Empaths can experience relationships very deeply—which can make them even more challenging.
If you’re in an empath vs narcissist dynamic, the partnership may be a toxic dead-end. Even in a healthy relationship, empaths have some challenges to work through.
Here’s some important reminders for the empath and relationships.
Narcissist vs. Empath Dynamic
When it comes to the empath and relationships, one of the most common patterns involves narcissists.
What’s the difference between a narcissist vs. empath? Narcissists are thought to be the opposite of empaths. Empaths feel deeply and have a lot of empathy for others. Conversely, narcissists lack empathy and are focused on themselves. Narcissists can often fake their empathy or charm so they appear to be different people at first.
While the term “narcissist” is thrown around today, it’s a real psychological disorder. Narcissism can be looked at as a spectrum—some people rarely lack empathy meanwhile others always lack it. Those on the higher end of the narcissism spectrum may be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder. Other signs of the disorder include:
- A heightened sense of self-importance
- Has fantasies about how smart or brilliant they are
- Needs admiration
- Sense of entitlement
- Takes advantage of others
Whether romantic, friendships, family or co-workers, ask yourself if the list above seems relatable. Empaths may end up in relationships with people who are diagnosable narcissists or undiagnosable people who just rank high on the narcissism spectrum.
In any case, the empath and relationships they’re in often have contrasting traits. If you’re in an empath vs. narcissist situation, remember that you can break the bond. Don’t wait for the other person to draw boundaries or act better; it’s likely they won’t. Take control of what you can by learning about boundaries.
Empath and Relationships: Common Problems
The empath and relationships can have problems aside from the typical empath vs. narcissist drama.
Fear of Losing Independence
Empaths may fear losing their independence and alone time. Empaths are often introverts who need a great deal of alone time to relax and recover. The empath and relationships they’re in can also affect their mood. If you’re always with someone, you might worry that you’ll become overwhelmed by their energies. This is something the empath needs to work on: communicating their needs. A good partner will understand your need for space and alone time. And remember everyone’s needs are different. If you can, find a person who has a similar need for alone time.
Being Consumed by The Relationship
Empaths might also worry that their relationship will become all-consuming, taking over their life. This is a realistic concern considering how attentive empaths can be to another’s needs. It’s easier for us to bend for our partners or agree with their preferences. Remember not to lose yourself in any relationship. Assert yourself, your preferences and your needs. Take time to do things for yourself and that you enjoy outside of the relationship.
Empaths are often co-dependent. Since they’re naturally in touch with others, they’re natural co-dependents. Only when the empath does work on themselves will they free themselves of the negative aspects of co-dependency. When this happens, you’ll be able to feel to understand deeply without becoming attached to the emotions or controlling behavior.
Solving or Managing
Since empaths genuinely care, they might take too much ownership over another person’s life. This is also another trait of the co-dependent, as we discussed above. When you see a problem, you might try to solve it on the person’s behalf. Or you might try to manage their emotions or behavior. Ultimately, you’ll have to see that you have no control over another’s life. While you may help people, you can’t make them help themselves.
Empaths and relationships are often marked by poor boundaries. This often happens in the empath vs. narcissist dynamic. However, poor boundaries can affect any relationship. An empath might be afraid to stick up for themselves. Even if they have boundaries, they may not uphold them for a number of reasons. They may see a person’s good intentions, believe their words, or simply see the best in others. These are all beautiful traits. But over-empathizing them can make us excuse other’s bad behavior
Although sensitivity is a beautiful trait, it has a different set of challenges. One of those is how the empath and relationships deal with sensitivity. For example, an empath might not want to attend big, overwhelming parties. This could upset a partner who doesn’t mind loud places. Or, an empath might be hurt by sarcastic comments made by their partner. Empaths need to learn how to communicate their sensitivity’s needs and boundaries. What’s okay and what’s not okay in the relationship? They also need to find people who understand their sensitivity. Don’t spend too much time with people who make you feel bad about it.
8 Reminders: Empath and Relationships
Here are a few reminders for empaths and relationships.
Empaths transform pain into compassion. Narcissists transform pain into anger.
Remember this when you hate being an empath and wish you were heartless (you have these moments too right?). Remind yourself that you transform your pain into something beautiful that helps you understand yourself, those around you and the world at large. The narcissist you’re dealing with has managed to waste their time and do the exact opposite. They’ve spewed their pain onto the world. Empaths have done the hard and courageous thing. Keep going.
Find someone who honors your sensitivity—not just when it benefits them
How often have you met people that love your sensitivity but only when it benefits them? They love that you know their needs, are a good listener, remember special days and care in the smallest ways. But the moment your sensitivity gets in their way, they detest this trait. For example, your partner might love your intuitive attentiveness but hate that you ask them to refrain from certain hurtful jokes or comments. They might call you “too sensitive” on a regular basis. Choose people who respect your sensitivity.
Kind is Assertive, Truthful and Firm
Since empaths genuinely care about others, they often try to be the kindest they can. Although far from perfect, they think about their actions more than the average person. When they need to be assertive, they may feel they’re being unkind—especially if it causes a negative reaction. Remember that another’s negative reaction doesn’t always mean you’re being unkind. Someone may oppose your boundaries or be angry you’re not a doormat anymore. That has nothing to do with kindness.
You can care in THOUGHT but not in behaviour
If you love someone and it’s hard to let go, remember that you can create distance and still care. You can love someone in thought, but not follow it up with behavior. You can love a harmful parent, but not show up to family events where they berate you. You can care about an ex and never talk to them again.
The world needs more people who feel deeply, think deeply, love deeply.
Especially in an empath vs narcissist dynamic, you might begin to feel badly about your empath traits. Remember that everyone has challenges they need to work on. However, those also come with many blessings. The world needs more people like you.
Have a Strong Back, Soft Front, and Wild Heart – Brené Brown
Author and research Brené Brown has some good advice for everyone–especially empaths. Aim to have a soft front that helps you choose compassion and love over bitterness. Aim to have a strong back, which protects you when people inevitably pierce your soft front. Aim to have a wild heart so can love when it’s hard and have hope when it’s illogical. You can listen to Brené speak about the topic on her podcast.
Boundaries might look like loving people from afar
If you’re an empath, you might relate to loving someone even though they hurt you. While other people might hate the person and never think about them again, you might still have feelings. Know that your feelings of love aren’t a reason to return to the relationship. If someone treats you poorly and you still love them, that’s ok—just choose to love them from far. When someone repeatedly crosses a line you’ve communicated, it’s probably a sign you should love them from afar. Not everyone in your life is meant to be loved from close-up. You can love them even if they’re out of your life forever.
Empath Reminder: Stop feeling sorry for people who hurt you
Sure, people aren’t responsible for how we feel. However, people are responsible for their actions—which can influence how you feel. The fact they hurt you is their problem. You mind find excuses by reaching into their childhood or their most recent poor-me story. But don’t buy into it. If you feel sorry for someone who hurt you, you might not be able to help it. However, you can make the choice to still walk away or hold the person accountable.
Summary: Empath and Relationships
Empath and relationships can take a variety of patterns. Although the most common is the empath vs. narcissist dynamic, patterns of co-dependency and poor boundaries can be present in any relationship. Remember to assert your boundaries and that you’re always #1.