A narcissist is someone who has an inflated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy for others. An empath is someone who can feel and understand the emotions of others.
Surprisingly, the two are often attracted to one another for very different reasons. The empath wants to help the narcissist and the narcissist wants someone who is intensely focused on their needs.
Such a relationship very rarely works out, particularly for the empath. Narcissists will use a number of manipulation tactics to try to control them and to make them feel indebted to the narcissist.
If possible, the narcissist will turn the empath into a codependent. That’s why it’s vital for the empath to understand the risk of being involved with a narcissist.
As an empath, I am well aware of how much damage a narcissist can do to someone who is highly sensitive. It’s important to understand just what a narcissist will do if the empath isn’t aware of their abuse tactics and if they don’t put strong boundaries in place to protect themselves.
Let’s take a look at 15 things a narcissist will do in this type of volatile relationship and how to recognize a narcissistic relationship when you’re in one.
How Will a Narcissist Treat an Empath?
In a relationship with a narcissist, an empath is often the one who suffers the most. A narcissist’s inflated sense of self-worth and entitlement can create a toxic dynamic where the empath is used as a source of emotional supply, with little regard for their own needs and feelings. Here’s what usually happens.
1. Emotional Manipulation
One of the ways that a narcissist will treat an empath is by manipulating their emotions. They will use their knowledge of the empath’s sensitivity and empathy to guilt them into doing what they want or to twist situations to make themselves look like the victim.
This emotional manipulation can be so subtle that the empath may not even realize it’s happening until they are already feeling drained and emotionally depleted. Here’s a video that has some tips on how to recognize if you’ve been the victim of narcissistic abuse.
2. Gaslighting to Make the Empath Question Reality
Another behavior of a narcissist toward an empath is gaslighting. They will try to make the empath doubt their own perception of reality and question their own sanity.
This can happen in a variety of ways, including denying past events or conversations, convincing the empath that they are the problem, or making them feel like they are crazy for having emotions or reactions to the narcissist’s behavior.
3. The Narcissist will Threaten and Belittle the Empath
A narcissist may also use their need for attention and admiration to control the empath. They may put on a charming façade to win the empath over and then use their vulnerability to threaten or belittle them, ensuring they keep their focus on the narcissist at all times. This controlling behavior can leave the empath feeling trapped and powerless.
4. They Use a Cycle of Abuse
The cycle of abuse is often present in a relationship between a narcissist and an empath. The narcissist will go through periods of idealization where they shower the empath with love and affection, followed by devaluation where they withhold love and affection or actively criticize and belittle them.
This cycle creates an addictive trauma bond between the two, as the empath hopes and prays that their loving partner will return.
5. Withholding Love and Affection
One of the ways that a narcissist can emotionally manipulate an empath is by withholding love and affection.
A narcissist may use love and affection as a tool to control and manipulate their partner, with the give-and-take of love being used as a primary source of control.
6. Using Silent Treatment as Punishment
For many people, being ignored is one of the most painful experiences that they can endure. Unfortunately, this is a tactic that is often used by narcissists as a way to punish their partners. Check out this video for more explanations about the silent treatment.
The behavior is commonly known as the silent treatment, and it is a way for the narcissist to gain control over their empathic partner.
The silent treatment involves the narcissist ignoring their partner completely, oftentimes for an extended period of time. This can cause the empath to feel deeply hurt and confused as they struggle to understand why their partner is withdrawing from them.
It can also incite feelings of anxiety and insecurity in the empath, furthering the hold that the narcissist has over them.
7. Love Bombing as a Tool of Abuse
Love bombing is when someone showers you with excessive praise and adoration. The narcissist showers the empath with praise, attention, and affection at the beginning of the relationship, only to withdraw it later.
Then when they need to bring it back to convince the empath to stay or that they will change, they do it all over again as part of the cycle of narcissistic abuse.
8. Ghosting to Create Confusion
The narcissist suddenly cuts off all contact with the empath without any explanation, leaving them confused and hurt. The game is to keep you guessing at all times.
The narcissist doesn’t want the empath to be able to relax or build trust in the relationship. They always want to keep you on edge to make it easier to control you.
9. Triangulation to Isolate the Empath
The narcissist creates a triangle of conflict between themselves, the empath, and a third party, such as an ex-partner, a friend, or a family member. This is part of destroying your relationships with other people.
It’s another tactic that’s a common part of narcissistic abuse. They want to make sure you have no one you can talk to about what’s going on.
10. Playing the Victim
The narcissist portrays themselves as the innocent and misunderstood one while blaming the empath for all their problems and faults. This is a form of gaslighting, really, as the narcissist rewrites history and portrays themselves as the victim.
They often do this to their narcissistic supply in the form of sympathy from those who believe them.
11. Narcissists Will Seek Revenge Against Empaths
The narcissist seeks to punish the empath for any perceived slight or betrayal, such as standing up for themselves, setting boundaries, or leaving the relationship. They also want to make them feel responsible for seeing through to the narcissist’s fragile sense of self. This, more than anything else, is what threatens the narcissist, and when they feel threatened, they seek to destroy those they perceive as enemies.
12. Manipulate Them with Lies, Guilt, and False Promises
A narcissist manipulates an empath with lies, guilt, and false promises in order to exploit their compassion and vulnerability. The narcissist uses the empath’s empathy and conscience against them, making them feel responsible for the narcissist’s happiness and well-being.
The narcissist may also threaten to harm themselves or others if the empath does not comply with their demands or tries to leave them.
The narcissist keeps the empath hooked with promises of change, improvement, or commitment that never materialize. The narcissist may also use intermittent reinforcement, alternating between kindness and cruelty, to confuse and manipulate the empath.
13. Narcissists Constantly Ignore the Empath’s Needs and Boundaries
Narcissists constantly ignore empaths’ needs and boundaries and treat them as extensions of themselves. They disregard their feelings, opinions, and preferences and expect them to comply with their demands and whims.
They may lie, deny, or twist the facts to make empaths feel confused and guilty. They may also isolate the empath from their friends and family or sabotage their goals and dreams.
Narcissists do this because they are insecure and fearful of being abandoned or exposed. They need to control and dominate their partners to feel superior and powerful. They also lack the ability to empathize or respect others as separate individuals.
They see empaths as sources of narcissistic supply, which is the attention and admiration they crave. They do not care about their well-being or happiness, only about their own.
14. Cheat on Them or Flirt with Others to Make Them Jealous
Narcissists are people who have an inflated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy for others. They often cheat on their partners for various reasons.
Narcissists crave constant attention and validation from others and they may feel like they are not getting enough from their partners. They may cheat to boost their ego and feel more desirable and powerful.
When it comes to empaths, however, narcissists often cheat because they are competitive and jealous, and they may cheat to eliminate any perceived threats to their superiority or status.
They may also cheat to hurt their partners or to make them jealous so they can feel loved and adored. For an empath, however, the impact of the infidelity can be particularly intense given their deep connections to loved ones.
15. Discard Them When They are No Longer Useful or Interesting
Narcissists often discard their partners when they no longer find them useful or when they start to see them as a threat. One of the reasons why a narcissist might discard their empathic partner is because they feel bored or dissatisfied with them.
Narcissists crave constant admiration and validation, and they may lose interest in their partner if they do not provide enough of it. Narcissists may also seek new sources of supply, such as other romantic interests or admirers, and discard their partner without remorse.
Another reason why a narcissist might discard their empathic partner is because they feel threatened by them. Empathic partners may challenge the narcissist’s sense of superiority or expose their flaws and insecurities.
Narcissists may also fear intimacy and vulnerability, and they may push away their partner if they feel too close or dependent on them. Narcissists may also project their own negative feelings onto their partner and accuse them of being the ones who are selfish, unfaithful, or abusive.
With this understanding of just how a narcissist often treats an empath, it’s vital for empaths to learn to look for the signs of a narcissistic relationship. Let’s talk about that.
What are the Signs of a Narcissistic Relationship?
Narcissistic behavior is a complex psychological trait that often leads to abusive and manipulative behavior in relationships. When a narcissist is in a relationship with an empath, it can cause severe emotional trauma to the empath.
That is also true of people who are not empaths. Here are seven signs of a narcissistic relationship:
- The narcissist has an inflated sense of entitlement. They believe that they are entitled .to everything and that their partner’s needs and wants are insignificant. The narcissist will often demand that their partner caters to their needs while ignoring their partner’s feelings.
- The narcissist is highly critical of their partner. They will nitpick and criticize their partner’s behavior, appearance, and personality. They may even make their partner feel inadequate and less deserving of their love and attention.
- The narcissist is emotionally manipulative. They will use their partner’s emotions to gain control over them. They may use guilt, shame, and fear to force their partner to comply with their demands.
- The narcissist is a master of gaslighting. They will twist the truth, distort events, and deny their partner’s reality to make their partner doubt their own memory and judgment. This manipulation is intended to make the empath question their own sanity and second-guess their intuition.
- The narcissist is addicted to attention. They crave attention and will resort to any means necessary to get it. They may spend all their time talking about themselves, exaggerating their achievements, and bragging about their accomplishments.
- The narcissist lacks empathy. They are incapable of understanding their partner’s emotions and feelings. They will dismiss their partner’s concerns, belittle their emotions, and ignore their pain.
- The narcissist is emotionally abusive. They will constantly belittle, criticize, and insult their partner. The emotional abuse often leads to a trauma bond between the empath and the narcissist.
If you recognize any of these signs in your relationship, it’s essential to seek outside help. A narcissistic relationship can cause severe emotional trauma, and it’s critical to set firm boundaries and seek support from safe people.
Remember, a healthy relationship is based on mutual respect, empathy, and trust. So what can you do if you suspect you’re in a relationship with a narcissist?
How Can an Empath Protect Themselves from a Narcissist?
Being in a relationship with someone who has narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can be very challenging and draining for an empath. An empath is someone who is highly sensitive to the emotions and needs of others and who often puts them before their own.
A person with NPD, on the other hand, is someone who has an inflated sense of self-importance, a lack of empathy, and a need for constant admiration and validation. They may manipulate, exploit, and demean their partners to boost their own ego and maintain control.
An empath may be attracted to a person with NPD because they see their vulnerability and pain behind their mask of grandiosity and arrogance. They may feel a strong urge to help them heal and change.
However, this can be a dangerous trap, as the person with NPD may take advantage of the empath’s compassion and generosity and use them as a source of narcissistic supply.
The empath may end up feeling exhausted, confused, isolated, and worthless as they try to meet the impossible demands and expectations of their partner. By the time they realize they are in an abusive relationship, they may already have fallen into codependency.
So how can an empathetic person protect themselves in such a toxic relationship? Here are some tips:
Recognize the signs of NPD
We’ve already discussed several signs that you are in a relationship with a narcissist, but continuing to educate yourself on the problem is important for recognizing the more subtle signs of narcissistic abuse, particularly if you’re in a romantic relationship.
Narcissistic partners can often be very subtle in their abuse. They may even use self-derogatory comments to get you to contradict them. You would think they can’t be a narcissist because they’re putting themselves down, but covert narcissists, also known as vulnerable narcissists, often use this tactic to get narcissistic supply.
Set healthy boundaries
Relationships with narcissists, like any relationship, depend on mutual respect for healthy boundaries set by each partner. An empath needs to learn to say no and stand up for themselves when their partner crosses the line or violates their rights.
They need to communicate clearly what they want and need and what they will not tolerate. They need to enforce the consequences if their partner disrespects or hurts them.
It’s particularly important for the empath because they form such deep emotional connections with their narcissistic partner, and that makes them even more vulnerable.
An empath needs to prioritize their own well-being and happiness over their partner’s. They need to take time for themselves to recharge their energy, nurture their passions, and connect with supportive people.
Empaths are emotional sponges, and when they soak up the emotions of someone with narcissistic traits, they can easily be harmed by such toxic people. They need to practice positive affirmations, gratitude, and self-compassion to counteract the negative messages they may receive from their partner.
Seek professional help
An empath may benefit from seeking therapy or counseling to cope with the emotional trauma and abuse they may experience in a relationship with a person with NPD. A therapist can help them understand the dynamics of the relationship, heal their wounds, and regain their confidence and self-esteem. They can also help them decide whether to stay or leave the relationship and how to do so safely.
Remember that you cannot change your partner
An empath needs to accept that they cannot fix or save their partner from their disorder. Only the person with NPD can change themselves if they are willing to acknowledge their problem and seek treatment.
An empath needs to focus on their own growth and happiness instead of trying to change someone who does not want to change.
It sounds harsh, but that’s the reality of someone with a personality disorder. NPD is further complicated by the fact that narcissists have a difficult time accepting that the problem lies with them.
Still, only they can change if they want to, and if they don’t, there is little an empathic partner can do other than to protect themselves.
Set up a strong social support network
A strong social support network can help empaths cope with empathy fatigue and maintain their well-being. A social support network can provide empaths with emotional validation, practical assistance, positive feedback, and a sense of belonging.
By having people who understand and appreciate their gifts, empaths can feel more confident and empowered in their abilities. A strong social support network can also help empaths set healthy boundaries and protect themselves from toxic influences.
Empaths need to have people who respect their needs and preferences and who can help them balance their own emotions with those of others.
Energetic work to cleanse negative emotions is a must
Energetic work for empaths is a vital practice to cleanse negative emotions and maintain well-being. Empaths are highly sensitive people who can feel the emotions of others as their own.
This can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially in stressful situations with toxic partners like narcissists.
Energetic work is a way of clearing and balancing the energy field of an empath, using techniques such as meditation, breathing, grounding, and shielding.
By doing energetic work regularly, empaths can release unwanted energies, protect themselves from emotional overload and enhance their natural gifts of compassion and intuition.
As an empath, I know how exhausting it can be when you feel bombarded by the emotions of other people. When those other people are toxic, like narcissists, it’s even worse.
That’s why it’s critical to understand just how someone like a narcissist will treat you and take the appropriate steps to protect yourself.
I had a narcissistic parent, and it was a very emotionally abusive situation, so I fully understand how empaths feel when they are treated that way.
By setting appropriate boundaries, getting plenty of alone time, and clearing away negative emotions, it’s possible to stay in a relationship with a narcissist. You must always remember, however, that you cannot change them.
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