstances.
Block him on all social media, block the phone number (it’s very easy today), and get a support system set up right away.
Have someone on call to text when you want to unblock the number. Have someone be willing to come pick you up when you’re feeling the need to go back to him.
And as soon as you can, get help. Go to a licensed therapist and begin to heal. It’s never too soon to get help. It’s not a weakness. It’s the greatest form of strength.
Co-parenting situations are harder, trust me, I know. If this is the case, block him on all social media and on everything except for one form of contact. And when you do speak to him, it’s only about the kids. Never share details about your life. Don’t give in when he says he misses you. Be as absolutely dry as possible.
“But Karleigh, I don’t want to hurt his feelings.”
Girl, why did you leave? Do you think he cared about your feelings when he was abusing you? Now is not the time to worry about anyone’s feelings but yours.
The concept of hoovering is sick at best and detrimental at the worst. If you’ve been sucked into it in the past, know that you’re not alone. It’s happened to me and women all over the world. You’re never as alone as you feel. If you suspect that this is happening right now, my biggest suggestion is to get your support group and go no contact right this second.
No explanation, no “last chance to let them talk it out”, just block everything.
You need to make yourself inaccessible. You need to put your safety first.
I know it’s easier said than done. But you’ve got to do the hard thing in order to heal. You’ve got this, boo. I believe in you.
One of the first things the abuser will do is tear down your confidence in who you are because they can manipulate you and get away with the abuse. That’s why I created my free Confidence Course. This is a five day crash course in confidence with me as your confidence coach. I break down the exact framework I give my clients so they can build confidence and finally live the life of freedom they deserve.
This class is totally free, no strings attached. Click here to grab your course!