As the old cliché goes, opposites attract—and you can’t find much more opposite personality types than the empath and the narcissist. Thus, you will frequently find these two types paired up together. But at what cost?
Because the empath is wholly compassionate and giving, the narcissist often takes full advantage of them. I am well aware of this phenomenon, having experienced firsthand the methods and motivations of the narcissistic boyfriend.
Narcissists, as we know, thrive on attention and a feeling of their own superiority. They are also manipulative, dishonest when it suits them, and lack any sense of guilt over their own behavior. This is due in part to their complex internal emotional life.
An empath, on the other hand, harbors pure intentions and is quick to forgive. While it might be possible—if both parties are aware of their tendencies—for this match to work, it would be very difficult if not impossible.
If you are curious about the possibilities for a love match between empaths and narcissists, read on.
Unconditional vs. Conditional Love
The empath loves others unconditionally and purely, while the narcissist always makes his love subject to conditions—particularly the condition that his needs and desires are fulfilled. While the empath acts out of genuine caring and unadulterated affection, the narcissist mostly acts out of self-interest.
The empath is trusting and believes the narcissist’s statements of love, but the narcissist is simply reveling in the attention.
While it often appears as if the narcissist wants the deep bond the empath believes has been built between them, the narcissist’s goal is actually control. Once he feels the empath is under his spell, then he will begin to break down the empath’s self-esteem, so that the empath feels both powerless to help herself and fortunate to have the narcissist in her life. She starts to feel that she isn’t worthy of anyone else.
Center of the Empath Universe
There are actually several reasons why an empath is attracted to a narcissist, but no matter what initially brought them together, slowly but surely, the narcissist becomes the center of the empath’s entire life, and she cannot imagine how to exist without him.
Even as she begins to notice some of the narcissist’s self-centered and manipulative behavior, she believes that love will heal whatever wounds are causing him to act out in inappropriate ways. But the narcissist wants power and control more than love. His superior sense of self takes up all the room in the relationship.
Eventually, the empath’s needs are swallowed up by the narcissist, and the relationship revolves around him. Even though she is terribly unhappy, she will continue to give everything of herself to the narcissist because it is in the empath’s nature to impart all of herself.
As she becomes subsumed by the relationship, she might even be afraid to ask for reciprocity from the narcissist, especially if he has become volatile.
Awakening and Friction
The relationship continues to cement the narcissist’s control and to engulf the empath until the empath refuses to be demeaned and ignored any longer (assuming this breaking point comes: some empaths will stay, trapped by the narcissist).
Her discomfort with his behavior becomes overwhelming. She finally speaks out against his inappropriate actions, increasingly hurt by his lack of emotional support and hollow declarations of love.
The narcissist reacts with denigration, calling her accusations “crazy” or “delusional.” He lashes out in anger, blaming the empath for all of their problems, and can even become threatening. He will do just about anything to maintain control and to keep the all-consuming devotion that the empath provides.
Ironically, both the empath and the narcissist have grown to rely on each other for a sense of self-worth. The empath needs to give love and the narcissist needs to receive it.
Bargaining and Breaking
The empath, a natural healer, will attempt to communicate openly and honestly with the narcissist. She wants to heal the wounds caused by the relationship and harbors hope that the narcissist will see reason.
Most often, however, the pleas will fall on deaf ears, as the narcissist continues to justify his actions and turn the blame back onto her. He will begin to detach even further, determined to protect his fragile yet oversized ego.
Finally, the empath will acknowledge that she is the actual victim in this dysfunctional relationship and begin the hard, hurtful journey of moving on. She will realize that the narcissist’s motives have been tainted from the beginning. The narcissist, on the other hand, will most likely be indifferent, already moving on to his next target.
While the scenario is incredibly hurtful to the empath, it is also instructional. She will begin to understand that the narcissist is the one undeserving of her love and devotion, not, as she has come to believe, herself.
It will take time and effort to relinquish the feelings of unworthiness that the narcissist has ingrained in her psyche. But she will eventually heal.
Ultimately, for many empaths, the experience of a narcissistic love affair will leave them with a renewed sense of the possibility of love. Their ordeal has left them a bit more guarded, certainly more cautious, and a great deal wiser. But they will know, at their core, that the capacity of their love is nearly boundless. They just deserve a better partner.
A love match between an empath and a narcissist is almost always doomed to fail, especially if the participants are young and untested. The empath’s trusting, giving, and forgiving nature is no equal to the narcissist’s deep-seated insecurities and guiltless machinations. Only if the narcissist is willing to get extensive therapeutic help can the empath ensure that he is at least partially trustworthy.
Still, the empath can learn some valuable lessons from this difficult experience. She will learn to establish clearer boundaries and to recognize the distinction between a healthy relationship and a toxic one.
I have been able to move on from my experiences with a narcissist and find kindness, love, and stability—after some healing and new-found caution. What the narcissist gleans from the experience is less certain, no doubt.
As you have gained more perspective into the reasons why empaths and narcissists are often attracted to one another, this blog post can help you spot the common signs of love-bombing in your relationship.
If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel