It sounds like an odd union, but narcissists and empaths are very often attracted to each other. Narcissists want someone to focus exclusively on them and provide them with an unending flow of adulation called narcissistic supply. Empaths are sensitive individuals who have the gift of being able to sense the emotional pain of other people. They want to help them, and so, they do often focus on their needs. But when a narcissist and an empath marry, there are a number of possible outcomes.
What happens when a narcissist marries an empath depends on the empath’s emotional and psychological health and understanding of their ability. If an empath understands their nature, they can sometimes help reduce their spouse’s narcissistic tendencies. If not, the results can be disastrous.
If you’re an empath married to a narcissist, it’s critical that you understand what can happen if you don’t take care of your own needs and set strong boundaries. Let’s explore the different possible outcomes and how you can avoid narcissistic abuse.
When a Narcissist and an Empath Get Married
It is very common for narcissists to be attracted to empaths because they seem to be so sensitive to their needs. It can also be a little bit of a fearful experience for them because the narcissist seems able to see right through them.
The narcissist fears the empath will see through to their true self and expose their flawed nature. This is why the narcissist fears intimacy in general, but it is much more pronounced with an empath because they can sense the narcissist’s inner turmoil.
The empath typically wants to help the narcissist, but the narcissist generally has too much fear to allow that. Still, if the empath has a strong sense of identity and is secure with their ability, they can call out the narcissist’s abusive behavior and help them reduce those tendencies.
Often, however, the narcissist will discard the empath if they feel they are too threatening to their fragile self-image. But the narcissist can also have an impact on the empath, particularly if the empath is not aware of their own abilities.
Empaths who are unaware of their abilities will often feel bombarded by the narcissist’s emotional turmoil. They can sense the narcissist’s pain, but they don’t know how to control the emotional signals they are receiving. They don’t know how to protect themselves from that kind of draining energy.
If the empath isn’t able to set strong boundaries and properly process their feelings, the narcissist can damage their self-esteem. The narcissist will take as much as they can get from the empath. If the empath can’t set strong boundaries, they may become codependent.
In their desire to help their narcissistic spouse, the empath may ignore their own needs. That is the essence of codependency, and it is very damaging to an empath.
What are the Stages of Love Between an Empath and a Narcissist?
The stages of love involving a narcissist are different from what most people experience in a healthy relationship. While the empath enters the relationship with pure feelings, the narcissist has a different agenda. Let’s explore how the relationship between a narcissist and an empath changes over time.
Stage 1: The Dream
When anyone meets a narcissist for the first time, they often feel like they have met the perfect person for them, and this is true as well for an empath. The empath may feel they have met the person they truly love.
While the empath falls in love, however, the narcissist has a different concept of their relationship. It’s not possible to say if a narcissist really loves someone, but their expression of love is moderated by their personality disorder.
At this stage of their relationship, the narcissist is doing something called love-bombing. They are appearing supportive and very loving. They seem to think the empath is as perfect for them as the empath the narcissist is for them.
This is not completely untrue either, because the narcissist wants someone who will focus solely on them. Empaths are sensitive people who can’t help but sense the emotional energy of other people, and so to the narcissist, they seem to be in tune with everything they want and need.
During this idealization stage, the narcissist is as charming as they can be, and their charm is significant. Narcissists learn early on that they need to be charming to get people attached to them. They often learn from their parents that love is conditional, and they apply that same philosophy to their adult, romantic relationships. Sadly, this idealization stage doesn’t last.
Stage 2: Waking Up to Devaluation
As the relationship goes on, the empath continues to be as sensitive, compassionate, and caring as ever. They are usually truly in love at this point, but the problem is that they haven’t seen the true face of their partner.
The narcissist is beginning to feel small in comparison to their emotionally intelligent partner. They don’t know how to connect on a deep level, and the empath is beginning to sense their emotional turmoil and try to help.
This triggers a fear response in the narcissist because the empath’s perceptive gift makes the narcissist fear they will be able to see through their false self-image to the truly damaged self they’ve hidden for so long. As therapist Georg Hunding notes, “…eventually the empath’s continued attempts to fix and take care of the narcissist’s wounds will signal to the narcissist that the empath views him as weak, needing help, and inferior – no longer admired and no longer on his pedestal. The narcissist will react angrily to that.” Additionally, the narcissist begins to impose unrealistic expectations on their empathic partner.
This causes turmoil in the relationship. At first, the empath tries to respond to the unrealistic demands of the narcissist with compassion and openness. As the narcissist makes more demands on them, however, they begin to feel energetically drained.
When the empath fails to live up to the unrealistic expectations the narcissist has established, they begin to devalue the empath. It’s usually subtle at first, but it can progress to a state of constant criticism. Before it devolves to that point, however, the narcissist will usually try to get a legal commitment out of their partner. That is to say, they will try to get them to marry them so that it is harder for them to leave.
Stage 3: Outcomes
As the relationship between an empath and a narcissist degrades into devaluation and unrealistic expectations on the part of the narcissist, what happens next depends on the emotional and psychological health of the empath.
If the empath understands their gift and has a strong sense of self, they will push back on the emotional abuse from the narcissist. They will call it out which further threatens the narcissist.
The empath will also establish strong boundaries and insist on respect from the narcissist. This can work to reduce the narcissistic tendencies of their toxic partner. If it doesn’t, however, most healthy empaths will abandon the relationship.
If, on the other hand, the empath doesn’t have a strong sense of their intuitive abilities, they will likely feel bombarded by the narcissist’s unrelenting demands on their time and energy. They become exhausted, and unless they take steps to prioritize their own self-care, they may fall into codependency.
As for the narcissist, if the empath has a strong understanding of their gift and demands respect from them, they may initiate a discard. The narcissist fears intimacy because they don’t want someone to get close enough to see their flawed true self. The empath seems able to see through the facade they have erected in its place, and that’s terrifying for a narcissist.
If the narcissist can’t discard the empath because of their strong feelings for them, they might readjust their strategy to reduce their narcissistic tendencies. This option is more the exception than the rule.
How Can an Empath Protect Themselves?
Empaths in a relationship with a narcissist must first recognize their gift and take steps to protect themselves. They need to set and maintain strong boundaries as well as prioritize self-care.
They will need plenty of time away from the narcissist to process their feelings, and they will need a strong support network to help them stay grounded in their reality. It can help to work with support groups like Codependents Anonymous (CODA) too so that they can avoid falling into the narcissistic abuse trap.
It also helps to meditate and use positive affirmations to counteract the damage the narcissist can do on an emotional level. Working with a therapist is another option. It’s a difficult path to stay with the narcissist, but many empaths are able to have a successful relationship as long as they protect themselves.
Narcissists and empaths are often attracted to one another because they seem to be able to fulfill each other’s needs. Most of these relationships are damaging to the empath, though it is also possible for an empath to destroy a narcissist. Whether an empath stays with a narcissist or leaves, it can help to work on your own emotional wounds.
That’s why I would like to share my 5 Step Roadmap to Heal Emotional Triggers with you. This handy guide will walk you through recognizing, defusing, and even healing your emotional triggers. That can keep a narcissist from playing games with your feelings. Just click on the link, and I’ll send it directly to your inbox.
If you want more tips for dealing with narcissists, setting boundaries, and managing emotional triggers, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel