Hoovering and the Narcissistic Victim

March 24, 2020

As I previously wrote in my article, Domestic Abuse and the Narcissist, I spent twenty-one years as a police officer and SVU detective.  Most of my time was spent at the street level, answering calls for service which included far too many domestic disputes.

Too many times I would answer a domestic violence call, call paramedics for treatment for the female (victims in domestic disputes are typically female) and, because of the assault, arrest the male, only to be called back to the same residence in a couple of days, a week, or a couple of months later on the same call.

Another domestic dispute with injuries.  I would often ask the victim, “Why did you come back” and would receive a plethora of excuses, “He said he would not do it again,” “He told me he loved me,” “He said he needed me,” “He is a good provider,” none of which, at that time due to my not understanding, made any sense to me.

Why did these victims, most often women, go back into the abusive relationship?  Why did they put themselves in harm’s way and into a very volatile and dangerous situation?  I now know that the reason for a lot of these returns was due to narcissistic relationships where the narcissist would use something called hoovering.

More specifically, hoovering can be defined, in terms of a current or prior toxic narcissistic relationship, where the abusive narcissist tries to seduce and convince the victim to return to the abusive relationship from which she had previously escaped.

The term hoovering derives from the vacuum cleaner corporation, Hoover®, and invokes the company’s vacuum cleaners’s process of sucking things in, just as the narcissistic abuser sucks the victim back into the psychologically and, oftentimes, physically abusive relationship.

During the process, the narcissist abuser may employ virtually any means necessary to obtain their desired result: the return of the victim to the abusive relationship.  These ploys can include attempting to put the victim on a guilt-trip, generating false promises of changed behavior, false promises of too-good-to-be-true gifts, begging, screaming at the victim, use of relationship shame, making threats, insincerely accepting blame for the failure of the relationship, or even using others (flying monkeys) to help persuade the victim to return to the relationship.

Basically, the abusive narcissist is on a no-holds-barred campaign to convince the victim to return to the abuse and their abusive clutches.

Unfortunately, these abusive narcissists succeed in their efforts.  That was evidenced to me at the street level as a police officer when I would be called back to the scene of a domestic dispute or domestic violence call where I had been previously.

How does this happen?  Why would someone knowingly go back into an abusive relationship?

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