Empaths and narcissists are notorious for having challenging relationships—emotionally, mentally, and even physically.
Yet, despite this, they seem to have a magnetic pull toward one another.
When an empath first meets a narcissist they usually believe they have met a fellow empath, as narcissists consciously mirror back everything empaths look for in a partner.
However, the illusions soon fade, masks come off, and there is a profound realisation that this entanglement is not one of genuine love, authenticity, mutual affection, and commitment. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
There are five known languages of love outlined by Gary Chapman in his book, The Five Love Languages. These include the languages of:
>> Quality time
>> Physical touch
>> Acts of service
>> Words of affirmation
There are many reasons it is critical that empaths learn about these and become aware of not only their own, but also the love language of narcissists.
It is widely debated whether narcissists are capable of genuine love for their romantic partners, as the traits that define Narcissist Personality Disorder include:
>> Being obsessed with their own intelligence, power, and appearance
>> The ability to take advantage of others without regret or conscience about their actions
>> A desperate need for attention
Narcissists are renowned for being self-obsessed and feeling as though the world either does, or should, centre around them.
The traits that define empaths include:
>> Thinking of other people’s needs before their own
>> Putting other people’s happiness and pleasure first
>> Taking on other people’s problems as though they are their own. In other words, going to all lengths to fix them
Unlike narcissists, empaths obsess more about other people’s requirements and emotional and mental well-being than they do their own. They often place other people on pedestals and can treat them as though they are the centre of the universe—to their own detriment.
Therefore, it’s crystal clear to see why these two personality types can connect and bond so strongly. Everything narcissists need, empaths willingly provide, up to the point where empaths become so fatigued and worn out from the constant giving that they are either replaced by the narcissist for someone who has a fresh supply of energy, or the empath hits the “wall” and walks away.
How we express and experience love differs from person to person, and is also dependent on the type of relationship we are in.
We may find it easier to express ourselves more with certain people than others, and this is particularly evident when we take a closer look at the empath/narcissist dynamic. While not all empaths and narcissists are the same, they can both have quite predictable patterns of behaviour.
The five love languages, and how they present in empath/narcissist relationships are as follows:
Words of affirmation
The major difference between the words that empaths and narcissists express in relationships is this: the words that narcissists speak are often delivered with self-serving ulterior motives in mind, while empaths generally communicate authentically with pure intention.
Narcissists are notorious for using a tactic known as “love bombing,” whereby they tell their partner everything they’ve been wanting to hear, purely to start a relationship, or to hook them back in when the relationship has ended or is going sour. They can be the most charming and persuasive partners, and instinctively know what to say in order to sweep someone off their feet and win them over.
This can appear as though they are naturally sweet and attentive with their words, that “words of affirmation” is their love language. However, all is not usually as it seems, which is why it is essential that empaths pay attention to see if words and actions align.
Narcissists pick and choose when and who they speak nicely to, and while they can be seductive with their choice of words, they can also be extremely abusive and can maliciously lash out and unleash a torrent of abuse on their partners.
Empaths are usually sincere when they speak, and when in relationships they use spoken communication to affirm their love, commitment, and loyalty to their partner. Empaths are renowned for being open and honest communicators, and by choice would be brutally truthful in all aspects of their relationship, but always with respect, thought, and care.
Giving and receiving undivided and focused attention within our closest relationships is something that the majority of people would agree is necessary to feel fulfilled, loved, and cared for. This is not always easy with busy lives, but for many, there’s nothing that shows love more than their partner being fully present with them.
Spending time with narcissists can be so deceiving because a narcissist’s primary concern is themselves, and the time spent with them is usually only to suit their own wants and desires and revolves around their own hobbies and interests.
One of the ways narcissists control their partners is through alienating them from their family and friends. So when an empath is in this type of relationship they usually are, or feel, disconnected from other people. This means that the majority of an empath’s time will be spent with their narcissist partner, although this does not by any means determine that the time is quality or soul nourishing. In fact, there is a higher chance of it being dysfunctional and resulting in tempers, trauma, and fights.
Narcissists will usually come up with a variety of reasons for not being fully present and attentive, and most of these will be projected onto the empath, by blaming them for any stress, frustration, or fatigue they may be experiencing.
It is rare for a narcissist to open up emotionally and authentically, or for them to have genuine interest in anyone but themselves, so time spent can be measured in great amounts of quantity but is highly unlikely to be quality.
Empaths, by contrast, have a deep need for soul connection with both their partners and their friends, so will likely be attentive and searching for depth and emotional engagement, which they will find difficult to achieve.
Empaths are not usually materialistic—they are unimpressed by money, status, or image. Narcissists have a desperate need to be physically admired, and will do anything to have the latest technology, gadgets, or the most expensive jewellery, flashiest car, extravagant homes, and clothing. Gift buying is the narcissist’s preferred language of “love,” and they feel loved and show “love” through expensive, superficial purchases.
Empaths, generally, would rather receive a handmade gift or item of sentimental value than to be showered with expensive items.
Empaths would likely place gift giving as their least desired love language, whereas narcissists would place it at the top of the list. Empaths love to give gifts to their partners, and those they love, but would be meticulous with what they choose, and would pick something heartfelt and meaningful.
Narcissists would be inclined to give gifts as their way of showing love, particularly when they are in the “love bombing” or “hoovering” stages of the relationship.
Acts of service
Narcissists behave as though they are the most important person in the world, often because they were brought up in an environment where they were constantly praised, told they were “special,” and treated as king or queen of the residence. When they enter a relationship they feel as though they are entitled for this treatment to continue, and the person they are with is there to serve their every need.
Narcissists not only desire acts of service, (such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, and laundry) from the person they are with, but they expect and even demand that their every need is catered to. Empaths often don’t have strong boundaries, and don’t like confrontations or saying no. Therefore, it’s highly likely that in this type of relationship empaths will be the ones carrying out continuous acts of service for their partner, receiving few thoughtful acts of service in return.
This means empaths can feel deeply unappreciated and unloved as they run around ensuring their partner is fully taken care of. Not only do they not receive anything in return, but they also feel guilty for taking time out to carry out acts of service for themselves.
This can deplete the empath’s energy levels and cause them to feel insecure and as though they aren’t worthy of someone taking time out to care for their needs. The narcissist’s energy levels heighten due to having someone there to serve them.
Acts of service would likely be highest on a narcissist’s love language list, and the least desired language of love empaths need.
Narcissists are known to use sex and seduction as a way of luring people into relationships and making people quickly full into lust or love with them. They also use physical touch as a way of emotionally tormenting their partner, by holding back physical affection and attention, and deliberately refusing to engage in sexual activity as punishment or revenge for something that has upset them.
At a time when empaths need affection the most—when going through a difficult time or are experiencing trauma—narcissists will distance themselves rather than soothe and comfort their partner. Empaths desire physical attention from their partners and it would likely be one of the love languages they need most. This is why it is used as a weapon of control by narcissists, to inflict the greatest amount of damage when their partner is at their most vulnerable.
Narcissists, by contrast, will expect their physical needs to be met at all times, regardless of how their partner is feeling, or how healthy the relationship is at the time. Narcissists are often at either end of the extreme with this one, they either expect physical affection constantly or totally withdraw to cause maximum amount of emotional suffering for their partner.
People generally show love in the same way they would like to receive it (this is the part that empaths struggle the most with). However, the same rule does not always follow through when taking into consideration those with personality disorders.
Empaths can make the fatal mistake of believing other people think and feel the same way they do. They also believe that the more love, compassion, and affection they show toward their partner, the more love, compassion, and affection they will receive in return.
It doesn’t matter if empaths are giving all their time, attention, and adoration unconditionally, they will still become drained of energy by giving so much and not only not receiving anything in return, but not replenishing themselves through self-love, compassion, and adoration. Empaths are so busy loving and tending to the needs of others that their levels of self-care and self-preservation are drastically low, and this can lead to low self-esteem as well as poor emotional, mental, and physical health.
The most important thing to remember in all of this is that what we want and desire isn’t necessarily the same as what our partner might want and desire, and just because we express ourselves in a certain way in our intimate relationships, it does not automatically mean that this will be returned sincerely and genuinely—particularly within relationships that involve empaths and narcissists.
Writing: Alex Myles
Main Image unsplash ANDI WHISKEY