One simple way that a Narcissist hoovers you back into the relationship

29 Mar 2022

One simple way that a Narcissist hoovers you back into the relationship

Have you ever been hoovered back into a relationship with a Narcissist when you knew the relationship needed to end? If so, you probably woke up a few hours, days, or possibly weeks later and asked yourself, “What was I thinking?”

How did you let yourself get dragged back into something that you knew was damaging for you?

This week, a client of mind found herself in exactly that kind of situation – fortunately, it did not turn out badly for her. In fact, she took from it some powerful learnings that will help her avoid similar ambushes going forward. Those learnings were eye-opening for her.

I believe, they could prove really helpful for you, too.

The desire to keep things pleasant

The scenario went like this. My client has a young child who was spending the day with her father. He noticed that my client had a rather nice new car outside the front door. He admired it and asked if she would take him for a spin in it. She agreed.

On balance, it seemed to make sense to keep things between as pleasant as possible – even though she knows him to be a far from pleasant individual.

He was duly complimentary about it and their conversation was relatively harmonious. As she handed over the child to him, he mentioned that he was going to a theme park that afternoon with their child and his child from a previous relationship. He invited her to join them.

It seemed, at the time, like a good move to be there for her child. She might even have a good day. So, she said “Yes”.

They arranged to go to the theme park in his car.

Unfortunately, what could have been a pleasant enough family day didn’t quite work out as planned. The theme park was hot and crowded.   My client’s ex disappeared with his older child onto the rides for bigger children. That left her and her daughter with the thrilling choice of either joining the long queues for the few rides for younger children or sitting around and waiting.

The plan

When she called her ex – after a fair bit of waiting around in the crowds and the sun – he explained that the plan was for them all to go back to his house for dinner. Plus, since her child was staying the night, it would make sense for her to do so, also. Needless to say, he hadn’t mentioned this little plan until then.

To say that the words “stay the night” jolted my client back into wakefulness is an understatement.

First off, she went into the conditioned response of feeling disappointed in herself. She had “let herself down”. But then, being a smart woman, she started asking herself,

“How did that happen?”

How did that happen? It happened because the Narcissist had carefully lulled her into a curious acquiescence. While she knows perfectly well that her ex is a nasty, deceitful person, his relative pleasantness had managed to propel her quite a long way down the road into re-engaging with him.

Had the theme park been less hot and less crowded, she and her child might have been able to have the nice time that he was betting on. In that case, she probably would have had dinner at his house, at any rate.

Looking at me, in despair, my client asked:

In reality, “What was I thinking” was not the best question.

What happens to stop you thinking clearly?

A more helpful question might have been what had happened that stopped her thinking clearly. She is a smart woman, significantly smarter than her ex. So, how had he manoeuvred her into this potentially vulnerable state?

The answer is with some very simple and low effort hoovering.

First off, he put out a very low risk feeler: would she take him for a quick spin in her car? If she had refused, he could have saved face quite easily. He would have lost very little.

But she said yes.

That gave him the opportunity to violate her space, by sitting next to her in the car. It also gave him the opportunity to use that time to admire the car and, generally, present himself as pleasant and, quite possibly, changed for the better.

Small incremental risks

He used the feel-good moment to present her with a bigger ask: would she come to the theme park with him, her child, and his child?

Once again, he wasn’t taking too big a risk. It made a certain sense for her to want to be around her own child at the theme park. Plus, he could use the time and place to build a sense of connection and enjoyment.

Unfortunately, the way the scenario played out in the theme park showed how little he tried and cared.

Had it gone differently, who knows? The Third Yes – for her to stay for dinner – might have just fallen into place for him. In that case  – if he had played his cards right – he would have been well placed to get The Fourth Yes.

Was this all a calculation on his part?

Narcissists are very calculating

You might as well believe that it was. Narcissists do calculate most things. Not always as well as they might but they do calculate.

This 3 Yeses thing, in case you haven’t come across it, is straight out of the Salesperson’s playbook. If you want to sell something to somebody, the theory goes, you need to build up to it. You need to get 3 yeses.

I first became very aware of this some years ago, around the time my narcissistic husband and I went on holiday to Istanbul. Like every good tourist, we had to go to the Grand Bazaar. Like every other tourist, we were invited to step inside the different shops. Agreeing was the first yes.

Then, we were offered the inevitable glass of apple tea. (The husband kept saying “Yes” while I hissed “No”.)

We ended up having the hot tea which dictated that we would be in the shop for a good 10-15 minutes. During that time, the shopkeeper would find out exactly what we were interested in and have a good shot at selling us that or something else.

The power of obligation

That cup of tea, costing pennies if that, that we hadn’t asked for and didn’t particularly want, created a sense of obligation.  Between the subtle sense of obligation and the Two Yeses we had already given, the shopkeeper now had us in a slightly altered and susceptible state.  That made it much easier for him to get what he really wanted – The Third Yes. That Third Yes turns the tourist into a buyer. That Third Yes, took money out of our pockets and into his.

I already knew about The Three Yeses which was why I was intent on refusing the tea. (However, as usual, the then husband wasn’t listening. So we, too, left the Grand Bazaar with a few purchases we might not otherwise have made.)

Obviously, the Three Yeses doesn’t just occur in The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It can be a powerful part of any negotiation or sales conversation.

Narcissists tend to know these things almost instinctively.

Most of us empaths do not.

Beware of the small “Yes”

So, you need to bear in mind that when a Narcissist reappears on a hoovering mission, they will likely start by testing the water: they will only ask you for a small easy “Yes”.

Previously, you might have thought that one small “Yes” was no big deal. Now, I hope you will see that, with a Narcissist – or a salesperson – one small “Yes” can be the start of a slippery slope. Especially if you are unaware of it.

With a Narcissist, the truth is always that you only have to give them the proverbial inch and before you know it, they will have taken a mile, your good feelings and whatever else they can take from you.

The price of freedom from a Narcissist really is eternal vigilance. Anything that they can possibly get from you – including one small “Yes” – can and will be used against you.

You don’t owe a Narcissist even one “Yes”.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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