Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Lori Pace
The relationship between the empath and the narcissist is what you call “parasitism“. In this type of relationship, the empath is motivated by the desire for love and healing the wounded narcissist.
The Relationship Between The Empath And The Narcissist
To be precise, the narcissist is preoccupied with emotional feeding of others in order to satisfy his/her egotistical needs. This means that he/she uses manipulative and controlling tactics in relationships. The empath often feels powerless and victimized by the narcissist. After the parasite exhausts all resources of the host, it will move on to find a new host.
The empath/narcissist dyad is still a dialectic. Each needs the other to keep the dysfunctional relationship intact. Each partner is equally responsible for creating the imbalance. Although an empath may feel powerless within a relationship, it’s important to remember that a narcissist can’t exist in a relationship without the involvement of the well-intentioned empath. The abusive dynamic would end if the empath does not set boundaries and walks away.
What Is A Narcissist?
It is common to use the term “narcissist” but it can also be misinterpreted. A narcissist sees others as objects and not people. This is one of their defining traits. Narcissists see people as objects that provide them with admiration, attention, and idealization in order to keep a fragile, hidden sense of self.
There are many signs and symptoms of narcissism. These include a lack empathy, an inflated sense self-importance, a sense of entitlement, and a need to be admirated. These characteristics can develop in young adulthood and can manifest in many situations. Narcissists are unable to feel their pain so they project it onto their partner. Instead of feeling shame and worthlessness, they project their feelings onto their partners, making them feel ashamed and worthless.
Narcissists are unable to connect with others as people and can’t love their partners because of this. The narcissist can manipulate their partner’s love and affection by giving what feels authentic love and connection to regain their love.
An empath can feel heightened levels of love and bonding from the narcissist, which can sometimes be confusing. The narcissist is like a slot machine. The slot machine may occasionally give out some treasures, but most of the time, the empath is left without love. Empaths often say that their partner is either “really amazing” or “just awful.” This leaves them longing to see the best in their partner.
What Is An Empath?
Empaths are people who are sensitive to others’ emotions and can often prioritize the needs of others. They can feel and absorb the pain of others because of their acute sensitivity. They have a strong desire to heal and help others. Because they are so aware of their partner’s emotions, empaths often hold onto their feelings to allow their narcissistic partner not to feel the painful emotions for themselves.
Reason For The Strong Attraction Between A Narcissist And An Empath?
The empath hopes to be loved and seen by the narcissist. Their sense of worth is linked to their partner’s love for the narcissist. The empath is a subconscious thinker that believes that if they can get the narcissist to love them, their worth will be validated. They believe that if they can make someone incapable of loving them love them, they will be worthy of love. They attempt to heal the wounded narcissist in the hope that they will be able to provide validation and love for the empath.
Their unconscious desire to find love from the unloving narcissist lies at the root of their childhood relationships in which they felt rejected or unloved by their primary caregiver. The empath could not receive the unconditional love every child deserves. This could be due to a parent who was narcissistic or unable to provide the emotional support they needed (i.e. need to be noticed, acknowledged for one’s strengths and accepted and loved). The empath now seeks validation and feels the same worth as when they were a child. Now the stakes are even higher. Their low self-worth cannot be restored by receiving love from anyone. Their self-worth can only be restored if they turn the unloving narcissist into a loving, accepting “parent”.
Due to emotional unavailability and/or early misattunement from their primary attachment figure, the empath has also learned to associate pain with love. They are tolerant of their partner’s narcissism and will often tolerate it. In order to receive the love and support they need, the empath puts all of their energy into the relationship.
The empath is ignoring the obvious. It is impossible to make a narcissist a loving, emotionally-available partner. The narcissist must decide to change. The empath will hold the narcissist’s unresolved feelings and the narcissist won’t need to feel his or her own emotions. They cannot change if they don’t feel the fullness of their feelings. The narcissist will likely find another empath to help him/her survive.
Impact Of The Narcissist To Empath
While empaths are able to help others and give back, it can cause problems if the empath neglects their own needs. Empaths are often more aware of their surroundings and the feelings of others than their internal state. This can lead to the suppression and lack of awareness of how to protect oneself from others. The more distant the empath from their own feelings, the more likely it will be that s/he will put all of their love and attention into the relationship and attempt to fix the partner.
The narcissist will be more powerful and controlling the more empaths provide love and care, thereby intensifying the abusive dynamic. This creates a vicious circle of demoralization for the empath, increasing the victimhood that the empath already feels. The empath is not only blamed by the narcissist for the dysfunction in the relationship, but also blames himself/herself.
An empath can choose to keep the status quo with the narcissist or take responsibility for the dysfunctional relationship. They should also focus their attention on their inner healing and not on fixing the narcissist.
The Dynamic Between The Empath And The Narcissist
When an empath and a narcissist get into a relationship, it creates a magnetic but dysfunctional union. The empath exhausts to the point that the empath is exhausted. The relationship often destroys the empath, leaving him confused and disoriented. Although this experience can be overwhelming and painful, it eventually leads to an empath’s awakening. The narcissist is the same.
While it will be difficult to break away from a narcissist and will reveal deep longings, the empath will one day look back and wonder how he/she could have tolerated being in a relationship that involved a narcissist. Empaths will begin to feel more in control of their lives and develop healthy boundaries. This new sense of self will protect their old self and create strong boundaries to prevent them from falling prey to narcissists in the future.