Sanctuary for the Abused

Friday, September 26, 2014

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 ( 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.

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shared by Barbara at 12:34 AM



Married for 25 years and sep/divorced for nearly 4. We both live alone. I retired first(67) and he is currently retiring (65) and is going to go round Australia.We have had such a rocky relationship - long story - but we hv been seeing a therapist because I asked him to because of his cycle of abuse toward me which has made me ill ovr 15 years. 25 years was a big chunk of our lives to throw away and of course believe it or not, we both still love each other. I am still doubtful whether his behaviour was his nature or from many prescription drugs, smoking and drinking because of a spinal injury he sustained. I feel lately that I am being hoovered back into the relationship, his undying love for me, his phoning me daily, buying me little things and looking after me in little ways (which of course I appreciate - it's those 'buttons' being pushed! he has asked me to go round OZ with him and I am holding back because of the fear, at my age, of being trapped somewhere and unable to get away should his behaviour return. I have said I would go with him on some trips and meet him somewhere for a few weeks sometimes, and see how it goes, so we would both be getting what we both want, which is being together sometimes because we love each other, giving the relationship a chance and with an escape route,travelling which we both enjoy and of course we should have an agreement before we go (as per your site). He has already said he doesn't want any 'rules and regulations', I just said 'an agreement', so there's that 'it's all about me' already. There's lots to say here but I'm sure there are many abused partners out there who would much rather make it work, than be alone in their latter years. I can't talk for the abuser's view of it all - I supose it would be all about him and not about me. Any comments or help I would like to hear.

12:56 AM  

The primary drive for a ’hoover’ is the fear of abandonment.

Is the concept of "hoovering" just Internet lore? It's not mentioned in any mental health study. Most likely what is happening is relationship recycling by both parties - breaking up, getting back, breaking up, getting back.

Recycling is about both parties. The real dynamic is that both parties return to a place they feel is safer/easier than being apart. So, in effect, the couple struggles to work together and each struggles in weakness to be apart or alone.

Excessive relationship recycling, or break-up/make-ups are common in some “BPD” relationships. 23% of members having unsuccessful relationships report having had an unbelievable 10 or more break-up/make-ups.

Why do we get caught up in cycles?

Are we returning to this person because we are in love with them and the relationship has a chance, or are we returning to this person because they feel safe?

* Are we afraid to be alone?

* Do we have our own abandonment issues?

* Are we fearful that we cannot find someone as good as them again?

* Are we fearful of the next step (dating, financial issues, etc.)

Why do our "BPD" partners recycle?

It is hard for us to understand why our partner is expressing an interest after they left in a torrent of bad behavior, but the answer is much of the same reasons as we have... plus a few others that are related to the disorder.

* Inability to deal with acute loneliness

* Severe insecurity / needing validation (from someone that highly values them)

* Shame / wanting to prove they are a good person (to us or themselves)

* Immaturity/Manipulation/Control - the break-up was just a way to get their way.

Is He/She Sincere or is this just More Toxic Recycling?

11:26 AM  

Excellent article, sums it up exactly! I was victim of this maneuver and fell for it ONCE...that was enough, I am done and have moved on, licking my wounds, in therapy, and slowly getting better. They are master deceivers!

2:39 PM  

Over and over again! When you realize he is lying finally, you end it all! Discussions and therapy do not work. Time to leave!

2:40 PM  

I can identify with this so much. I have been in an on/off relationship for 11 years now. He has left so many times now I have lost count.

He nearly always finds someone else very quickly, within weeks, or he has someone before he leaves.

This time he has been gone for 5 months, I'v filed for divorce and trying to get on with my life.

I know there must be something wrong with me for keep taking him back, I no longer wish to try to work him out, done this for years, I have to work on myself and my issues.

I always feel alone and empty after a while and as soon as that latest woman has got fed up with him he is back onto me.

I need to be strong enough to be able to resist this.
Any advice please?

2:12 AM  


just 2 pieces of advice:

1 therapy now

2 ABSOLUTE No Contact

good luck.

11:12 PM  

Ya know I'm a guy who loves his wife and would anything for her! I have been trated like shyt for 4 years,being harped on, ignored, , she don't cook, clean, or help with any of the bills I could'nt take anymore and kicked out now lives with her mother. And she just filed for divorce. I tried everything with her nothing works.So why does a man have to be @ blame for this ?

3:32 PM  

1. what does your 'love' entail?

2. if you'd read other articles here you'd see that abuse can be from males AND females. Abuse never discriminates.

11:46 PM  

I am a male and I'm being Hoovered by my girl. She is controlling me financially. She pays all the bills and won't except money for them from me. Treats me like crap and when threatened with an end to the relationship she pretends to be loving but returns to self immediately. She knows I can't survive financially alone and I feel she knows that no one else will put up with her when they got to know her so she hangs in to this Dummy. When I have money saved she always wants to go on a date to the casino. Lol Just to lose all or most of my money. I go cause its a date hoping it brings us close and hoping it was a loving gesture on her part. I'm stupid Huh? Don't bother I know the answer.

9:27 AM  

Why can't you survive financially on your own? Consider getting financially independent, so you can get free.

4:43 PM  

Recycled seven times in seven years by my BPDex. It was because I loved her...a lot. We shared many nuances of neurotic personality (unless she mirrored).

Within the relationship's last months, she was being cold again and I gave her several warnings. She ignored them and behaved like a child.

Well, guess what? This time, I left. No goodbye, no hate, no explanation. During the last rage, I told her that I loved her a lot - completely calm and lovingly. (I used to rage back). She ignored it.

Two months later, she notices I'm not around anymore. I receive a text. I do not respond.

Two months after that, she sends another: "Your phone must be broken". NO RESPONSE.

For anyone reading this, understand that I still love this woman - more than I have all the women I've encountered. But when you look at it objectively, what choice is there? I loved her for yeaaaaaaars, and she played hot/cold games. Banged other guys, ignored me, got engaged, broke it off, stalked me, etc.

In the last rage, she shouted: "Look, I never think of you! I'm indifferent to you. We're not close. You're just some guy". All lies. Now she wants to f-ing talk? - after the seventh time?

Everyday you're gonna fight your love for that BPD. But it goes on forever if you don't walk.

3:25 PM  

I feel trapped in a situation with a narcissist/sociopath. I have taken a job with him as I pretty much isolated myself and because of the depression caused by the crazy making relationship, I burned many bridges and only have him as a future reference for my career. I don't know what to do to get out of this mess. Every day he hurts me with so many mind games. I totally know what he is and told him at one point hoping he would get help, but all that happened was things got worse for me. I want my life back but don't know how to get it back. I feel hopeless most of the time now. I wish I had never met him.

2:49 PM  

I've experienced over two months of 'hoovering' from my narcissistic ex live-in of 3 years. The contacts have taken the form of calls, texts, emails, etc but lately they are dwindling. At first there were several a day - some nasty, some apologetic and some seemingly mundane, as though the break up had never even happened. I have responded to absolutely nothing except for a few administrative questions regarding our split. NONE of my replies have been anything but brief info needed for lawyers, house sale, etc.

I relocated 1000 miles away and in nearly all respects I have moved on with my life. MY PROBLEM: I still seem to crave these hoovering contacts. Whether good or bad, I feel like he's thinking about me when he sends them, and that makes me feel powerful. If more than a few days go by without contact, I start wondering if he has another woman in his life or even if he's actually tiring of thinking of me and has moved on, something I just don't want him to do.

I have no interest in rekindling a relationship with this emotional vampire and the few times I've fantasized about it, I realize I wouldn't last a day knowing what I now know about him. So why do I still want to be hoovered?

12:49 AM  

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