It seems counterintuitive, but empathetic people often form relationships with narcissists who famously have a lack of empathy. If you’re wondering why such a sensitive person as an empath would form a relationship with someone with narcissistic personality disorder, you’re not alone.
But when you know the specifics, it actually makes some sense. Pathological narcissism involves a need for external validation as a result of childhood trauma.
Empaths are often attracted to narcissists due to their compassionate and caring nature. However, narcissists take advantage of the empath’s kindness, causing the empath to become addicted to a cycle of drama and abuse. The empath’s need to heal the narcissist also plays a role in their attraction.
This can quickly become a toxic relationship if the empath is not aware of their abilities. The empath must set firm boundaries and prioritize self-care in order to protect themselves. It’s important to understand this relationship in more depth if you are an empath so that you can avoid becoming involved in a parasitic relationship.
Why are Empaths and Narcissists Attracted to Each Other?
For most narcissists, their relationships involve a cycle of abuse that begins with idealization, moves into devaluation, and then ends with a discard. This unhealthy behavior stems from childhood abuse that caused the narcissist to fail to develop an inflated sense of self.
Their narcissism is a protective mechanism to bolster their self-image. This makes them difficult people to form a healthy relationship with since their dark personality traits lead to increasingly abusive behavior.
An individual with high levels of empathy, however, can see right through their false sense of self. They can see that their grandiose thinking, sense of entitlement, and poor boundaries are all the result of childhood trauma.
While there are dark empaths, most empaths are caring people who have the ability to form a strong emotional connection and facilitate a healing process, even with a narcissist. They genuinely want to help them.
While that represents the epitome of kindness, narcissistic behavior can often drain their energy and result in them feeling overwhelmed. If they have weak boundaries, they can easily succumb to narcissistic abuse. If that happens, they often become codependent and begin ignoring their own needs in favor of appeasing their narcissistic partner.
This can lead to addictive behaviors on the part of the empath, who is determined to create a safe space where their narcissistic partner can heal. Check out this video for some more information on how a relationship between a narcissist and an empath works.
What is an Empath?
An empath is actually much more than simply someone who has empathy. They are highly sensitive people who can actually feel the emotions of other people, and sometimes, they can also feel the bodily sensations of those around them.
An empath is often created as a result of having a narcissistic parent, as was my situation. I had to be able to sense my narcissistic mother’s emotions as a kind of defense mechanism against her abusive behavior.
Certain personality types are more prone to developing into empaths, while other children of narcissists may themselves become a narcissist. Some of it depends on individual genetics, and it is also possible that a positive, supportive parenting style can create an empath, as Dr. Judith Orloff explains in this article.
How Can You Tell If You’re an Empath?
Empaths, as the name implies, have a high level of empathy, but what exactly does that mean? It means that they are very sensitive to other people’s emotions and sometimes their bodily sensations as well.
Their highly sensitive nature makes it easy for them to become overwhelmed, particularly in crowded locations. Here are some other characteristics that might indicate you’re an empath:
- You don’t just feel, but you absorb other people’s emotions
- You are easily overwhelmed by environmental stimuli
- You find multi-tasking almost impossible, preferring to focus on one task at a time
- You become extremely anxious or even physically ill when someone is yelling
- You prefer small groups to large crowds, and you prefer small-town living over city-dwelling
- You easily and accurately pick up on subtle cues in other people’s body language, facial expressions, or tone of voice
- You need a lot of time alone to recharge your batteries
- You are generally introverted
- You are highly intuitive
These are the typical traits that indicate you might be an empath, though the manifestation of such characteristics has many forms. Some empaths, for example, pick up exclusively on the emotions of other people.
Other empaths pick up exclusively on the bodily sensations of others, and still others can do both. Empaths often are described as having psychic abilities.
How Does a Narcissist See an Empath?
For the narcissist, the empath seems like a dream come true, at least initially. The narcissist needs someone who can provide them with the emotional support they need to prop up their own self-esteem.
They see the empath as being that person, and if they are able to successfully manipulate the empath, they can turn them into a codependent who seeks only to please them. That’s something a narcissist loves.
But when the empath is able to see through the narcissist’s facade of self-deception to their true inner state of shame and self-loathing, the narcissist often becomes frightened of the empath. They fear the empath can destroy them with their insight.
That often results in increasingly abusive behavior and a discard. The narcissist frequently runs away from the empath because they fear the empath will expose their true, flawed nature.
What Happens When an Empath Leaves a Narcissist?
Empaths have an uncanny ability to see through the narcissist, and they can actually destroy the narcissist. They do this by calling out their abusive behavior, and it can easily drive the narcissist away.
Often, however, the empath will expose the narcissist and then leave them behind. That can leave the narcissist in a state of narcissistic collapse, which is somewhat similar to a mental breakdown.
Narcissistic collapse is an intense emotional reaction experienced by a narcissistic person when they sense a setback. It can lead to withdrawal or vindictive behaviors.
– Matthew Boland, Clinical Psychologist, Professor, Researcher, and Author
When a narcissist suffers a narcissistic collapse, they may engage in vindictive behaviors to crush the empath, whom they now see as the enemy. They may initiate a smear campaign, sabotage the empath, and stalk them.
They often also become rageful and can act impulsive. They can even be dangerous in this state of mind. It’s important for the empath to realize this is a possibility so they can take appropriate steps to stop the narcissist from ruining their life.
As an empath, it’s important to acknowledge this possibility and take proactive steps to prevent narcissists from wreaking havoc on your life. Discover more about this topic in the video linked below!
Empaths are usually caring people who can see inner emotional turmoil in a narcissist. They want to help them, but they have to take care because, without healthy boundaries and a good self-care regimen, they can fall prey to narcissistic abuse.
If they don’t do that, they can easily become addicted to the dysfunctional relationship that will inevitably develop.
Narcissists see empaths as a rich source of narcissistic supply, and they want to ensure they will always be around to provide that for them. They will push the limits and can become very abusive unless the empath takes proactive steps to protect themselves.
As the empathic daughter of a narcissistic mother, I can assure you this will happen unless you take care of yourself.
To help you do that, I have created a 5-Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers. Say goodbye to emotional triggers and break free from manipulation. Get your free copy now and empower yourself with the tools you need to thrive emotionally. Click here to receive it straight to your inbox!
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