‘Hoovering’ Is Emotional Blackmail That Makes Gaslighting Look Like Child’s Play

You and your fiancé just got in the car after a (again) disastrous night out with friends. As always, he'd had one too many and made a fool of himself (and you on his behalf). From his sexual innuendos to your BFF's low-cut dress to all that your mom is a "piece of work," one thing is clear: you deserve better. So you finally say it, "I can't do this anymore." First, your fiancé apologizes. He admits he's crossed the line and asks for a second chance. "I promise next time will be different - just let me prove it to you," he sniffles. So you decide to give him a second (or fifth...) chance. But then, three weeks later, you're in the same situation: you want out of the relationship and you don't know how to go. That, friends, is an example of "vacuuming."
In fact, vacuuming is an emotional form of manipulation that "sucks" someone back into a relationship. Additionally, it's a behavior that's specific to narcissistic personalities (as if dealing with a narcissist wasn't hard enough). So we asked the experts to help break down vacuuming - from signs to look out for and exactly how it differs from gas lighting - as well as advice on how to move on from there.
What is vacuum cleaning?
Hoovering is a behavioral term used to describe a narcissist (or someone with narcissistic tendencies) who uses emotional manipulation to lure their partner back into a toxic relationship. "The term comes from the concept of a Hoover vacuum, [where a narcissist] 'sucks in' their former partner's happiness to get them to come back to them," says Dr. Elizabeth Fedrick, a licensed psychologist who specializes in relationships and trauma, tells us. Usually this behavior follows a breakup. One partner tries to pull out of the relationship while the other does everything in their power to regain control.
Why would anyone Hoover?
The short answer? Control. "The vacuuming behavior is designed to bring their former partner back in so they can feel a sense of control and a boosted ego again," says Dr. fedrick. In theory, vacuuming is a last-ditch effort for someone - with a warped worldview, we might add - to take back control. In reality, it is a masked manipulation tactic that, if successful, leaves the other person feeling trapped, confused, and unable to see the situation clearly.
What types of people are characteristic of Hoover?
While anyone can technically engage in hoovering behavior, says Dr. Fedrick that it's more specific to narcissistic relationships in general. “What is important here is that there is a very large number of individuals who display narcissistic tendencies, even though they do not fully fall within the diagnostic category of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). So while it is correct to say that "anyone can vacuum," generally it is individuals with multiple narcissistic tendencies who are most likely to exhibit this type of dysfunctional behavior."
What does vacuuming look like when it happens?
Case Kenny, relationship expert and host of the New Mindset Who Dis podcast, tells us, "Someone who knows their partner is trying to leave (and knows how to manipulate them) will pull whatever is on their hearts from their toolbox of his partner.” On the one hand, this may involve elaborate gift-giving or love bombing, where the person makes promises that are too big to be true in order to distract from the reality of the relationship. On the other hand, Hoovering can manifest itself in psychological forms of blackmail that sow doubt and insecurity. "When you're married or you've been together a long time, the longevity of your relationship is going to be thrown around a lot. Also, when kids are involved, there's another level of guilt associated with 'family breakup' that someone can throw at you," Kenny adds.
10 signs of vacuuming
according to dr Fedrick, here are ten specific signs to look out for when it comes to vacuuming.
1. Sending love texts after a breakup
Receiving text messages saying things like "Thinking of you" or "I miss you."
2. Coming up with random reasons to see you
Contact for random reasons e.g. B. because you need help with something or "remember" that you left something at home.
3. Threatening you with self-harm
Threaten to self-harm if they can't see you or talk to you.
4. Bombarding you with over-the-top gestures
Excessive compliments or praise, lavish gifts, or other unnecessary surprises.
5. Apologize long overdue
Apologize for past abusive behavior and promise to be different and make changes.
6. Make empty promises
Make promises that they have attempted self-improvement and are a "different" person.
7. Offer to "keep things casual"
Act like nothing happened and try to get back involved in a casual way.
8. Trying to reach you through your friends or family
When friends or family members contact you on their behalf. This is a great way not only to mess up the situation, but also to portray you as "the bad guy" to the people you care about the most.
9. Contacting you on holidays or special occasions
Use special occasions (e.g. Christmas, New Year's Eve, birthdays, etc.) as a reason to text or call you.
10. "Accidentally" contacts you to start a conversation
Sending "accidental" calls or texts to trick you into trying to answer or reciprocate.
What should someone do when sucked?
according to dr Fedrick says, "Awareness is key when it comes to preventing or stopping the cycles of a toxic relationship." It's a bit like AA: The first step to healing is realizing — and admitting — that there's a problem in the relationship. adds Kenny. "I know - especially as we get older - we have a real aversion to starting over and being single. But when you look at the bigger picture, your biggest regret is that you stuck it out in a relationship that doesn't serve you." It's okay to ask, or even demand, that she stop contacting you. And, most importantly, seek help from a professional psychologist to learn more about how to cope with and safely break up with this toxic relationship.
RELATED: What Does Gaslighting Actually Look Like in Relationships?

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