Borderline Personality Disorder,  Manipulation

Hoovering or Relationship Recycling?

“Hoovering” is a misleading slang term that some use to suggest that a relationship partner can “suck us back into a relationship” after we break it off

Bon: Skip, over at, wrote this article about Hoovering. I find it interesting and I go a bit of a chuckle out of the sentence: “Hope is not enough (on both sides).”

BPD News: Is it a “Hoover” or is it “Relationship Recycling”

The support group reports that “hoovering” is a misleading slang term that some use to suggest that a relationship partner can “suck us back into a relationship” after we break it off. “Hoovering” in this context falsely implies a premeditated malicious effort to hurt their partner on the part of the person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It also suggests that the partner is somewhat powerless to resist returning to the relationship.

This concept is in conflict with the primary characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder – most notably that people with the disorder are notoriously impulsive, weak and often too consumed in their own pain to be sensitive to others. This concept also suggests that someone has power over another that they could not possibly have.

Most likely what is happening is relationship recycling by both parties – breaking up, getting back, breaking up, getting back.

Relationship Recycling Takes Two

Excessive relationship recycling, or break-up/make-ups are common in some “BPD” relationships. 70% of our members having unsuccessful relationships report having had 4 or more break-up/make-ups. 23% report an unbelievable 10 or more.

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.

Living with excessive recycling is an unhealthy place to be. When you repeatedly recycle, clearly something is very wrong.

Recycling can become the “norm” in a relationship. with both parties can becoming conditioned to it after a while. Accepting this “norm” is the ultimate boundary violation – you are not treating each other well – you are not treating yourself well.

If you have been through more than 3 break-up/make-ups in your relationship, it’s important to recognize that it is unlikely to get better if something doesn’t significantly change. Repeated recycling will not go away on its own. One person can’t fix it unilaterally (stop the breakups).

Is Recycling Always Unhealthy?

Not always. Let’s break this down. Sixty-two (62%) of relationships do not end at the first break-up. For a wife to have second thoughts about a divorce is normal. Sometimes our own self doubt makes us want to try one more time. Sometimes one partner promises to change something. To reconnect with a person after a break-up 1-2 times is really not all that unusual.

When there are more than 3-4 “break-up/make-up” cycles in a relationship there is something seriously wrong. And when this happens, the likelihood of a positive outcome are greatly diminished.

Why do we get caught up in cycles?

These are the questions we need to answer if we ever want the break-up/make-up cycle to end. 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 (e.g., cheating, raging and telling us that we are a horrible people). “If they don’t love me, why this?” 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.

If You Want to Stay in the Relationship

The ability to end break-up/make-up cycles and stay in a relationship takes a deep commitment by both partners. This often means structured rehabilitation (counseling, workshops, classes, self-help programs, etc.).

If you are both open to restarting the relationship, remember the problem isn’t going to go away without work. Hope is not enough (on both sides).

You may believe that your partner has changed, will change, is sincere this time, will get into treatment if only you come back. They may believe that the you changed. But unless there is specific work on a serious level going on – don’t count on it.

If You Want to Exit in Relationship

The power to end the relationship and end the toxic break-up/make-up cycles lies with you… not your partner. Don’t avocate your responsibility here. It may be comforting to blame our partner – but it is simply denial on our part. This is a common problem in the last stage of BPD relationships. You need to step up and deal with it – as hard as it is. And, it is hard. Just look at these numbers of break-up/make-up cycles in a recent poll.

Number of break-up/make-up cycles
12.8% had 1-2 recycles before it ended (not unheathy)
14.9% had 3-5 recycles before it ended (unhealthy)
38.3% had 6 – 10 recycles before it ended (very unhealthy)
8.5% had 10 or more recycles before it ended (wow)
23.4% still haven’t broken up (still recycling)

If you are truly finished with the relationship, if you have expressed this to the ex and he/she continues to contact you, it is best to go to reduce your frequency, timing, and the personal nature of your communications (controlled contact) – possibly all the way to ending it (no contact). If you stop engaging the other person will usually move on. It’s not more complex than this.

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

Many of us spend much time trying to figure out if the attempted “re-engagement” is sincere by the other party.

To understand this, it’s important to understand the emotional make-up of someone with BPD. They are not crazy/insane – their behaviors are often predictable – especially if we understand the disorder and their history with us. So it is reasonable to accept that the person with BPD is sincere in wanting to reconnect. It is important to consider, however, that pwBPD can be highly impulsive and those impulses can change quickly. So sincerity is not the issue. The issue is whether the person with BPD (as well as you) can follow through with the commitment.

It’s also important to look at ourselves and question whether we are doing the same thing; often we are.

Author: Skip

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