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The Narcissist and the Empath: A Toxic Attraction

The Little Shaman is a spiritual coach & specialist in cluster B personality disorders, with a popular YouTube show and clients worldwide.


There is no more dangerous and painful relationship than a relationship with a Narcissist. These relationships are often categorized by abuse of every kind (physical, verbal, mental, emotional, financial...), exploitation, gaslighting, manipulation and a total disregard for the other person by the Narcissist. We know Empaths as kind, generous people who are plugged in deeply to other people's emotions, often knowing us better than we know ourselves. So why would an Empath be attracted to a Narcissist? Of course, a person does not have to be an Empath to be unlucky enough to have encountered the Narcissist. However, Empaths find themselves entangled with Narcissists a disproportionate amount of the time comparatively speaking and because it seems such an unlikely pairing in a lot of ways, this dynamic deserves some investigation.

Who is the Empath?

Empaths are people who are uniquely and exquisitely tuned in to the emotions of other people, even to the point of feeling these emotions. They are sensitive, kind and nurturing to a fault. They may unfailingly place the needs of other people before their own. This is a big reason they are attractive to narcissists.

Who is the Narcissist?

Narcissists are selfish, emotionally and morally bankrupt, immature individuals who are unable to feel empathy for others in any true or meaningful way. They do not consider other people's feelings at all; indeed, they don't even seem to realize other people have feelings in the same way that they themselves do.

It doesn't seem to make sense that two such people would be even remotely attracted to each other, let alone form what can seem to be an unbreakable, almost fatal attraction-type of bond, but it happens - and frequently. How, though?

The Attraction

At first glance, it's easy to see why the Narcissist is attracted to the Empath. Empaths are everything the Narcissist is not: kind, caring, emotionally aware, supportive, in control, able to have relationships and make friends... True to his nature, The Narcissist covets things they do not have and they endeavor to take them from anyone who does have them (or at least ruin them so that no one has them). The Empath gives freely of themselves, making themselves a glowing beacon for the Narcissist. It's like waving a red flag in front of a bull. The Narcissist senses an emotional source they can leech off of nearly indefinitely, like a battery that never dies. They can take and take and take, and in return The Empath will give and give and give. This is the nature of the relationship between the two and it will never change.

But why is The Empath attracted to The Narcissist? In the beginning, the powerful "vibe" The Narcissist gives off will resonate very deeply within The Empath. It catches The Empath's attention, and they are drawn to The Narcissist as magnetically as The Narcissist is drawn to them because of it. The Narcissist's presence is often very emotionally intense and most Empaths are attracted to that, whether they realize it or not. The Narcissist may also be hard to read emotionally (the vibe is intense but it may be very distorted, like static on a TV where one cannot see the true picture) and since reading other people's emotional states is often very easy for the Empath to do, they may be drawn to a narcissist in spite of themselves in an attempt to figure them out. Who is this person? What's going on with them? What are they about? In short order, The Narcissist may then reveal a lifetime of abuse (real or embellished) along with a carefully-crafted commercial pitch showcasing how wonderful they are (usually not real) - and how wonderful The Empath is, even though they just met – and The Empath will be effectively snared because they do not realize at first that the intense emotionality being generated by The Narcissist is all for themselves.

It would seem unlikely that the Empath would fall for this considering that they are very in tune with others' emotions and their true selves. Can't they see what The Narcissist really is? The answer is usually yes, they can. Most Empaths sense something "wrong" about the Narcissist very quickly, sometimes even during the first conversation. But they can also see something else, and it overrides everything else: how wounded and broken they are inside, beneath all the lies and abuse. Narcissists need. It's not an act on their part or a mistake on the Empath's part; the Narcissist really is fundamentally wounded and broken inside. A large number of Narcissists are skilled at appearing helpless and lost. That's because in many ways, they truly are. The Empath's mistake is in believing this means they can help.

This is so often the attraction, whether conscious or not. The Empath wants to help The Narcissist. It is a fatal blind spot, because the Narcissist cannot be helped and more importantly, they do not want help. Yet even when Empaths can see this clearly, The Narcissist's wounds are clearer. They are evident in everything Narcissists do, even in the horrible things. Especially in the horrible things.

The Why

Narcissists are adept at making people believe they are the only ones who can help them, or that they already have helped them. This is what Empaths want. It feeds their need to help, and no one is more convincing than a Narcissist when they are showering someone with praise or pushing their emotional buttons to get a response. Empaths give Narcissists the emotional sustenance they both want and need, allowing them to bask in the light of The Empath's care and attention all the time. It is a dangerously codependent relationship which revolves around superficially fulfilling the needs of only one person who can be neither satisfied nor happy. The Narcissist is like a cup with a hole in the bottom: no matter how much you pour into it, it is never enough.

There is an important distinction to make here, however. We say "superficially fulfilling" because it is important to remember that the Empath's needs are being fulfilled, too, even if this does not seem to be the case. Empaths are usually the obvious injured party in the relationship but in a manner of speaking, they are a “willing” injured party; they have locked themselves in a situation where they can perpetually "help" someone who will always need them. They have made a "career" out of taking care of a professional victim who does not want to get better. This may seem like victim-blaming to some, but it is only by recognizing this very thing that the Empath can empower themselves to get away from the Narcissist for good: they have to understand that they are choosing to stay and they can choose to leave. Narcissists only have the power over others that is given to them.

Lots of Narcissists are arrogant overachievers but most are crippled by their disorder in many ways, unable to function in the world normally in more than a very superficial way. The Empath sees an opportunity to take care of someone in perpetuity - and even if they don't want to, their caring nature can make them feel that they must. What will they do without The Empath? It doesn't seem fair to abandon The Narcissist, regardless of how horrible they are because they are sick and the sickness is not their fault. It's true that the way narcissist's brains work are not their fault. However, it is not The Empath's fault, either. They do not need to be punished forever because of someone else's mistakes. If they stays in a relationship with the Narcissist, they will be.

This is the Empath's nightmare: abandoning those who need them when they could have helped. That is the problem with this logic, though: Empaths cannot help Narcissists. No one can.

The Conclusion

Since it is unrealistic to expect that the Narcissist possesses the insight to be able to recognize their problems, it is up to the Empath to recognize the situation and resolve it. The first (and most important) thing they must realize is that the only way to resolve the situation is to get out of it. That can be a very hard truth to face. No one wants to believe they have wasted years of their life on someone who literally does not care or appreciate it at all, but this is the trap the Empath finds themselves in - especially when dealing with a Narcissist who swears this is not the case. Don't be fooled. It is the case, and it will never change.

The Narcissist cannot and will not change. They are not capable of the type of emotion, empathy and compassion necessary to render themselves a fair, loving, satisfying partner – and cannot learn. They cannot learn how to be a "real" person. This ability is learned in the first few years of life. By the time the Empath meets the Narcissist, it is already far, far too late.

It is important here, too, to remember that the relationship is not laid squarely on the Narcissist. The Empath must take responsibility for their own actions and acknowledge the hard truth that their needs were being fulfilled on some level by the relationship, regardless of how painful or horrible the relationship was. If they cannot do this, they will continue to find themselves in relationships with other Narcissists and the pattern will not be broken. The problem (and pattern) is not solely with one person, because any relationship - even one with a Narcissist - is reciprocal. The Empath stayed in the relationship far past the time when they knew the relationship was unhealthy, dangerous, abusive or unfair and they must take responsibility for that. Only by acknowledging this can they truly break the cycle and be free.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Lori on July 28, 2019:

O... M... G!!! This is me, in every way. Thank you for this post!

Mister Mouse on April 08, 2019:

This article is so true and down to earth. My parents were narcissists especially my father, but thought that the way we were treated was the norm for every family ( I am 65 now) . I have been married for 23 years, and its only in the past year that I have come across narcissism, but looking back all the boxes were ticked and there was a similarity to my childhood days. The love bombing was intense and at the time she was still married but going through a divorce, had two lovely kids, so looking back I probably felt sorry for her. I was warned that she was using me, to bring up her kids, but hey how were they to know?

But that is now history and the kids have families of their own, and I am their only father.

This narcissism all kicked off when I suspected her having a affair, which was denied of course, but then an STD appeared, but it was only thrush (according to her) but it was not as medication was put into my food as I had side effects (not serious but after research they were typical) of this, I have not said anything, as I know the answer is that its all in my head, and that I'm imagining all this, (just like the affair) been for tests all negative.... phew what a relief.

Sex - she also withholds, this does not exist at all, and its not a matter of not trying, always the same answer I don't feel horny, what 20 years of it,( since the love bombing stopped) she will try and relieve me but only stop halfway , I'm tried now you can finish it, how degrading and humiliating is this? but she will masturbate in bed at night thinking that i'm asleep, Ive never let on that I know.

Also only allowed to watch her programs on TV or mine when she has gone to bed, my own interests and hobbies have stopped as they were all criticised, my friends are all idiots, and I'm just like they are hopeless, but why cant I be like her friends husbands, they are all caring. By the way all the bills everything is paid by me, and she will not contribute , only book holidays where she wants to go, without consulting me, about where or when and lying about it when called on it - emails don't lie.

But what to do next? have tried the divorce route only to be begged to not go ahead and that she will change, but that was 6 months ago and back to what it was like stone walling and silent treatment, hiding new clothes and receipts .

Wish I knew then (26 years ago) what I know now

Beth on January 12, 2019:

So accurate in every detail. Except how are we 'free' when the abuser narc can still harm us using court, children, etc...and no help to move any of us from abuse shelters or protection places, orders, police...no help...we need help to protect us

Zoe on January 11, 2019:

This is so true and rings a bell with me in every way. I am a true empath. I left my ex to be with a Narcissist and now four years later I am struggling to end the so-called relationship. He is due in court at the end of the month and I am really hoping prison sentence is imminent. Thank you for making me feel that I am not alone in this.

Kathleen Baker on December 04, 2018:

This is so true. Such a great article. I can definitely relate since I am an empathy and was in a relationship with a cerebral narcissist. After a year & a half of a very dysfunctional relationship I left. I am 45 and this was my first personal relationship and encounter with a narcissist so not all empaths do attract them. However, when we do we must recognize the signs and leave. Self education is the best defense. I will know what to look for if another one does cross my path. Thanks so much for sharing.

No One on September 29, 2018:

I was fortunate. I met my narcissist when I was very vulnerable, actually leaving another narcissist. I had been used and mentally and emotionally abused by that man for 20 years. And the new narcissist in just when I need someone to care about me and for me. And it was the most beautiful relationship that I could have ever imagined. Everyone wanted to have what "we had". Fortunately it only lasted a year a half, because during that time he changed from the sweet everything person into a lazy, using individual. I realize now he used me for my money for my home, for my god heart. I "saved" him from living a poor man's life, a man who didn't have a decent childhood, a man who was hurt. Yes, like the previous person, I was the only one who "understood" and I did my best to take care of them, even at the peril of being "for them" versus my children and family. The new narcissist grew impatient because he owed me $5,000 from 8 months of him not working and then him wanting us to go in on a truck. We had the loan set up and ready to go and he said "I don't think I can pay you back and pay for a loan on a truck too". I said we would work it out. He wanted a loan so that he could work on building up his credit. I didn't pay attention to the red flags when we went in for the loan and not only did he not have poor credit, he had none at all. Wow!

The day I told him "we could work it (the finances) out, he drank all day and we had a nice time watching movies. And when I asked him to tell me he loved me, just out of fun and gleeful, he said "no, no one tells me what to do" and he pushed me against the closet door, breaking it. And I will never forget his snake eyes. No longer the cheerful, pretty, friendly eyes. But an snake, reptile. And then he said "we are done." I went to the bathroom and shut the door and said, "I guess we are" and then body slammed the door and began to throw things around the house. He proceeded to break as many things of mine he could get his hands on and fortunately at one point I could hear he was across the house and I ran to my neighbors home where my sweet neighbor called the police. He was arrested, placed in jail for the weekend and then at court on Monday he was given a 1 year no contact protective order along with having to take domestic abuse classes, etc.

Long story, short, I have had to pack and move all of his stuff to the garage which now takes up 3/4ths of a 2 car garage. I packed all of his stuff. As the empath who doesn't want conflict, I did it nicely too.

This incident, a singular incident, brought attention to my problem, my addiction, the addiction of an empath trying to help others. Trying to save them. And now I know. So I am grateful. I believe he could have killed me that night, I also believe had he not done that, he would have milked me for all the money and kindness I had to offer and put himself in between my children and family. He was working on that. Fortunately for me, he was transparent and wasn't able to retain his "need" for me, over his impatience.

And so, I have been hurt, and discovered that he never really loved me, he was using me. But now I can move on with my life, without him harming me further, taking all that I had. He grew bored and impatient and therefore he left before I had to throw him out which would have happened, only not so easily. He rejected himself from my home and my life.

And so now I have the opportunity to reflect on my weakness empath addiction and become the independent person I believe that I am (only I had been lying to myself). I am ready for growth and I am learn how to live without trying to fix others. To stop my control issues. To sit back and let my life lead me where it needs to go, instead of trying to control everything in it. Because as long as I think I am in control and believe I have the power to make others happy and healthy, I will remain unhealthy and unhappy. It will be hard, but at least I have learned. I don't know if love will ever be in my life again because I have lost all trust in my ability to choose a good partner. But at least I have myself and now it is time for me to love me.

twickle purple on July 24, 2018:

This is truth as I've lived it. Thank you for articulating what has been a nightmare of confusion. I am finally waking up.

jusep on July 09, 2018:

why narcissist is only him not her, in my experience of empathy-narcissist couples, except one, all narcissist were ladies.

Vivian K. on February 05, 2018:

I have finally become aware of my pattern of attracting narcissists and allowing them to abuse me. I recognize that I am an empath now. However, I also recognize I didn't value myself enough and didn't set up boundaries. Employers, friends, guys I have dated have all ultimately made me feel "worthless" while they took all my time, love and care. I could never "do" enough. They turned everything around to make it look like it was "my issue." One employer said I was a "User, a victim, I needed attention all the time, I ripped her off everyday, I had selective hearing, etc etc" I was shocked. She had just described herself and turned it all around to blame me for her narcissistic traits. I bent over backwards for her and her family. I am disgusted by how much I allowed them to take advantage of me and devalue me. I became a mere shadow of myself. Men have also devalued me, as well as "friends." It's a very insidious, devious, trait. It manifests itself in many different ways. Sometimes it's not so obvious. They might not "seem so bad" - but something about them is still bothersome and unsettling. Recently a friend just cut me off giving me the "silent treatment." It was very petty and very childish. I stood up for myself when I realized how entitled and ungrateful she really was. She was judgmental, lacked empathy and was self righteous. When I confided in her about my ex bf, she suggested he might be a narcissist. I knew he wasn't. He had issues but he was definitely not a narcissist. I remember thinking how ironic it was that she didn't recognize her own narcissistic traits and told me that "sometimes narcissism isn't always obvious." I wanted to say "Ya think? Look in the mirror." She never had "patience" for anyone who didn't adhere to her schedule and her philosophies. god forbid you cancel plans with her. She never thought of anyone elses well being. Just hers. Anyway, good riddance! I am so relieved! Another "friend" I used to babysit when she was a little girl. I had to eliminate her from my life. She is now 37. I did tell her that we were "no longer compatible." This girl was so self consumed and would ridicule me in public. I always felt exhausted after spending time with her. Her energy was negative and toxic. I am never again going to allow these horrible vultures to drain me ever again. - VK

Bye toxicity.

Stuck in between narcempath on December 07, 2017:

As soon as I met him I knew something was wrong!he seemed nice asked me out one on a date but it felt like he was trying to sell me something... I almost backed out of the date twice the whole time something was screaming abort! Abort! But I went along with it and two years later after my feelings of needing to help him progressively decreased. I’ve gained a significant knowledge of self. Especially the fact that a lot of the traits he has I have. Which led me to research about possibly having more excessive narssistic traits than “normal”

Zoyah on December 04, 2017:

I've been with a Narcissist husband for 15 years now. My empathetic side finally saw that my own self needs the care and love I've been showering others with, and so I "challenged" him by an extra-marital affair last July and his "colossal kingdom" almost collapsed. I miscalculated the physical violence aspect and now it's gotten worse. To a point where he wants me all for himself to use and abuse, and threw 1 of my sons out from the house by threatening that if he doesn't leave, he will hurt me and then come after him. He left and settled in with my sister. We could only meet at my workplace every other day, since my husband forbids me from seeing them, planted GPS on my phone. Meanwhile, his daily verbal abuse to me continues on... I need to break the cycle... My children need their Mother back. But I don't know what to do, what first steps to take, how to avoid his threats. I don't want cops to be involved, for I fear his even deeper rage....

Rachel. on November 08, 2017:

I was with a covert narcasist for 8 years i completely lost my entire being of who i was its scary. still im drawn to him all i wanna do is help. But i know its impossible.

Anett on August 30, 2017:

Problem is, it is not written on their forehead that they have this problem..I broke free after 5 months and now, after 9 months, I'm still suffering... But I had no idea what narcissism was. He told me when we broke up that he had this problem. I also didn't know I was an empath...People told me sometimes how empathetic I was, but I thought most people were... My point is, you are responsible for being in a relationship with a narc ONLY when you are aware of that! Otherwise you might break free simply because he/she is mistreating you on and you cannot break the pattern. Now I know what I should pay attention to...

Mdsmith on August 09, 2017:

I can't believe how eye opening these articles were. Have read numerous other articles, but here it was actually acknowledged that the empath can be a man and the narc female. All other articles always made the man the narc and the woman the empath. I am currently going through the devalue and discard phase. Can't believe that it cost me 3 years to figure out that it's not me. Yet even knowing what I know now it still is so painful. I believe reading articles and other posts from people that have actually been there is going to be helpful. A piece of advise to the lady that is attracted to the narc and doesn't see how being with him could be bad. Just remember every action comes with a consequence. Learn everything you can and then decide if your really willing to pay the price. Also the best mate for a narc is another narc, so just maybe.

Sandy on August 09, 2017:

I really needed to see this today. I thought I was completely alone and going crazy. EVERYONE loves him.

I didn't know how to explain it until now.

Thanks so much

Lucy on July 03, 2017:

In reply to Serline's post

what an eloquent reply to the article, whilst I was reading this I was thinking " what about love" I adored my narcissistic man whom I was with for 12 years. We broke up and got back together numerous times. I was sucked dry emotionally and was so exhausted I had to end it for my own sanity. Seven months on I still miss him terribly, I feel destroyed and my heart is broken. I stayed so long because I loved him but I realised I would never be able to fix him

Felicia Adamsky on June 27, 2017:

A friend told me to read this article. I can wholeheartedly relate. I am ready to move on and leave the Narcissist who has been a part of my life for almost 6 years now. The problem is he has no one, no where to go and has been staying at my house. How do I get him to leave without causing more damage to my home. I don't know how to stop feeling guilty for putting a person out on the street. I have asked him several times to leave, hoping he would move on to his next victim which I feel horrible about. I knew early on this was not a good relationship but I did feel a need to take care of someone. I feel I am now heartless and don't even recognize my own actions at times. I have chosen to alienate myself from friends and family and have become somewhat of a recluse. I don't want to do that anymore. I miss who I was, I miss the friendships and relationships I had with people. I just want to be me again. Sorry for the rant, just needed to put some feelings into words, that no one I know will see.

HomeOfTheBrave on June 24, 2017:

Parent, spouse, sibling....all can b sociopaths/narcissists. Old shame-based religious types would have us chained to abusive relationships. I think we have choice, and its on us if we choose to stay connected to those without the capacity to love. There are countless positive ways to spend our time. Get out, or distance yourself from family or others that are simply consumers.

CRH00 on June 23, 2017:

My mother is a malignant covert narcopath

and is past the stage of convincing everyone in my family that I am insane. fun stuff! I don't know how or even if i can rectify the situation. I feel doomed to be hated and abused for the rest of my life.

I have escaped her at times but she always gets back in . I think my only freedom will be felt the day she finally dies.

The Little Shaman (author) from Macon, GA on June 21, 2017:

"...we like to think we're just being forgiving, that we're 'bigger' people, when we're simply not wanting to accept that our loved one isn't capable of love beyond experiencing happiness of the moment, when we're making them happy." Yes. 100% correct.

evie190 on June 21, 2017:

Yes unfortunately and painfully so true - I allowed myself to be continually duped time and again making excuses and feeling guilty - allowing myself to be manipulated and lured into despicable situations that shamed and humiliated me. Handed money over yet subconsciously my gut feeling telling me he was buying whores with it. Describing my vagina (due to giving birth) as a 'bus station' was the last straw - the fact that I have very bad scars due to childhood accident- and explaining to him about clothes and difficulties in Summer finding something suitable - then being told ' Oh everyone has problems - and nobody gives a fuck about the way you look - to which I replied ' well I do!' And 'there are people who DO give a fuck and who DO REALLY CARE! I've been through the worst imaginable scenario - out in Morocco being infected twice - being taken to a 'hotel' that was clearly a brothel with a woman sat in bed with her door open - and me later being taken to a clinic and being treated by this Moroccan doctor like I WAS THE WHORE - the SHAME, HUMILIATION, PAIN AND DISTRESS were and are beyond description - and while he was in this bloody country - as I was stupidly driving him on the motorway he started screaming at me that he was going to 'pull the wheel over and take us both to hell' altogether he did this 3 times - once on the way to my bank in another area where nobody knew me - and previously forcing me (through shock and trauma) into keeping the appointment at the Registry office (2nd time round) 1st time round only the previous month I'd walked out in tears after being screamed at "get this shit off my collar" already running late receiving a phonecall from the Registrar to say we were late - by the time we got there I was traumatised and had been up all night virtually - living life upside down awake in the night and sleeping in the day conveniently separating me and keeping me isolated - monitoring my calls pulling the cord out of the telephone socket - The 2nd time round he'd set up the appointment via his mobile - i'd no intention of keeping it in fact was (predictably) driving him to a drug/alcohol drop in for counselling session - when just an hour away from this Registry office appointment - he began screaming in my face - pouring with rain outside - I feared for my life -and capitulated saying 'Oh alright shall we go and get married then' It felt like it was happening to someone else - Then afterwards his drunken behaviour included our return to my home - knowing already the manuscript I'd been working on for 10 years blood sweat and tears life story - he went up stairs brought it down lay on the sofa with it under his head like a pillow saying 'Well I've been very patient but if I don't get £100,000 I'm going to set light to this and myself out in the garden - Given that I'd been a burns survivor - it was like seeing myself going up in flames all over again - the shock the horror - and to cap it all he was now refusing to sleep with me having sworn undying love etc - I had to lure him up to bed wait till he was sleeping then creep downstairs, retrieve my manuscript and swap it for something similar -wait up all night till my bank opened to ring and say I was coming in and wanted him arrested for blackmail. Ringing the police who then wanted to ring back but refused terrified should he wake up (given that this creature had already purchased a mattock and an axe ( supposedly to cut down a magnolia tree that I wanted rid of being an anniversary present from my abusive first ex spouse - I believe this too was a deliberate act of subtle intimidation - I can't believe that I allowed this beast to come back into my life and create havoc for YEARS bleeding me dry and causing separation from my children due to pain and humiliation I felt unable to tell and couldn't hide it so kept apart from them

Susie Floyd on June 12, 2017:

It's not true. Narcissist are not always adults who were abused as children. My mother Chose the personality of a narcissist when she was very young. Her mother was wonderful and her dad was a decent hard-working man I just like all of u chose the personality of a narcissist when she was very young. Her mother was wonderful and her dad was a decent hard-working man. As children grow up they look around them and see many different personality types they pick and choose what they like and what they want to be. My mother had an aunt Who was a narcissist my mom lived. This aunt despised my grandpa he came from the poorest family in town and I believe my mother agreed he was not worth associating with. I've only seen my mom Cry once that is each time she repeated the story of how her younger sister and her dad were such good friends and so playful and kind to each other. He broke my mother's hea cry once that is each time she repeated the story of how her younger sister and her dad were such good friends and so playful and kind to each other. She didn't cry from sadness that she didn't have that with her dad she cried because she was insulted she had demonstrated to her sisters how they want to behave and her attitud she didn't cry sadness that she didn't have that with her dad she cried because she was insulted she had demonstrated to her sisters how they were to behave and what their attitude should be toward their father. The other sisters were very cooperative and keeping a distance from their dad and following my mothers lead but then the youngest sister came and her and grandpa had the nerve to be playful and fun and insult my mother ignoring all that she had taught them. My mom chose to be exactly who she is

HomeOfTheBrave on June 10, 2017:

TimeTraveler & Serline-the author's point in the article is to enlighten us, to recognize character traits and trends, and hopefully make relationship decisions. Love isn't logical, yet there is the logic, the truth, that the decisions we make beget results, and we are responsible for them. To un-muddy the waters here, the point isn't to demonize a Narcissist. They have many traits, as do empaths. Our challenge in making decisions, isn't as simple as labeling "good guy" and "bad guy". It's recognizing the traits, and using them in our decisions to start, continue, or try to effect change (I'm personally out of the people changing business...doesn't work). Yes, it will be extremely painful to exit a relationship when you're in love. But with this understanding you may have the strength (honestly I didn't before, hope I can in the future). I believe one way to advance this ability, is to recognize when you're 'rationalizing' their behavior. Being in love causes us to do this...we like to think we're just being forgiving, that we're 'bigger' people, when we're simply not wanting to accept that our loved one isn't capable of love beyond experiencing happiness of the moment, when we're making them happy. The saddest part is, they can't be trusted. It can indeed go on for many years, with the Narcissist being satisfied by the Empath, yet you know, and your children, and your extended family distance themselves from you and the Narcissist. These relationship losses mount, the sacrifices are large, and you will likely be left when you don't make the Narcissist happy the way they want anymore. Yes they have other redeeming traits, but true love, sacrificial love, a love that can be trusted, that endures....isn't one of them. I'm not sure if its genetic in origin, or environment. But it isn't fixable...per my efforts with 27 years of counseling, books, retreats, expert analysis. So what do we do? For those in relationships, you decide if you're willing to stay in a shallow relationship. There may be children involved, and you may be decide to make the best of it. I did that. In retrospect, it wasn't fair to my kids. I made the decision to stick it out when my ex was caught stealing (even as we were quite wealthy). She would later state that she purposely distanced herself from the children. No it wasn't worth it for me or for them. I should have given them a woman that could love. And I stupidly chose a similar woman for 4 years, ignoring all the signs (they have no friends, they lack loving relationship to their family of origin, they spend an inordinate amount of time taking care of themselves, their spending profile reflects selfishness....). So there is logic to be used here, and I'm guilty of ignoring it in the presence of 'being in love'. So what I'm finally doing in dating is foregoing the acts that get me 'in love' upfront. I've had the strength, and armed with this knowledge, I'm taking the time to look at a woman's other relationships for signs of sacrificial love, of giving to others, of having healthy and deep friendships. With those steps accomplished I'll let myself love again. My 2 cents.

Serline on June 09, 2017:

From the point of view of the empath, this is a terribly dangerous article. I have been in a relationship like this around five years ago and read an article almost exactly like this one and felt AWFUL! Why? Because it states clearly that the empath CHOOSES to stay in this relationship and could CHOOSE to get out of it.

Honestly, this is terrible to tell someone looking for help who happens to be IN LOVE! When you're in love, you can't just choose to leave like that. We are not robots, you know? Feelings, especially deep, intense feelings can't just be turned off on a whim. That's not how humans work.

"We say "superficially fulfilling" because it is important to remember that the Empath's needs are being fulfilled, too, even if this does not seem to be the case."

Let me tell you something that I didn't know back then when I read that super similar article that basically shamed me: I didn't fall in love with the guy because I wanted to help him or because I needed to be needed. I fell in love with him because in the beginning he was sweet, cute, funny and because we had so much in common (same hobbies, interests, similar lifestyle and habits. It's rare to find somebody you genuinely click with, especially if you've been an outsider most of your life, which many empaths are). He knew exactly how to create intimacy, he knew all the right things to say and I would have had to be made out of stone to not react to that.

And you know what else? Once you genuinely love somebody, you start to care about them. You start to care about their wellbeing. And yes, you also start to want to help them when you feel that they're struggling or hurting. That's also human nature. Or do you think that people who love their partners shouldn't care about the wellbeing of their partners? That they shouldn't want to ease their pain? It's perfectly natural to care about someone you love and trust me, it wasn't overnight that I started to care about him and feel for him. The love as well as the care grew over time. And that's how it should be in a healthy relationship.

"She is usually the obvious injured party in the relationship but she is a willing injured party; she has locked herself in a situation where she can perpetually "help" someone who will always need her."

- This is here is awful, terrible, insensitive and victim blaming BS. And it is simply not true. Someone who is in love has not "locked themselves" into a situation. They (men and women alike) are bound to it by their feelings. People who say stuff like this have never been in love and have never felt the power that love creates. It's incredibly powerful and not anything I could ever anticipate in terms of depth and intensity. Real, genuine, deep love is unlike anything else. And if you don't know how the brain gets restructured through love then I would advise everyone to check out Helen Fisher's TED Talk (it's on youtube) on the "Brain in Love". It should be mandatory for everyone who thinks that we "choose" who we love and that we can just "choose" to get out of love relationships, even when they're abusive. And mind you, I don't have any qualms with the very important advice telling people to get out of these types of emotionally, mentally and oftentimes also physically abusive relationships, however, I have a problem with the word "choose" that implies simplicity and ease in a situation that is neither. It basically also states that if you don't get out, well then you are choosing to stay so don't ask for understanding or compassion, after all, you are responsible for staying you silly fool. How condescending! How insensitive! And how lacking in understanding and compassion. Nice. That's the invalidating attitude in this harsh world, right?

I repeat to everyone affected and in a relationship like this: do not listen to the analytical part of this advice! You have not locked yourself into anything, you can't just chooose to turn your feelings off and the fact that narcissists need while you are able to give is most certainly NOT the only reason why you are in a relationship with a narcissist. Narcissists are people too and they're much more than their narcissism, unfortunately for all those who happen to fall in love with them BEFORE they have the chance to discover their true nature.

Yes, get out, but know that it is not easy and that you might remain in love for quite some time even afterwards. And that's ok too. We fall in love with all sorts of people and even abusive relationships start out lovely.

time_traveler31 on June 07, 2017:

I disagree, what you described is not a narcissist ! You cannot put a tag on people and say narcissists are bad ,empaths are good , because that;s not the case .. I believe your article is very subjective,probably based on personal experience . People believe that other's can't change so they have an excuse their relation is failing,or that their view of that person was all along the right one, but narcisisstic persons are not like that at all (i am an empath btw) if you really understood the psychology behind it you know you are talking nonsense.Yes ,they can be helped but it's very hard to do so..so just because you had a bad experience pls don't tell others to abandon their relation based on your views ! If you trully love a person then you won't abandom them ,no matter how hard it is..if you don't care then you are not really an empath .And empaths make lots of mistakes also ,i know i made mine ..it's not at all black or white ,it's all grey..i really can't understand people with this kind of thinking and ignorance ,putting tags and no matter what ,you feel like he is deceiving you..it's sad because it's not true..it all comes with our own preconcetions and insecurities !

Heal on May 20, 2017:

It's not just one narcissist that we empaths get involved with. It tends to be the "type" of partner we go after or end up with. I know for me, I'm highly attracted to emotionally stunted men. A narcissist coaxed me to leave a former narcissist who then left me in the end because I caused great narcissistic injury to him. I might be a empath, but I tend to get tired of the BS and want to confront them and end the abuse. However, calling a narcissist a narcissist will always be YOUR fault regardless of the horrible acts they have done. Being an empath, you beg for them to talk about their feelings, send texts, call wondering if they are okay. Oh, they are just fine living their life getting supply somewhere else while enforcing the silent treatment with you and punishing you. My problem is that I'm too emotional and need to discuss or resolve issues when all narcissists would rather jump into a shark's mouth than to discuss their deep seeding emotional traumas and accept any wrong doing. I've dated a few narcissists in my life and will probably end up with another in the future. It's just how it goes, we can't help being attracted to them and vice versa. But, the one thing we have to realize is that WE chose to stay and WE chose to be blind to the fact that THEY can't be fixed. It's up to us to stop trying to fix them.

Hopeless on May 11, 2017:

The love of my life is with a narcissist. It breaks my heart for him every day. He tried to leave but she made him feel guilty and he agreed to change. I see such beauty in him that is being wasted on her. Such a shame.

Mimzi on April 23, 2017:

I was seeking the answer for years, and thanks to u , now I understand what I have been going through for years. If u can kindly provide us with a detailed article on how to break this pattern . Thank you

Dean Traylor from Southern California/Spokane, Washington (long story) on February 11, 2017:

Great article. I've written a few articles on Narcissism, too. In my line of work, I've had to deal with a lot of students (and some teachers and administrators) who exhibit this disorder. Thus, knowing it has been a key to figuring them out. I was going to say that the Empath can unintentionally enable the Narcissist, but you did answer that.

Yves on February 10, 2017:

HomeOfthe Brave: The author included a note which you may have overlooked: " NOTE: Though the use of the pronouns "he" and "she" are applied to Narcissists and Empaths respectively here, this is done only for ease of reading and should in no way imply that either personality can only be one gender. Narcissism and Empathic ability are not gender-dependent in any way.'

HomeOfTheBrave on February 03, 2017:

Interesting that you've chosen the male as the Narcissist, female as the Empath. It is enlightening, that as the Empath, I have chosen Narcissistic women, to the detriment of myself and as importantly, my children, whom my ex-wife left without as much as a goodbye (4 wonderful kids). And as emotionally aware of it, I then became engaged to woman who also had little/no empathy for others. I'm a sucker for beautiful women- I rationalize the least bit of care shown as a sign of real love, and diminish the huge displays of self-interest. I've taken myself out of the loop for awhile, set in place some guidelines before dating again. For example, if the woman doesn't have any friends, then I'm out. If she doesn't have a good relationship with her family, then I'm out. And if she is 5 hours late for a date, with the excuse that she couldn't decide what to wear, I'm out.

goodearth on January 23, 2017:

I recognized in the first month, when he said he was going to sell his house. When I asked what he was going to do? he replied, "so you can take care of me". I told him 'no' ...he persisted unrelentlessly...the more I said no, the more he would not give up... until he brought a gas can to my door, charged in my house and knocked me down. He restrained physically and held a knife above my head. After much struggle, I was fortunately able to escape and call for help. Only to watch him douse my home with gasoline. I lost my home, car and ALL material possessions that day. He is in jail, awaiting trial and calls out to people from the jail blaming me for his actions. His abuse continues while in custody. He is highly intelligent and knows how to work the system well.

someone on December 22, 2016:

This article really explained everything, thank-you... but I still like him. I'm not even in a relationship with him, but the connection is strong and I can't help but be curious. And so is he. Even if he is like how you say they are, I want it. I might not be able to help him, but maybe I can be someone who understands him? I've never met someone so interesting, everyone else bores me. Their thoughts and emotions are too simple, but his vibe is so strong and complex.

I still can't see us being a bad idea.

K. hall on October 09, 2016:

After my last relationship i discovered that i have an over abundance of empathy. I seem to be a narcissist magnet. I never knew that this kind of person existed. I am relieved that I finally know about this trap.

susan clayton on May 30, 2016:

I just found out that there is a name, empathy, that escribes exactly what my life is like. I spent ten years, to my everlasting sorrow, on a narcissist. If only I had the information back then. Am so glad to have it now, much thanks.

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