The empath and the narcissist: 3 stages in a cursed relationship and how to recover from them

Relationships vary from one couple to another, some are destined to flourish while others are not. Whatever their genesis, the union of an empath and a narcissist is a cursed relationship from the outset.

The tumultuous relationship between an empath and a narcissist
Empaths are altruistic individuals who can constantly exceed the expectations of others. Their motivation is not just pleasure, but a genuine belief in their duty to help. They are often seen as emotional sponges, absorbing the energies of those around them.

Empaths are also able to detect subtle emotional changes in others and react in a variety of ways to offer support.

Narcissists, on the other hand, are of an entirely different calibre. Their quest for comfort leads them to put their own needs well ahead of those of others, or even to neglect them altogether. Their exaggerated sense of self-importance is clearly misplaced.

Empaths and narcissists are attracted to each other
One of the reasons their relationship is cursed is their marked emotional differences. Despite their opposite polarities, these two individuals always seem to find a way towards each other. The empath thus becomes the unwitting victim, while the narcissist devises stratagems to trap the empath like a fly in a trap.

However, no matter how hard you try (especially on the part of the empath) to make it work, “it’s a relationship doomed to disaster”, in the words of Judith Orloff, psychiatrist and author of The Empath’s Survival Guide. The relationship becomes extremely toxic because

“Empaths strive for harmony, while narcissists strive for the opposite,” explains Shannon Thomas, therapist and author of Healing from Hidden Abuse.

The cursed relationship between an empath and a narcissist generally goes through three main stages, which can be summed up as idealisation, devaluation and rejection.

The stages of abuse that an empath endures in a relationship with a narcissist:

1) The idealisation phase

Initially, the narcissist spots the empath and wants to “own” them. They take on the role of the perfect human being, blending in so well that you never suspect they can change.
No matter how intelligent the empath, the narcissist is a charming being and manages to charm their way in.

The empath believes they have found true love and commits themselves fully to the relationship.

Unfortunately, they love in a powerful way and give themselves body and soul.
A sort of honeymoon unfolds, where everything is fairytale-like and idyllic.
However, the narcissist changes their behaviour and reveals a “vulnerable” side of their personality. They issue subtle warnings hidden in this vulnerability, such as statements like: “I don’t deserve someone like you, you deserve better.” Yet the hallmark of any narcissist worthy of the name is their ability to feign “empathy”. They manage to attract the empath even more deeply.

2) The devaluation phase

Then their true nature is revealed. They begin to divert attention. The empath who was once the centre of their world suddenly becomes insignificant in their eyes.
The empath feels guilty, thinks he’s made a mistake, and does everything he can to put things right. But this is just the manipulative, emotional side of the narcissist. These manipulations can be devious, even in their subtlety.
The narcissist then takes total control over the empath. At this stage, they are convinced that they have total control over them, and this is when their mask falls off.

The narcissist slowly but surely begins to erode their partner’s trust. Narcissists strip them of everything until all that’s left is an empty shell. They work hard to say things that deeply affect the empath, gradually lowering their self-esteem until they become a shadow of their former selves.

Narcissists also try to change everything about their empathic partner. They may isolate them from friends and family. Empaths begin to wonder why their partner, who claimed to love them completely, is trying to change them. But these thoughts don’t go very far and they succumb to that part of themselves that is attracted to the narcissist.

This is when the abuse begins: the narcissist starts to mistreat their partner in a passive-aggressive or even more subtle way. They criticise and punish empaths at every opportunity. This paves the way for emotional manipulation, a tactic used by the narcissist to make the empath believe they’ve done something wrong and sow doubt about their sanity.

The empath begins to realise that there is something unhealthy in the relationship and tries to put things right. However, the narcissist has no interest in fixing anything. They probably enjoy the pain they inflict on the empath. What’s more, they refuse to take responsibility for the situation and prefer to blame the empath.

3) The rejection phase

Narcissists get bored easily. Once they feel they have conquered an empath or the empath starts to rebel, they feel the need to find new prey to satisfy their insatiable ego.
The empath then begins to wonder why he didn’t spot the signs earlier, blames himself for being a victim, and may end up sinking into depression. Eventually, the relationship comes to its inevitable end, which the empath accepts while trying to rebuild their life and move on.

The most important thing for the empath to do is to accept that it wasn’t their fault. Maybe it was a cursed relationship, but that’s okay.

They need to recognise that the narcissist was a con artist who targeted and manipulated them. Empaths have a long way to go to rebuild their lives, but it is possible. They can ask their family and friends for help, or seek professional help.

At the end of the day, the empath will heal completely and be fine, whereas the narcissist will remain stuck in his destructive path until he ends up destroying himself in the process.