Sanctuary for the Abused
Thursday, August 22, 2013
The Hoover Maneuver
How to Recognize it and Move Forward
The Hoover maneuver is named after the famous vacuum cleaner. In the language of our community, it describes behavior common among [abusers] and those who have borderline traits. It occurs most often when a victim threatens to leave, or actually leaves, a relationship. The intent of the hoover is to get the victim back into the relationship. This behavior has its roots in the intense fear of being alone or being abandoned that is often at the very core of the abuser's sense of self.
It can also occur when the abuser has left the relationship, and is feeling frightened and alone. Since abusers know which ’buttons or triggers’ to push in their partners, and since victim’s are such dedicated and compassionate people, it is far too often successful.
Those with the disorder use all kings of behaviors to ’suck you back into’ the relationship. This can include through kindness, guilt, apologies, tears, threats of suicide, protestations of eternal love, the list is endless. For instance: "I’ve NEVER loved anyone the way I love you. No one has ever been as good to me as you are." etc. (Remember, the abuser knows all your vulnerabilities, and knows how to use them for their purposes and to meet their needs, not yours. It is always about them, and never about you. Except when it’s ’your fault’.)
The primary drive for a ’hoover’ is the fear of abandonment. It is driven by the abuser’s fear of abandonment, of being alone. See the abandonment/engulfment cycle for more on abandonment. Since the abuser lacks a sense of self and takes that sense of who they are from the person they are with at that moment, they fear being alone almost more than death itself.
During a typical hoovering your abuser reverts to the way they were when you were courting. They may act in loving kind ways, swear he/she will get help, says, promises, vows, that s/he won’t do a particular abusive behavior again, will really change this time, will stop drinking, or using drugs or raging or whatever you are confronting them about.
When the victim believes the hoover and re-enters the relationship, this is referred to as having "been hoovered" . It is important to note that the promises of change won’t last. Often there is an immediate escalation in the raging, splitting, black and white thinking. The longer the relationship continues, the shorter will be the ’honeymoon’ of promised change. And of the most dangerous times for a victim is after a hoover has been successful, the relationship has resumed, and the next rage occurs. It is VERY common for physical violence to begin, or to escalate. No matter what your personal situation, please make a safety plan. IF you are in danger, leave. Go to a shelter, or a friends house. Stay safe.
Now, getting ’sucked back’ into a relationship that you once decided to leave, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
When it happens often enough, without any real change, it helps you to make a lasting decision that leaving is the right thing to do. IT may encourage you to seek counseling and therapy. You may feel "stupid" later, but it isn’t necessarily stupid. It’s just part of what you have to do to make sure you are ready to do what you have to do to recover.
Before seeking counseling and therapy, and beginning the long road to recovery, many victims have reported a feeling that ’they’re under the power’ of the abuser... that they have little choice in going back to the relationship. This may be supported by the financial situation of the victim, or threats that the abuser person with the disorder has made. This is also common.
You realize that you are healing when you recognize what’s going on and begin to make an informed decision based on what is truly best for you and your children, rather than the guilt, shame, blame, fear of being alone, or what ever ’hook’ the disordered person uses to pull you back into the relationship with the abuser.
In the final analysis, you make your own doghouse . If you are comfortable in the doghouse, or if the attempted abandonment actually produces better behavior from your significant other, then you may end up feeling better about it all.
All this being said, unless the abuser in your life is getting serious therapy, you can depend on the fact that someday, and probably far too soon, the borderline behaviors WILL repeat. Eventually, you may begin to recognize the hoover in process. This is a close encounter of the hoovering kind.
People do not spontaneously recover from abusive personality disorders simply because they are threatened with abandonment or because the victim goes or stays.
Once you begin to understand abusiveness and how it affects the one you care about, you can use the hoovering episode to create opportunities for healthier boundaries.
For example, you might say, "We can get back together for six months and see if we can make it work. I will only consider this if we agree to enter into a written legal signed agreement regarding joint and individual therapy, care of the children, custody issues, money, or whatever, before doing so. Otherwise, please start packing and get out in 24 hours."
This type of countermove may introduce healthier and more effective boundaries for you or your children.
Disclaimer: The information on the site (http://www.bpd411.org) is based on personal experiences of the authors and members of our e-mail mailing list. It is NOT meant to replace professional advice or take the place of counseling, therapy or additional personal research.