A Narcissist & an Empath Walk Into a Bar: Understanding the Dynamic of Abuse.

Via Erica Leibrandt
on Mar 5, 2015
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Christian C/Flickr

When I met him, I was blown away.

He was a Yale graduate, confident about himself and his ideas, and certain that he was meant to “rule the world”—and that he intended to do it with me.

Up until then, every man I’d dated had been immature, needy, uninspired and uninspiring. This new guy’s intelligence and charisma, and his open admiration for me, felt like coming home.

Unfortunately, all of the qualities I found so compelling were also the classic traits of a narcissist.

Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

In order for a person to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) they must meet five or more of the following  symptoms:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

By the time the “honeymoon phase” ended—a heart breakingly brief span of a few months—I was convinced he was my one true love and I would do anything to serve the relationship.

Little did I know, “anything” would include giving him all my money, agreeing to let him have sex with other women, spending what little money we did have on drugs to the point that we were evicted from two apartments and became homeless for over a year, allowing myself to be coerced into becoming a dancer, and then giving him all of that money as well, while he endlessly berated me, shamed me, and blamed me for the pile of sh*t that was our life together.

Now, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I am not a stupid woman. What on earth could have compelled me to remain in such a situation? I have spent many sleepless nights asking myself that very question.

This was a textbook abusive relationship, but I had no idea what that meant. Even now, after years of study and research, the dynamic—the fact that is plays out so frequently among so many different types of people and with such exactitude—mystifies me.

But I think I finally figured out an important piece.

It is not just the narcissist that drives the paradigm, but the person he carefully selects to assist him. I’m willing to bet in more cases than not, perhaps in every single case, that person must be some degree of empath.

 “An empath is defined as someone with “the ability to read and understand people and be in-tune with or resonate with others, voluntarily or involuntarily of one’s empath capacity.” 

Unlike narcissism, empathy is not considered a pathology, but it certainly is a game changer.

Being a true empath is a complicated gift. Because of the empath’s ability to actually feel the feelings of others, they have a bottomless well of sympathy for everybody’s outlook and opinion—even if those outlooks or opinions are the polar opposite of the empath’s.

This puts “untrained empaths” (people, like the young me, who haven’t developed as strong enough sense of self to have a baseline standard for “good” and “bad” behavior) in a precarious position. They are able to endlessly justify the needs of those they care for, and see it as their duty to do so because no one else is capable of understanding them.

It falls to the empath, then, to both protect and bolster those close to them, even at the expense of their own needs and feelings. Not to do so feels like failure, and the resulting pain that those we care for experience is almost unbearable. In other words, we protect others to protect ourselves.

Combine an empath’s need to protect with a narcissist’s need to be lord and master, and you’ve got a self perpetuating cycle of disaster. Once established, it is almost impossible for an empath to break away, because doing so will cause the narcissist so much pain. The empath prefers to absorb the pain themselves, believing that they, and they alone, have the power to “fix” the narcissist. (Which is, ironically, narcissistic itself.)

So how can empaths protect themselves from being exploited?

Here are some simple suggestions:

1. Remember, we can’t “fix” others.

People will go through tough times and experience painful emotions no matter what we do. We must learn to accept this and allow it without always actively intervening.

2. When we feel ourselves getting “sucked in” to someone else’s drama, we can learn to turn inward.

We can ask ourselves, how do I feel about this? Do I feel that this other person is draining too much of my energy, or is acting in a way that is not philosophically in line with my beliefs (i.e.; unethically)?

If so, take a step back. Observe rather than engage.

3. Spend time quietly alone.

When empaths become overloaded by other people’s emotions, they begin to lose their sense of self. Spending time alone in meditation or reflection can help us hear own own voice without the influences of others.

4. Understand that not everybody is empathic.

This was one of the hardest things for me to realize—I assumed empathy was a standard part of every human being. Once I discovered that is not the case, I could steer clear of those who are unable to feel empathy, knowing that they would likely end up taking advantage of me.

If you, like me, are a card carrying empath, you’ve likely found it is both your greatest blessing and your greatest curse. But just because our innate nature can make us vulnerable to those who don’t necessarily have our best interests at heart, so it can allow us to develop a depth of connection to other caring souls that is unparalleled.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.



Relephant Reads:

6 Relationship Tips for Empaths.

Identifying Emotional Abuse before it Happens.

Bonus: Elephant’s founder Waylon Lewis on introverts, extroverts and empaths:


Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Christian C/Flickr


About Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a licensed mental health clinician, certified yoga instructor, and mother to six heathens who masquerade as innocent children. If she occasionally finds herself with a fried egg on her plate or dancing until dawn, she asks that you not judge her. Life is short, she knows the chicken that laid the egg, and we can never dance too much. Connect with Erica on FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr. And visit her website.


91 Responses to “A Narcissist & an Empath Walk Into a Bar: Understanding the Dynamic of Abuse.”

  1. voxleo says:

    I don't know if the site will allow me to post a link in the comments, but searching "Dr. Elaine Aron HSP test" should get you to a pretty good barometer for determining that difference between caring vs empathic.

  2. voxleo says:

    There is a difference though between the stimulus level of regular empathy and that experienced by an empath. Or, rather more accurately, a "hypersensitive person" as the actual tolerance level to the emotional stimulus is much different, and the stimulus, is in effect, amplified by that very hypersensitivity to the point that it cannot be ignored or distanced from one's own well being.

    It is not a choice or codependence or seeking approval, it is a defense mechanism against involuntary absorption of stimuli that we react to when we try to improve the mood of someone in distress around us. The concept is similar to how you might react to a commercial break on TV that is suddenly and uncomfortably loud by turning it down. We seek to quiet the emotional unrest because it is actively disrupting to our own ability to focus and manage. This is not something one can "counsel" themselves out of happening to them by simply thinking about it differently, it is actually a wiring of the central nervous system that is genetic and unalterable, kind of like how some people are allergic to bee stings while most people are not going to get more than a small annoying welt, an allergic person can have a severe reaction that sends them into anaphylactic shock and death if not treated.

  3. Elle says:

    Wow, just got out of a relationship almost to a tee like the one Erica wrote about, which was a relief to hear honestly, and I still fell for the flip and bounce until it was pointed out! I thought hmm, I suppose Kyle may have a point. But you know what, I've been over it and over it and it didn't feel like I had a choice! Especially being naive to the dynamic altogether when it started. I got sucked in and then spit out 7ish years later when I literally had zero energy left to get from one day to the next.

  4. Elle says:

    I think being an empath can suck someone into a relationship with a narcissist, which then leads to codependent patterns developing. For me, I never had trouble with codependency before getting involved with the narcissist. When I met the narcissist, his energy kept telling me to pay attention to him, that he was so beautiful and fascinating and perfect and I would never find someone like him. Of course, at the time, I didn't realize, this was his energy, not mine! His energy kept insisting that I needed him, and I thought those were my legitimate thoughts brought to me by fate or what-have-you. Hard lesson learned I guess.

  5. Elle says:

    Offense taken. Have you been emotionally manipulated? Are you an empath? You can feel another's person's emotions, but you can't always tell which are yours and which are their's. Similarly, the tendency to feel another's pain when they can't feel yours, makes you easy to exploit. Now, I know better how to sense projection energy and to be suspicious of that, but early on, as a young trusting person, I had no clue.

  6. Aaron says:

    Was married to a female narcissist who used these tactics exactly.

  7. Another Counselor says:

    Hmmm, which one of the two serves humanity, and which one exploits it? Co-dependent is a horrible label for a caring person, who, like EVERYBODY ELSE wants to be loved. (sorry about the capitals, I was emphasizing). A narcissist is a predator, a co-dependent (ugh) is prey, but no one is immune to predators, not even other predators. Empaths fall prey only when they have not been caught in such a trap before. Once you experience it, you learn and you will never fall again, That's not being co-dependant, that is being a decent and quite normal human being. Narcissists can not truly be empaths. And empaths who continually go through abuse should not be shunned and shamed for caring for others, even if in THIS culture that is made out to be wrong. What is wrong with "saving" anyone? Isn't that better than destroying them? It is this culture that defines the boundaries of self, it is this culture which emphasizes the cult of self – me first, myself first, take no crap, etc. Self is an illusion. I hope the world gets filled with empaths (co-dependants) and that they all of them save at least some people. Let us redefine relationships. I'd only advise empaths to learn when and how to put up some tough boundaries for protection. But don't succumb to the co-dependant label. Be your beautiful and empathic self, care for people, love, forgive, but know when to close the door. Another Counselor.

  8. Philippa says:

    Awesome post Demon. Sorry to not bleed for you there Kyle…but most Narcs never really commit to therapy. They often manipulate or charm the therapist and there are basically zero cases of any person with this disorder EVER recovering because you all think there's nothing wrong with you to start with and it's everyone else that is crazy…so, nice try but no cigar.

  9. Kelly says:

    Got any info on a mother empath raising a narcissist son?

  10. Dan says:

    Narcissism is driving the youth of today a young man needs to be full of himself in today’s society, if he is not he is typically ostracized, or not a man. It’s just something I’ve noticed…

  11. Cnspots says:

    Narcissism of today’s youth maybe driven by helicopter parenting? Then there’s the the career driven parents that are missing school functions, sports events due to late night meetings, or having to travel a lot; so, they try to bribe or make it up to their kids crazy lifestyles & absences due to careers by buying them almost everything & anything they want. It seems many kids don’t know boundaries today or recognize the word “No”. I’ve esp seen it in divided homes, where kids like to manipulate the parent’s. I think the kids learn to the parent’s off one another better than the parent’s can use the kids against one another! Of course, that’s not everyone; but seems to be a trend.

  12. Zeta Lewis says:

    So, I am an extrovert empath, I get so confused most days, what are my feelings and which ones are not mine, I got married to a narciss, and I have learnt so much about myself, I chose not to be a victum and rather look at my mirror, I found out a lot about myself,
    I don't believe there are any victims in this world, only choices, and I believe that been gifted with emphathy is like everything in life, it has up sides and downsides, either way, because I can feel and resonate with different energies, this also means I am not always right, I also miss read situations, because I have miss read an energy,
    Its all about learning how to be here in this world, to be present and to be able to look at knocks as building blocks and not as an excuse not to be fully with the world…
    Sorry if this offend anyone out there, this is not my intention, I simply want you all to know, that every relationship has problems, but the biggest problem is not first recognizing it within yourself, and having the courage to heal it forgive yourself and move on,

    Love and light

  13. MsMaggieMIa2 says:

    I also was fascinated with this! I am a true Empath, not only that, I've discovered I am also co-dependent, controlling and unable to NOT feel other's pain and want to fix everything!

  14. Phil Walker says:

    This article is quite good but as some of the above comments say it confused empath with someone who is also codependent. The main target of the narcissist is the empath, codependent, infj (myers briggs) and highly sensitive person.

    Being an empath in itself is great and always good and to be nurtured. It’s the codependent aspect of that which is sucked in by a narcissist. Yes I agree with the above in terms of time alone etc etc to nurture self but this is about nurturing our own wounds to attract better relationships and to use our empathy appropriately in a good way with good boundaries and not to just be sucked in. I have been sucked in by a few narcissists and have been in deep recovery since the last one and just coming through with the vow ‘this will never happen again’.

    I am an infj, highly sensitive person, empath and I guess increasingly recovering codependent.

  15. Stephanie S. says:

    I am an empath who was married to a narcissist. It was a toxic marriage. Empaths do not control or fix people. We are a shoulder to cry on and do what we can to help the person. Whether it's by loaning money, giving rides to people, jumping someone's car, picking up hitch hikers. All of those things I have done. I have learned the hard way not to wear my heart on my sleeve. When someone comes to you with a problem it's hard to tell the person No I can't help you because we don't want to hurt them more than they are already hurting so we become the crutch.
    It has to end at some point.

  16. Stephanie Day says:

    Great article, the combination has a myriad of variables that could implemented. I’m also an empathy and ended in a very abusive dysfunctional relationship with a narc. It’s taken me two years to “figure it out”. Yes, empaths are sensitive, we take on other’s emotions and want to fix everything. We feel other’s pain, I once thought I was psychic because I knew things I shouldn’t know. But later, I learned it is empathy. I never learned about boundaries and recognizing dangerous people until I was 50! Great article addressing the dynamic’s of empaths/narcs. I’m also a recovering codependent, I think a lot of empaths are codependents too? Thanks for sharing your article, spread the word!

  17. April says:

    This person is confusing being empathic with having low self-esteem and no personal boundaries. A true empath will be able to sense the negativity and narcissistic tendencies in a person and intuitively know that the person is not a good influence. When you have no sense of your own worth or identity, you tend to take other people's energy/emotional resources to fill in your own void. This can feel like you are feeling other people's emotions and feelings because you literally are absorbing their energy. You might not be aware of this, but you're in a sense draining those around you by taking from them. This is not very different from how Narcissists take from people around them to validate their ego. This is why you are both attract each other; you vibrate on the same level. I'm not saying that you can't be an empath when you're in these kind of relationships. However, I suggest that you don't focus on labeling yourself as an empath as it can be a way for your ego to feel "special" and therefore a reason revel in victimhood. Try loving yourself first and fill yourself up with your own emotional resources, and be surprised how much things can change. You won't be overwhelmed by other people's emotions yet have a more clear and accurate perception to their state of being and emotions (if you really do have empathic tendencies).

  18. Elorabird says:

    Something seems to be getting lost in translation. Codependants (my family is full of them and I too must resist the learned behaviour) is when a person–empath or not–NEEDS the authority figure/narcisisst or controlling figure to maintain his/her own persona (being the martyr, the saviour, the nurturer, the victim). Without someone to save, the codependant is lost. He/she thrives on feeling special, to be the only one who can understand, tame, and coax love from the "beast"(like living out the beauty and the beast fable). The codepenant personality stems from deep rooted insecurity and the belief that he/she must earn love and is not automatically worthy of love and regard for who he/she is. He/she also derives passive aggressive power from playing the victim (often subconsciously) as a way to gain access to other peoples empathy, resources and attention. The codependant's efforts to help border on being an act of passive-agressive control over another. There is no glory in being a codependant, and from what I've witnessed, it rarely ends well for the codependant. You can be an empath without going overboard into codependant personality disorder. On the flip side, I was under the impression that a true narcissist is convinced of his/her own superioirity; not masking insecurity. But your defiinition makes sense. I do agree that the world needs more empaths and people willing to help eachother, but we need to seperate the codependant personality from what you describe as the warmhearted and naive-innocent empath personality. The codependant needs help to access healing and learn boundaries, whereas the self-assured empath may already have a sense of self and have at least a few boundaries in place.

  19. Elorabird says:

    And they are also EXTREMELY adept at reading others' emotions and playing them back to them. Sociopaths are hard to spot, and their fake, albeit convincing displays of emotion often appear to be authentic (even to an empath). Your intuition may flag you that there's something too rehearsed and perfect about them–listen to it! I've heard that it's common for victims of relationships with sociopaths to have believed the sociopath was was their soul mate–what they've been searching for in a partner. Experts call this "love-bombing:" the Sociopath having figured out all the buttons of his victim, takes on the persona of prince/princess charming and maintains this until he/she is done/bored having drained what they wanted from their victims. Sociopaths are emotional, moral and spiritual vampires. Take heed!

  20. Melina says:

    Can anyone offer any thoughts on temper issues. My boyfriend tends to have a temper that can really fly off the handle. I have tried to be understanding and loving about it from the beginning. For instance when his bike broke on a trail he hurled it down the trail whilst yelling obscenities. My response was to give him a hug even in his rage and it calmed him down, but eventually you cannot always do that in every situation and it would be nice if he regulated himself some. When we had an argument early on in our relationship and I was sitting on the passenger side of his car he got out and slammed the door so hard that the glass shattered in my face. He once rammed into a car next to us out of road rage and has crashed a few cars due to road rage. If a guy messes with him in anyway, he will confront them and sometimes beat them up or yell obscenities or chase them down in his car. At work he hurls tools and yells when car projects frustrate him. He regularly breaks my stuff if he is mad at me and early on when another guy approached me to dance, he ran outside and broke stuff. I am thinking of this because today he actually broke his hand today since he got so mad at his work that he punched an engine. All of our apartments have had holes in the walls from him punching them. Sometimes he has ripped the whole wall down. He gets impatient so easily. I care for him and do love him, but, man, he is stressful to be around often. Any thoughts? Also, this does make me feel emotionally distant at times and uneasy around him.

  21. Melina says:

    Oh, how could I forget that he head butted me once too in a rage and bruised my head. He also recklessly drove us off the road once when he was angry with me and then pummeled the dash board of my car, breaking it. He then got out of the car and punched my door leaving a big dent. There is more, but I will stop.

  22. Zachary says:

    Of course the “recovering” narcisist must pick out one detail about the given example and then make it about himself. The fact that the only thing you gathered from that story is that it chose a male narcisist and female empath to illustrate the point indicates you are still in that mindset and have not yet begun “recovering.” Just look, you took an irrelevant point to make this about yourself, and even more, making yourself out to be the victim. It’s an article that’s not “targeting” you or trying to make you feel shameful, but a narcisist would perceive it that way. All in the mean time you are able to put down females and insinuate that they (or any empaths) are just as responsible for the radical behavior of a narcisist. I encourage you to continue to “recover” but unfortunately personality disorders can only be maintained and empathy cannot be taught. One thing you can do is become more mindful. Recognize when you are “scheming” and trying to take advantage of another. Recognize how your actions affect other people by being genuine. Recognize that it is okay to disagree with another and to not let your own immediate emotions make you feel the need to be defensive/berating. Recognize that this world is not yours to give, but yours to share. You’ll become a much happier person when you don’t have to manipulate, blame, or guilt people into “getting ahead or “being right.” When you reciprocate respect and empathy, you’ll begin to find that most people are willing to help you get ahead and you’ll be able to sustain an established friendship/relationship. If you continue to have a life of constant chaos from never finding fault within and never being able to say “I’m sorry,” you will find yourself a lonely old man with a trail of ash from the burnt bridges…

  23. Zach says:

    Of course the "recovering" narcissist must pick out one detail about the given example and then make it about himself. The fact that the only thing you gathered from that story is that it chose a male narcissist and female empath to illustrate the point indicates you are still in that mindset and have not yet begun "recovering." Just look, you took an irrelevant point to make this about yourself, and even more, making yourself out to be the victim. It's an article that's not "targeting" you or trying to make you feel shameful, but a narcissist would perceive it that way. All in the mean time you are able to put down females and insinuate that they (or any empaths) are just as responsible for the radical behavior of a narcissist. I encourage you to continue to "recover" but unfortunately personality disorders can only be maintained and empathy cannot be taught. One thing you can do is become more mindful. Recognize when you are "scheming" and trying to take advantage of another. Recognize how your actions affect other people by being genuine. Recognize that it is okay to disagree with another and to not let your own immediate emotions make you feel the need to be defensive/berating. Recognize that this world is not yours to give, but yours to share. You'll become a much happier person when you don't have to manipulate, blame, or guilt people into "getting ahead or "being right." When you reciprocate respect and empathy, you'll begin to find that most people are willing to help you get ahead and you'll be able to sustain an established friendship/relationship. If you continue to have a life of constant chaos from never finding fault within and never being able to say "I'm sorry," you will find yourself a lonely old man (named Kyle) with a trail of ash from the burnt bridges…

  24. Zach says:

    PS. I am an empath and am incredibly sensitive to others feelings. However, other empaths must recognize that although they have a natural tendency to be submissive and attempt to do anything to avoid conflict, you must be aware of individuals with personality disorders because they will suck you dry. That is why I disagree that the dynamic of the relationship is 50/50. The empath looks for reciprocity and certainly doesn’t shy away from being given affection. I believe that the narcissist wears down on the empath so that they are unable to escape the situation. This forces them to continually be the blame of any wrongdoing and almost begin to accept that it is them who is doing something wrong. They then go each day trying to avoid conflict with the narcissist by doing anything to please this person, just hoping that they will one day be satisfied. However, this day will never come. I’m disappointed at those who blame empaths for contributing to the dynamics of the abusive relationship with a narcissist. There is a clear difference between someone who genuinely cares and looks after their partner’s needs versus someone who is dependent on the physical/emotional needs of their partner. Empaths want to give not because they need to in order to feel right, but because they are able to recognize when someone needs help. They are not dependent on this as many of you pointed out, it’s simply the “goodness” of a human being trying to do right in a relationship and often times do hope that their partner is able to recognize and reciprocate these same actions/feelings. I believe that many of you are confusing empaths with someone who has dependent personality disorder. When a person with this pathology is joined with a narcissist/anti-social, I believe it then becomes a 50/50 contribution each way

  25. xena says:

    Well said. I am an Empath who just dated a Narcissist. It took me 6 months to realize what he was. He would always play the victim about his wife abandoning him. Once our honeymoon period was over, his true self appeared. I realized he was a Narcissist with a drinking problem. He also became emotionally and mentally abusive. I soon realized why his wife left him when their son was 4 months old. Not too many women will leave the father of their first born at a young age unless the guy is truly evil. At first I believed his victim story but I soon saw that he was an abusive person who only wanted me for Narc Supply when it was convenient for him. He is still texting me and I am trying to have no contact.

  26. Miles says:

    I think your definition of what you call an empath is actually a co-dependent partner, sometimes called inverted narcissism. This is a behavior that is formed typically with the spouse of an alcoholic partner but can also be formed from unhealthy relationships with mentally ill people who have illnesses such as NPD. These 2 attract each other and benefit from each others negative qualities creating a toxic relationship. Both people need help.

  27. Gypsy-Tripper says:

    I KNOW it is hard and you love him and you're ever hopeful of him changing. I KNOW you think with your love and the help he needs he will conquer it. I KNOW that the times when he isn't angry and breaking stuff it is amazing and you cling to it for dear life as its all you wanted. I KNOW you're scared of him but think deep down he will never hurt you. I KNOW all this because I was there. Right there. Until 6 weeks ago when I got rid. And that's what you have to do!

    Believe me, it will be hard, you'll think you'll never meet anyone quite like him again, you'll grieve for what was and what could have been, you'll miss his hand in yours/the hugs/the sex/the affection/the dreams/the laughs…you will. And then the guilt will set in.."If only I had done/said/tried/not said". But one thing I have learned from all of this and I KNOW this must be true for you too – I did not value/love myelf enough to have put up with all that shit! You gotta look within. You gotta help YOU. You simply cannot help him, only he can do that. And as much as he promises he will get help and change, he won't. Why? Becasue he doesn't need to! You put up with it.

    I do hope for his sake and my ex that they do get help and "recover", truly I do. But you have to do what is best for you and your self-worth. Being in an abusive relationship is debilitating. It starts to become your "normal". That's just how life is.

    You can't keep making excuses for him. You can't keep subjecting yourself to this torment and living a life whereby you walk on eggshells. You're not living. You're not loving yourself. And one day when it does end drastically (and it will- one way or another), you'll wish you had all this time back so you could do things differently, so you could live a full and happy life with someone that lifts you up, raises your vibration and supports you in becoming the best version of you. Like my Dad said "there are 7billion people in this world, roughly half of them are men. Why would you want to stay with a man that causes you so much pain and fear when you could be with another that loves and cherishes you. One that doesn't need "fixing"?).

    I'm still healing and dealing, still going over it all in my head with the "what if's" and "shoulda, coulda, woulda's" but I'm catching myself each time and replacing the thoughts with what I DO want to attract. You can do it, you just gotta love yourself enough to want to. Let him see you won't stand for it. Demand the respect you deserve, your fututre self will thank you for it when you can step back from the tree and see the woods. I do look forward to the day where I look back and say "what the hell was I thinking?" I'm just glad I got out now and not wasted another 2/5/20/30 years of my life trying to "fix" him. It was never gonna happen!

    Don't be that broken woman. Stop delaying the inevitable. Do what's right for you and please, start loving yourself.

  28. Elizabeth says:

    Yikes! This could have been written by my ex! My skin started crawling with the first sentence! Way to be arrogant, demeaning and judgmental. Very thinly veiled, I might add. I thought I was in a safe place. Feels like a fox was let into the henhouse! You are going to attack me, I know, it's what Narcs do!

  29. Guest Deb says:

    Good on you Xena!!! Half the battle is recognizing the behavior for what it is and the other half is acting on that knowledge. Sometimes this isn't so easy and requires lots of honest self reflection and action. I'm wondering though why you haven't barred his number from your phone?

  30. Justin says:

    I am going through this exact thing in divorce now. It is extremely hard to control your own emotion when the woman shifts gears and plays the poor me role, all the while setting up another attack at your own character. As a man it is not acceptable or percieved to be acceptable to reach out for help. I went through wave after wave of my own character being dragged through the mud, even when at the same time trying to help the very person working so hard to destroy me. It’s very easy for the female in the relationship to gain support outside of the relationship, especially when attractiveness is involved. There are any number of men out there willing to step in and be the white knight for an attractive lady claiming abuse. Thankfully I did reach a breaking point and severed myself from this relationship that could only be described as toxic. I beat myself up for quite a long time wondering if I really did the right thing, and if I should have done more to save my marriage. It led to great moments of self reflection though, and once the cycle of control was broken and I could step away and truly see the relationship for what it was, it was a huge measure of relief. I have a long road still to learn to love and trust the right way, but I think it’s important that it is understood that men do go through the same thing. I think it’s also important that other men in this situation know it happens to others and it doesn’t make you less of a man to ask for help or guidance. I’m thankful I didn’t end up in a bodybag or setup for something that could have cost me everything.

  31. Alakiki 2 says:

    There are A LOT of female narcissists all over the place! As someone with an evolved empathic nature, when I look back over nearly ALL of my friendships with women, they are narcissists of some degree. I ended a long term, mostly long distance, friendship around two years ago. We knew each other nearly thirty years, but had spent relatively short amounts of time together via vacations and visits…and of course, long distance means unlimited phone and internet narcissistic supply for her. As my life evolved into a very good one, she began to attack me along the way in variety of ways…ANYTHING to mess with my head or self-esteem. I have always had pretty good self-esteem, but every now and then I am duped if I AM NOT paying attention. I noticed she was having huge arguments with coworkers and friends, then doing crazy payback stuff. I used to say, "I don't know if that is a good idea…," which probably irritated her (who knows?). I literally had to use the NO CONTACT method in ending the friendship. She definitely would have tried to wreak havoc if I had attempted an end the friendship discussion. There is no way to end on a positive note with these people. After two years I received a crazy text like we just talked a few weeks ago, then when I didn't respond it was followed with the typical put down text. I may be wrong but the wording of each text seemed very precise so if I responded I would look like the crazy one. I felt she had an audience she was dying to show a text too (fortunately we have no common friends). She is BLOCKED now. It kind of scares me to hear from her after all this time. She has left a plethora in her wake of narcissistic behaviors, yet always paints herself as the victim…very calculated and directed to those who provide comfort. Anyway, sorry you fellas had deal with this type of woman…I get it.

  32. Alakiki 2 says:

    I don't think of myself as codependent or necessarily as an empath, but more of an upbeat person that narcissists like to have as one of their reflections in the mirror.

  33. Andreea says:

    Stephanie , can i talk to you in private ? Like email, or something. I will have a first session of therapy on tuesday because i just dont know anything anymore. I dont know who i am , or what i believe , what is normalfor me or what happenned. Anyway , i suppose my husband is a narc, i wondered before but i abandoned the idea. Im in irealism. You said you went through something like that, and i was thinking you are more detached and know better than me. I would like to tell you very short some facts. I know this sounds crazy but i do need some confirmation that i am not crazy and is not all in my mind. I know the truth is inside me, but i just cant see it right now. And we have a baby together also. If you cant , i understand this completely. I dont want to impose.

  34. Mary says:

    You are so very right. We went to three therapists who were all bowled over by my narcissist. One of them even asked ME (when he went to the restroom), “What do you think you could say to your husband that would get him to listen?” Huh?! Hey, that’s what I’m paying YOU the big bucks to help me with because Lord knows I’ve tried everything I can think of. When a “partner” (I use that term loosely) goes to a therapist with you with the intention of having the therapist “fix YOU,” you’re beat before you start.

  35. Jennifer says:

    Kyle’s comment made me cringe. No matter what draws the narcissist and the empath together, no person deserves to be on the receiving end of abusive behavior. Although the term victim has many connotations, there is no doubt in my mind that any man or woman who has been abused by a narcissist has been victimized. To imply somehow that the empath is to blame somehow for choosing the narcissist as a partner sounds similar to those who claim a woman deserves to be raped if she dresses provocatively.

  36. Tiffany says:

    I always thought I was just an HSP and empathetic. (I was raised by a narcissist.) But then one day I ended up in a classroom far from home. It was a blissful setting but I could not stop crying sporadically. I would be just fine one moment, then I would mysteriously start crying like a wave of devastation overcame me. The class was a week long so I had time to work with it. I realized that this would happen when I was around one particular woman. I denied this link. I doubted. I still cried around her uncontrollably. I never spoke to her; I couldn't. Most of the time she was behind me and I would start to cry without consciously knowing she was there (of course I was avoiding proximity to her). Turns out she was in the class to help her recovery process because her college aged daughter was just killed in a car crash 3 weeks before. When I found that out I realized I had my proof, as I had not suffered a similar loss (at least not in this life). I hope this provides an example to doubters and skeptics who have not found their own proof.

  37. Tony says:

    I don't know about Kyle, but for me, it was the realization that all my intimate relationships had failed, and that I and my behavior were the common factors in every case. Seeing that I was the source of not only ofher's pain but also my own, I chose to seek professional counseling, which led to a referral to a psychologist and some long term therapy. I wouldn't say there is a "cure" for NPD; it's more understanding the cause and effect mechanisms that drive the behavior, understanding and forgiving yourself, and monitoring yourself, asking "what's in this for me?" as you enter a relationship to make sure your intentions are not self serving. Over years now, I don't have to monitor as much, and I've added doing things in what I refer to as "a spirit of love" to put the other person's needs ahead of mine. It's been a tough transition taking many years and tons of self examination, but being able to like who I am now is priceless. I don't know if this sounds clinical enough or not; it's just what I had to go through. I believe self change on something so deeply seated in a person's psyche required both an event and commitment to the journey to heal, and I would suggest that at least some narcissists meet with the first but can't stay with the second. I also believe that many never realize what they are for what it is, and that's sad. I can't imagine now going back to the hellish life I used to create for myself and others.

  38. Brandi says:

    I hope you got away from that! My mother is the narcissist in my life and she’s been abusing me for 32 years. I strive, fight and meditate every day with everything I do so I don’t make my own children feel how she made me feel. I can only hope that my recognition of the cycle and patterns help me keep from turning into her.

  39. Nicole says:

    I am an empath in the truest sense of the word. I feel other people’s emotions and physical ailments as if they were my own. I’ve had relationships with 2 narcissists, both which were highly destructive (could it go any other way?). I disagreed with your article, specifically the part about how the empath thinks they are the only one who can understand and “fix” the narcissist. While that desire to fix and save was definitely present in my heart with those men, I never thought that I was the only one who could be that person for them. I always felt like I needed the connection I felt with them more than they needed it with me. They were both very good at being rejecting, accusatory, twisting my words, and shutting me out. I spent most of my time in those relationships utterly confused about what I had done wrong and how I could fix ME and the relationship. The saving/fixing part with regards to the narcissist is usually only present at the very beginning of the relationship. That’s how they hook us in…by acting vulnerable and playing the victim. We think they value us and admire us so the empath part of us goes to work trying to help them and make their lives better. But the rest of the relationship consists of them pulling the wool over our eyes with their accusations and lies.

  40. MM says:

    Is there any cure for Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

    I am with the one for years but I do not think telling him ‘you are with this disorder. Do something about it.’ won’t do anything. Because the disorder works for him conveniently. It just is a problem for people around him. In the end, he will get back to his own shoes and get whatever he deserves but there should be something for him to see himself. I hope I can stop breaking every single bone for him and pretending that I believe his lies and love him blindly. War of bullshit here.

  41. Jo hewing says:

    Well said. It’s great to hear a female say this . I don’t hear women talk like this very often well put .