Why Narcissists and Abusers Won't Let Go and What You Can Do (2023)

Breakups with narcissists don’t always end the relationship. Many won’t let you go, even when they are the ones who left the relationship, and even when they’re with a new partner. They won’t accept “no.” They hoover in an attempt to rekindle the relationship or stay friends after a breakup or divorce. A research study showed that narcissists and psychopaths tend to stay friends with their ex for selfish reasons. They try to stay in your life or seduce and convince you to return.

The term for this behavior is hoovering, derived from the famous Hoover vacuum, because when you’re finally free of the abusive relationship, they can suck you back in. But be prepared for a bait-and-switch maneuver. Being expert manipulators, narcissists know your vulnerabilities and may appeal to your emotions with cries for help, romantic gestures, messages, cards, or gifts on significant dates or anniversaries. They attempt to seduce you with financial support, feigned compassion, pleading, jealousy, sex, loving words, or promises to reform—virtually whatever it takes to win you. They may send veiled messages via social media posts, arrange “fortuitous” encounters at your local haunts, or employ “flying monkeys”—friends and family—to do bidding on their behalf. When that doesn’t work, they use threats, guilt, and shame to wear you down.

If you still love or have affection for your ex and are hopeful the relationship could improve, you’re vulnerable to being sucked back in. Victims of violence return frequently, only to be abused again. Don’t be fooled. If you remain strong, they may show their true colors and go on the attack.

Why Narcissists Hoover

Narcissists who are motivated by power are game players, and this is just another power-play. Thus, hoovering is entirely predictable, because to narcissists relationships are transactional. They lack empathy and the ability to see you as a separate human being. Rather than wanting a relationship for sentimental reasons, they’re out for themselves, looking for access to resources, such as sex, money, information, status, or love. Their impetus is pragmatic and their own dependency.

They need their “narcissistic supply.” Their fragile ego needs constant reassurance and attention to avoid feeling their inner emptiness—like a vampire that sucks its victims’ blood, and they need many. Male narcissists in particular may flit from one woman to another for validation and/or sex.

Additionally, if it wasn’t their decision to leave, they cannot tolerate rejection. Due to their underlying shame and insecurity, they find it humiliating. Rather than accept you “quit,” they go on the offense and “fire” you. Similarly, they often spread lies assassinating your character and turning family and friends against you to elevate themselves in others’ eyes.

Once they’re left, in order to regain their self-esteem and power, they may attempt to win you back. Just knowing you think about them or will talk to them soothes their wounded ego. If you go back, as soon as they feel secure, they’ll put you down or breakup to reverse the narrative.

What to Do

Hoovering can be very damaging. Narcissists confuse you with lies and distortions to gaslight you for their own ends. It perpetuates the abuse that you’ve endured. Because of the prior relationship dynamic, you may easily be persuaded by false promises, gestures, fear, or threats if you don’t go along, or you may succumb to shame and blame because you’ve been made to feel so unworthy and lucky to have your ex back in your life. Your vulnerability is enhanced through trauma-bonding, which makes it very hard to leave an abuser.

  1. The best way to deal with hoovering is to ignore it. No contact both protects you and helps you recover from a breakup. That includes not looking at photos or social media accounts of your ex. A narcissist may escalate hoovering, then lose interest after a while, only to reappear a year or more later when they’re in need.
  2. If you have to communicate, for example, you have business matters or children in common, become a “gray rock.” This removes any incentive for a narcissist to pursue you romantically. Preferably, communicate only in writing. Stay on point, be brief and impersonal, and do not laugh or smile at their jokes or attempts to flirt and cajole you.
  3. Beware of idealizing your ex or romanticizing the relationship. Arm your psyche against falling for fake expressions of love, seduction, or lies about you and the relationship. Remember your unhappiness and any abuse you suffered. Resist any attempt to distort the past. Write a story about what really happened and why you were unhappy.
  4. It’s important to tease out truth from lies so that you learn to trust yourself again and not question your own perceptions.
  5. Get professional help to restore your self-trust and heal PTSD and wounds from the relationship and those triggered from your childhood.
  6. Write your feelings about the narcissist’s behavior and associate them with family members and memories from your past. If you can make a connection, then when you miss your ex, shift your mind to feelings from your childhood.

Remember that narcissism is a personality disorder. A narcissist will not change for you and certainly not without years of focused therapy. You need to put yourself first and raise your self-esteem.

Get the Breakup Recovery seminar and Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People if you’re still undecided or have to communicate with our ex.

© Darlene Lancer 2020.


What to do when a narcissist won't let go? ›

3 Strategies When a Narcissist Won't Let Go
  1. Don't Show Emotion. First and foremost, it's important to avoid any kind of emotional interaction with your ex. ...
  2. Change Your Communication Style. When dealing with a narcissist, it's best to disengage as soon as possible. ...
  3. Maintain Firm Boundaries.
Jun 9, 2021

Why do narcissists never let you go? ›

Their impetus is pragmatic and their own dependency. They need their “narcissistic supply.” Their fragile ego needs constant reassurance and attention to avoid feeling their inner emptiness—like a vampire that sucks its victims' blood, and they need many.

Why are narcissists so hard to let go? ›

Fear of being alone – Narcissists are skilled at destroying their partner's social circles and relationships with family members. The prospect of leaving may equate to a feeling of being truly alone; Fear of reprisals – The narcissist may have created a culture of fear and anxiety in their partner's life.

How do you outsmart an abusive narcissist? ›

How to Outsmart a Narcissist
  1. Separate yourself from the person.
  2. Take time to heal.
  3. Take responsibility for your part in a conflict.
  4. React with empathy and respect.
  5. Remain calm and unaffected.
  6. Disengage from their conversations.
  7. Set and enforce clear boundaries.
  8. Keep your intentions and goals to yourself.

How to be strong enough to leave a narcissist? ›

Here are five tips for breaking up with a narcissist:
  1. Make A List of Reasons You're Leaving the Relationship. Provide yourself with examples from the past. ...
  2. Have A Plan. ...
  3. Surround Yourself With Supportive People. ...
  4. Purge Any Reminders of the Relationship. ...
  5. Get Support From A Therapist.
Sep 5, 2023

Why won't a narcissist let me rest? ›

It's important to recognise sleep disruption — or deprivation — as part of the package of abuse. It was not just a random act, it was part of a contrived plan to manipulate and control your thoughts and emotions. If you're in this place now, reach out for help.

What do narcissist hate? ›

Narcissists have a fragile sense of self-esteem and are threatened by anything that challenges their beliefs about themselves. Criticism, rejection, empathy, and accountability are all things that narcissists hate and find difficult to tolerate.

Will a narcissist ever let you move on? ›

Breakups with narcissists don't always end the relationship. Many won't let you go, even when they are the ones who left the relationship, and even when they're with a new partner. They won't accept “no.” They hoover in an attempt to rekindle the relationship or stay friends after a breakup or divorce.

How does a narcissist react when you stop chasing them? ›

If you don't chase a narcissist, they might try different manipulative tactics to regain your attention, even if it may seem like they are over you. However, over time, they may lose interest and focus on new sources of narcissistic supply.

What are narcissists addicted to? ›

People with narcissistic personality disorders share similar traits with addicts, and both types of narcissistic personality disorder may lead to addiction. Many people with narcissism may also have an addiction to alcohol, sex, drugs, or social media.

How do you break a trauma bond with a narcissist? ›

How to break a trauma bond with a narcissist?
  1. Become aware of the trauma bond.
  2. Journal your thoughts & emotions.
  3. Observe the relationship from a different perspective.
  4. Go no contact with the narcissist.
  5. Practice self-love & self-care.
  6. Surround yourself with good friends & family.
  7. Educate yourself on trauma bonding.

How long does it take for a narcissist to let go? ›

According to Dr. Darlene Lancer, many narcissists can only sustain a relationship for six months to a few years (at the most). Keep in mind, though, we're talking about one four-stage cycle. Too often, a narcissist will initiate the cycle again, training their target to expect them to come back.

What words can destroy a narcissist? ›

The following are 16 key phrases to disarm a narcissist:
  • 1. “ ...
  • “I Can't Control How You Feel About Me” ...
  • “I Hear What You're Saying” ...
  • “I'm Sorry You Feel That Way” ...
  • “Everything Is Okay” ...
  • “We Both Have a Right to Our Own Opinions” ...
  • “I Can Accept How You Feel” ...
  • “I Don't Like How You're Speaking to Me so I Will not Engage”
Dec 28, 2021

What upsets a narcissist the most? ›

They Are Criticized. When a narcissist is criticized, their inflated sense of self is damaged. Any perceived negative feedback, even if offered in gentle or productive ways, can easily result in outbursts of narcissistic rage. A narcissist cannot tolerate threats to their massive egos and grandiose self-image.

What turns a narcissist off? ›

Avoid giving out loans or being excessively generous with people who take a heightened interest in your income – this means they're out to use you. You can make it clear you're independent without offering up your resources.

How do you get a narcissist to let you leave? ›

15 ways to get a narcissist to leave you alone
  1. 1) Ignore the narcissist. ...
  2. 2) Do not give the narcissist what they want. ...
  3. 3) Set boundaries with the narcissist. ...
  4. 4) Stand up to the narcissist. ...
  5. 5) Go no contact with the narcissist. ...
  6. 6) Talk to someone about what is going on. ...
  7. 7) Get support from friends and family.
Sep 20, 2022

Why the narcissist hates you and won't let you go? ›

The narcissist views you as a feebleunderling; one which provides them with wonderful supply. So, though they couldnt care less about you as a person, they dont want to give up the fringe benefits that go along with engaging in a relationship with youalbeit it a torturous one.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Maia Crooks Jr

Last Updated: 18/11/2023

Views: 6442

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (63 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Maia Crooks Jr

Birthday: 1997-09-21

Address: 93119 Joseph Street, Peggyfurt, NC 11582

Phone: +2983088926881

Job: Principal Design Liaison

Hobby: Web surfing, Skiing, role-playing games, Sketching, Polo, Sewing, Genealogy

Introduction: My name is Maia Crooks Jr, I am a homely, joyous, shiny, successful, hilarious, thoughtful, joyous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.