Empaths and narcissists. It’s one of the most toxic, yet one of the most common relationship pairings empaths wind up in. Whether it’s a romantic, professional, or insert any other type of relationship, empaths are very likely at some point in their lives to wind up in a partnership with a narcissist. Why is this, why is it so toxic and most importantly, what can you do about it? Let’s find out, shall we?
What is a Narcissist
As I love to do, let’s start with the origin of the term. What is a narcissist? According to Dictionary.com, a narcissist is defined as someone who is “overly self-involved, and often vain and selfish.” I’m sure we all know someone we would describe as “vain and selfish”, am I right?
The trouble with narcissists is that they are generally so self-involved, they truly cannot perceive of the world outside of themselves. This means that they do not even have the faintest idea that they are “vain and selfish”. Oftentimes, if you try to point out to a narcissist that they are vain and selfish, they will look at you like you’re crazy, because they truly cannot fathom themselves as being anything other than wonderful and perfect. Sound familiar?
How Empaths Get Attracted to Narcissists
So you may be wondering, how is it that super sensitive, emotion-absorbing empaths wind up in relationships with narcissists? I have a few theories about this, and it all boils down to boundaries and empowerment.
Since many empaths struggle with coming to terms with their empathy, they may also struggle with self-empowerment as a byproduct of that. It can be very difficult to feel empowered as a person if you feel like you have no control over the emotions you pick up on. When an empath is in this type of space, it is only natural for narcissistic-type personalities to filter into one’s life.
Narcissists are naturally attracted to people who feel disempowered, as it is normal and comfortable for them to be domineering in their relationships. Disempowered empaths are therefore a perfect target for this type of person.
There is also a boundary issue at play, which goes back to feeling disempowered. A disempowered empath may struggle with establishing boundaries for themselves, oftentimes allowing people (like narcissists) to walk all over them or take advantage of them. And again, narcissists love being around people they can take advantage of, as it strokes their egos. It’s a vicious cycle and hard to get out of once you’re stuck in it.
Why the Empath/Narcissist Relationship Is So Toxic
Because narcissists like to be domineering in their relationships, it’s easy to see why it would be toxic for an empath (or anybody for that matter!) to be in a relationship with one. Empaths may initially be attracted to narcissists because they come off as being strong and confident people, which is oftentimes what a disempowered empath hopes to aspire to.
Because narcissists have no clue that they are so self-centered, the feelings they emote are that of strength and confidence, not vanity and selfishness. It’s all too easy for empaths to get an incorrect “read” on narcissists for this reason. But over time, that “strength and confidence” will start to become a huge power struggle between an empath and a narcissist.
An empath may spend a lot of time being emotionally abused, manipulated and disrespected by a narcissist. They may even spend a great deal of time trying to “fix” their partner, or come up with excuses as to why their partner does the things they do. None of this is healthy, especially for a sensitive empath.
In my own personal experience (and observation of others), it’s generally not until an empath is already totally intertwined with a narcissist that they realize the truth about their partner. It is at this point that the power struggle really begins, especially if the empath chooses to start sticking up for themselves or end the relationship. It’s just plain messy all around.
How to Deal with a Narcissist
Once an empath has realized they are in a relationship with a narcissist, what can they do about it? Below are a few tips to help you make the best of a messy situation.
1. Don’t try to change them.
First of all, it is very important to understand that, as much as we wish we could, we can’t change anybody. This is especially true of narcissists. They simply are the way they are and nothing you say or do will change that about them.
Your best bet is to try to accept them as they are, but not beat yourself up if all of your efforts to make them a better person are not working. People (including narcissists) will change if and when they decide they want to. It wastes a huge amount of energy to devote time to trying to change somebody, especially a narcissist. So just don’t do it.
2. Learn how to say “no”.
This goes along with establishing boundaries for yourself. If you are in a relationship with a narcissist, it is important to practice asserting yourself. Learn how to say “no” to their demands, even if they get dramatic over it. The more you stick up for yourself, the less power they will have over you. And generally when you start to become a more empowered person, the narcissist may eventually just filter out of your life. However, if speaking up for yourself is causing problems in your relationship with a narcissist, proceed to tip #3…
3. Ask for help if you need it.
When all else fails, don’t deal with a narcissist alone! In my personal experience, learning to stand up for myself led to all my relationships with narcissists to sort of just fall apart. It wasn’t always a clean break, but it did eventually end.
However, it isn’t always so smooth for every empath. If you are in a situation where you are trying to handle a narcissistic relationship on your own and feel in over your head, get help! Find family and friends to be there for you or to give you advice. Talk to a counselor. Or in the worst case scenario, seek legal help or help from law enforcement (hopefully it doesn’t come down to that, but just in case, it’s good to have options to ensure your safety).
The Bottom Line
If you find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist, know that you are not alone. Just about every empath winds up in one at least once in their lives and while it can be a very difficult experience, it is also a very good learning experience.
Having to deal with narcissists as an empath is a very good (albeit challenging) way to learn to establish boundaries and stand up for yourself. It is also a very good way to put your empowerment skills to the test. Seek help if you need it, but know that dealing with narcissists is just a part of the empath journey. You got this!