The Toxic Attraction Between an Empath & a Narcissist

The Toxic Attraction Between an Empath & a Narcissist

We know that “narcissist” has become a bit of a buzzword recently, and some folks are quick to apply it to an ex-lover or family member or friend. While awareness of this concept is healthy, so is remembering that it is, in a mental health context, a serious condition that shouldn’t be applied to someone you’re mad at because they stole your mirror. ~ Eds.

I am an empath. I discovered I was an empath after I got involved in a very deep and highly destructive relationship with a narcissist.


I am writing this article from the perspective of an empath, however, would love to read the view from the opposite side if there are any narcissists that would like to offer their perception on this.

Through writing about the empath personality type I have connected with many other people who class themselves as an empath and time and again I have heard people tell me how they have also attracted relationships with narcissists. There is a link. So, I decided to explore it further.

For a detailed explanation of both the narcissist and empathy personality types, please click here and here.

This is my theory…

From my own experience and studies on the narcissist personality type, there is always one core trait: A narcissist is wounded.

Something, somewhere along the line, usually stemming from childhood causes a person to feel worthless and unvalued and, due to this, they will constantly and very desperately seek validation.

Here comes the empath, the healer. An empath has the ability to sense and absorb other people’s pain and often takes it on as though it were their own. If an empath is not consciously aware of boundaries and does not understand how to protect themselves, they will very easily and very quickly bond with the narcissist in order to try to fix and repair any damage and attempt to eradicate all their pain.

What the empath fails to realise is that the narcissist is a taker. An energy sucker, a vampire so to speak. They will draw the life and soul out of anyone they come into contact with, given the chance. This is so that they can build up their own reserves and, in doing so, they can use the imbalance to their advantage.

This dynamic will confuse and debilitate an empath, as if they do not have a full understanding of their own or other people’s capabilities, they will fail to see that not everyone is like them. An empath will always put themselves into other people’s shoes and experience the feelings, thoughts and emotions of others, while forgetting that other people may have an agenda very different to their own and that not everyone is sincere.

The narcissist’s agenda is one of manipulation, it is imperative they are in a position whereby they can rise above others and be in control. The empath’s agenda is to love, heal and care. There is no balance and it is extremely unlikely there ever will be one. The more love and care an empath offers, the more powerful and in control a narcissist will become.

The more powerful the narcissist becomes, the more likely the empath will retreat into a victim status. Then, there is a very big change—the empath will take on narcissistic traits as they too become wounded and are constantly triggered by the damage being in the company with a narcissist creates. Before long, an extremely vicious circle has begun to swirl.

When a narcissist sees that an empath is wounded they will play on this and the main intention will be to keep the empath down. The lower down an empath becomes, the higher a narcissist will feel. An empath will begin to frantically seek love, validation, confirmation and acceptance from a narcissist and each cry for help as such will affirm to the narcissist what they are desperate to feel inside—worthy. A bitter battle can ensue.

As an empath focuses solely on their pain, trauma and the destruction of their lives, they become self-obsessed and fail to see where the damage is coming from. Instead of looking outwards and seeing what is causing it, the empath will turn everything inward and blame themselves.

An empath at this stage must realise the situation they are in and wake up to it, as anyone who is deeply in pain and has been hurt can then become a narcissist themselves as they turn their focus onto their own pain and look for others to make them feel okay again.

Any attempt to communicate authentically with the narcissist will be futile as they will certainly not be looking to soothe and heal anyone else. Not only this, they are extremely charismatic and manipulative and have a powerful way of turning everything away from themselves and onto others. A narcissist will blame their own pain on an empath, plus they will also make sure the empath feels responsible for the pain they too are suffering.

An empath will know that they are in a destructive relationship by this stage and will feel so insecure, unloved and unworthy and it can be easy to blame all of their destruction onto the narcissist.

However, an empath should not be looking to blame anyone else. An empath has a choice, to remain the victim, a pawn in the narcissists game or to garner all strength they can muster and find a way out.

Emotionally exhausted, lost, depleted and debilitated an empath will struggle to understand what has happened to the once loving, attentive and charismatic person they were attracted to.

However we allow ourselves to be treated is a result of our own choices. If an empath chooses to stay in a relationship with a narcissist and refuses to take responsibility for the dynamic, they are choosing at some level what they believe they are worth on the inside. An empath cannot let their self-worth be determined by a narcissist. It is imperative they trust and believe in themselves enough to recognise that they are not deserving of the words and actions the narcissist delivers and to look for an escape.

In an empath’s eyes, all they searched and looked for was someone to take care of and love and to ultimately fix.” That is where the trouble began and that is the most profound part of this that an empath must realise.

We are not here to fix anyone. We cannot fix anyone. Everyone is responsible for and capable of fixing themselves, but only if they so choose to.

The more an empath can learn about the personality of a narcissist the sooner they will spot one and the less chance they have of developing a relationship with one. If a relationship is already underway, it is never to late to seek help, seek understanding and knowledge and to dig deep into one’s soul and recognise our own strengths and capabilities and do everything we can to build the courage and confidence to see it for what it is and walk away—for good.

The chance of a narcissist changing is highly unlikely, so we shouldn’t stick around waiting for it to happen. If a narcissist wants to change, then great, but it should never happen at the expense of anyone else. They are not consciously aware of their behaviour and the damage it causes and in their game they will sacrifice anyone and anything for their own gain—regardless of what pretty lies and sweet nothings they try to whisper.

An empath is authentic and is desperate to live true to their soul’s purpose and will very likely find the whole relationship a huge lesson, a dodged bullet and painfully awakening.

A narcissist will struggle to have any connection to their authentic self and will likely walk away from the relationship very easily once they realise they have lost their ability to control the empath. The game is no longer pleasurable if they are not having their ego constantly stroked, so they will seek out their next victim.

The ability for these two types to bond is quite simply impossible. The narcissist’s heart is closed, an empath’s is open—it is nothing short of a recipe for a huge disaster, and not a beautiful one.

Author: Alex Myles

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Victoria Sorderstrom (used with permission)


Source: Elephant Journal

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The Toxic Attraction Between an Empath & a Narcissist The Toxic Attraction Between an Empath & a Narcissist Reviewed by Katerina Pap on 6:53 PM Rating: 5

22 comments

  1. I believe people can be the empath or the narcissist depending on which relationship speaking. For example, I have a friend who is in a horrific relationship with a horrific narcissist. Instead of leaving the relationship victimizes herself even though she is in the position to get out of it if indeed that's what she wants. The Narcissist has told her several times to leave. Mean while, the empath in my tries to heal her and explain to her that she's more valuable than she believes she is and ends up sucking the life out of me watching her self destruct. When I am blunt and explain it to her, she retorts with buzz off I will make my own decisions. Basically wants to sit on a pity pot because the selfishness in her to hold onto someone who does not want her is stronger than what's best for her or her children. Others are stuck viewing this from the side lines with someone who has an excuse for every solution.
    I do not believe that someone is an 'empath' or a narcissist to everyone. It all depends on which relationship an individual is in to define that role.

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    1. A tend to agree esp when using the words for these categories in a casual way. This author I think is not professionally qualified to discuss the true clinical narcissist.

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  2. Empaths need to be the helping professions where there are strong boundaries between the helper & the helpee. In your personal relationships, some need to not have a front row seat to your life & need to be loved & forgiven from a distance only. "Good fences make good neighbours" whereas "an eye for an eye, only makes the whole world blind" (Gandhi)

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  3. Best piece of work i read in a long time! Amazing

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  4. Thank you for making sense of something that didn't make sense for a long time. I fully identify with this piece, it might as well be describing my last relationship (which i broke out of!! Woo!!) i would imagine a lot of people are feeling the relief i am having read this, thank you so much ❤❤❤ xx

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  5. I am an empath and have suffered through a relationship with a narcissist. you will not get any responses from narcissists as it is not in their nature to see that that is what they are.

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  6. I am an empath and have suffered through a relationship with a narcissist. you will not get any responses from narcissists as it is not in their nature to see that that is what they are.

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  7. Excelent article. I really do think young people should be taught more about how to recognize personallity types and to avoid be drawn into such a relationship. The books by Carol S: Pearson are very helpful

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    1. all people young and old should learn to become whole well rounded individuals. To constantly learn and improve all throughout their lives. no one should stick to their natural, habitual personality. In any personality, there are strengths and weaknesses, good and bad. one should aim to obtain all the strengths of all the types of personalities.

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  8. As a empath, i tried all above in the article and have failed miserably, no matter what you do, no matter how well you do for your partner, it is never enough! i am a positive individual but after my experience i feel lost, weak, confused, un-able to understand..... after doing some soul searching and i came across this article and now i feel in control.
    People who are narcissist and leech off of other's need help, there's no other alternatives. we all have issues but you cannot go around damaging everything you touch, by the end, you will be all alone and lonely, exactly what you are afraid of. an empath will carry on but will carry the scars.

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    1. Yes i agreed, they need help, but i think people often forget to help themselves, we all have the ability to heal ourselves. It is not easy, and it will take time and maybe tears. We just have to believe. People should not underestimate themselves, there are allready enough of things and people in this society, who does that for us. We are what we are, and i think, it is our lesson to learn from our experiences. Maybe we people have to be more alone sometimes.. Turn off all electronics, sit quite for yourself, be you, no enterferrings. i am guilty of not doing that enough, but i like to take long walks without music. It has helped my mind alot. Remember when scars heals, the skin becomes thicker and stronger. Time is your friend :)

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  10. Has anyone ever thought of the empathic narcissist or the narcissistic empath? These are real. Not so black and white. Roles flip and people play out many things in relationships. I find it better to take responsibility for oneself and leave labeling on the side.

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    1. Yeah, I really feel like these roles can shift over time, in a day, or in the middle of a conversation. I feel like my last relationship was two hurt empaths avoiding the habit of narcissism and never really doing anything but a spiral of enabling eachother into empathetic depression. We were both narcissists in our own ways too, but were too forgiving of eachother's coping mechanisms.

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  11. This was an interesting read from the other perspective. I'm a narcissist, and have been in therapy for a little over a year now for help with controlling my negative impulses, irrational or overblown anger, and despair. I gained the strength (yes, I say strength!) to end a going-nowhere relationship with someone who is a good person. She doesn't understand, but that's alright. Instead of finding my "meaning" from her or others, I have only to know that our relationship was hurting us both, and have that discipline to end it. I won't say people like me don't hurt other folks, because of course we do. I would beg a little more empathy, though - it's hard. harder than you'd believe, to start chipping awayat that nasty little feedback loop that leads to and facilitates people like me. Cheers.

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    1. Respected Chris, I salute your open mindedness.

      very few people with narcissistic personality take on teh courage to understand their maladaptive patterns and heal themselves into a healthy personality. I am trying to convince one person in my family who is very good otherwise, but has taken narcissitic traits to deal with his insecurities...i have tried repeatedly..but all attempts failed. So i respect your willingness to grow all the more

      And definately i empathise with your situation. I fully understand that , a person with narcissistic personality does not intentionally harm anyone. he actually believes he is behaving in a rational way. His emotional hurts & insecurities are unintentionally making him behave that way, in most cases. They are very genuine people otherwise. i understand that. YOu have shown the maturity to acknowledge the wrong direction your unconscious mind was leading you into..and that is damm cool.... i pray to God that you are able to soon heal you old wounds. and i am sure, because of your efforts, you will soon have a more positive & empowering personality than most people you know of. :-)

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  12. Wow Chris, wow dharav,
    Me too have stopt a recent close friendschip, ...well it started close. Something that made me understand the mechanism is the enneagram. Dharav, if i read your writing i believe you know about it. The narcissist is a typical type 8 that enters the negativity of type 5. Type 5 is a rational type.
    The problem with narcissist is they think they are empathic. But if they were how come they hurt people by crossing their line. In Dutch we say: they go over dead bodies. They don't care what their doings make you feel like. They think that they don't have to feel sorry about anything they do or say.
    What i don't understand is why they keep thinking it's the other's fault if everyone around them abandons them, and then they make you feel bad that they haven't done anything wrong, even if you show them the facts, they don't get it.
    But it's true, at first she was a very genuine person. She helped other people. But then she starts hurting them, as if she doesn't care what kind of attention she gets. It's a nasty personality type, that's for sure.

    The enneagram is definetely something to learn about.

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  13. I completely understand this... I've LIVED it...

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  14. very interesting and eye-opening, thank you (-: I lived with a narcissist three years ago, he was a piece of shit that didn't do shit for the house so i was cleaning and taking care of the cats. then i moved to florida, eventually in with another narcissist, worse than the first one, took me 9 months to figure him out n get away from him, now i'm back with the first narcissist, trying to get my own place. your article is very insightful, thank you again for writing!

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  15. Alex,

    I have been searching for an article, advice, blog, column, anything with as much substance and guidance as yours. It feels like you were speaking about my past year long relationship, which just ended about 2 months ago (thankfully). I became the girlfriend trying to "fix" my narcissistic boyfriend for a soul-sucking year. My family, friends, co-workers even noticed and everyone had an opinion about this man. He was charming, loving, sweet when he wanted but when it came down to emotions he was blank, gone, distant, alone.

    I just want to say Thank You. This article fully validated my feelings about someone that is just stuck, and will never change.

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  16. I am an empath, and I am suffering a lot in the relationship I am, that for a while I tried to find a way to get out, but I always stay. That's what I don't understand, why I am still with him when almost everything he does hurts me . I realised a long time ago that this relationship is not good for me, that I deserve more and still ,here I am preoccupied for him, trying to do all my best to make him better, and during time, I started to think that all the good inside me it's gone, that all my efforts for making him be better took all my strength and I feel like I can't raise again, that I am an awful person, full of anxiety, depression and maybe addiction to him. I tried so many time to end it and I couldn't, because every time I put his needs before mine's and I really feel that I am stronger than him and I can endure more,but also sometimes I say all my love and care he doesn't deserve and I should just walk away and heal myself. Strangely, I feel sorry for him, maybe I feel more sorry for him than for me, if I am keep trying to do my best to please him and help him. I know one day will end, I know I am not happy and I will not ever be able to, I cry a lot, I feel like I have no air, I feel down, some days I even hate myself, but I don't blame him for everything, he is like this and I choose to stay, I choose to be sad, I choose him and not me, so, it's my fault too. As long as I am accepting all he does I have to deal with my choice of staying and letting him hurt me,because I chose to let this happen. So, we can't blame just them, blame yourself for choosing to stay!

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  17. Thank you for this article...it does really help a lot with understanding, accepting and fully moving on...talking from my own recent relationship experience...doing much better now....staying away and very strong to let anyone to destroy my empathy and positivity. It's hard to understand for empath how these people can do, say such things like nothing is happening and continue living and moving into other people lives just to destroy them too...all for selfish needs.

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