The Toxic Attraction Between an Empath & a Narcissist.

Via Alex Myles
on Jun 27, 2015
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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 too 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.


Relephant Reads:

Traits of an Empath.


Relephant video bonus:

BONUS too: 108 little things to appreciate about being single:



Author: Alex Myles

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Victoria Sorderstrom (used with permission)



About Alex Myles

Alex Myles is a qualified yoga and Tibetan meditation teacher, Reiki Master, spiritual coach and also the author of An Empath, a newly published book that explains various aspects of existing as a highly sensitive person. The book focuses on managing emotions, energy and relationships, particularly the toxic ones that many empaths are drawn into. Her greatest loves are books, poetry, writing and philosophy. She is a curious, inquisitive, deep thinking, intensely feeling, otherworldly intuitive being who lives for signs, synchronicities and serendipities. Inspired and influenced by Carl Jung, Nikola Tesla, Anaïs Nin and Paulo Coelho, she has a deep yearning to discover many of the answers that seem to have been hidden or forgotten in today’s world. To purchase Alex’s paperback book or ebook please click here or click here to connect with her on Facebook, or click here to join Alex’s Facebook group for empaths and highly sensitive people to connect.


510 Responses to “The Toxic Attraction Between an Empath & a Narcissist.”

  1. Erin M. says:

    Oh boy, this is my life to a T. Went from a narcissistic mother to a narcissistic husband, whose tagline was , “You have forced my hand”, never once took responsibility for his actions. I am in the end of a relationship now after 5.5 months with the same kind of man. When I ask him point blank if maybe he can say something nice about me, he says, ” Wow, all you say is ‘me, too! me, too’ “and it finally dawned on me that I was repeating the same behaviours over again. Ugh. I wish these “labels” that we all wear would appear on our foreheads.

  2. too nice says:

    Wow this sounds just like what I was involved in for the last 3 months. I am the empath and I was completely devastated and at the same time knew I was in a bad situation. My addiction and attraction was so strong i couldn't walk away! I pleaded and begged and put myself in a humiliating situation. I seem to repeat this in relationships

  3. Sheryl says:

    Insightful article and the Editor’s comment at the start is helpful and pertinent. I was sent this link by a friend, a very troubled narcissist who sees herself as the “victim” of the type of people she attracts because she is “doomed and predisposed by birth” to have the mindset of the empath.

    In fact her narcissism has driven many of her relationships away, which seems to be obvious to others who care about her but not to herself – even though she is usually highly-perceptive about human nature and motivations.

    Is it very difficult for the narcissist to recognise their own narcissistic nature and interaction with others? Or is it that, even if they become aware of it, they cannot help themselves behaving in a narcissistic way and so seek others, such as empaths, to permit their behaviour, thereby giving it some legitimacy in their own mind?

    Mary’s comment above was useful (thanks Mary) as it reflects the type of behaviour my friend is displaying with others, especially the few empaths amongst her group of friends.

    “When the narcissist is delusional and thinks they are the empath. Demands to be in control and then plays the victim because things are not going their way.”

    My friend went through a period of counselling with a cognitive behavioural therapist who, through the course of their time together, recognised that she was a narcissist and played that back to her directly (she once told the therapist that even the bad weather follows her around as if it’s trying to get her).

    The counselling helped her for a while but, once it was finished, she reverted back to her “normal”, highly-manipulative behaviour. It’s difficult to see a friend who is a narcissist wounded and suffering under the belief that the way they feel is everyone or everything else’s fault – and even a result of what they believe to be their own empathic nature.

    However, it does appear to be true that: “Any attempt to communicate authentically with the narcissist will be futile as they will certainly not be looking to soothe and heal anyone else.” as the author points out.

    I’ve found that Adam Grant’s bestselling “Give and Take” book is also helpful reading on this subject.

  4. Kaz says:

    I feel this article is VERY one sided. Putting people into boxes is very narrow-minded.. There are narcissists that cannot and will not change that can eventually become very bitter, judgemental and closed off to others and probably alone and then there are some with narcissist tendencies, which we can all have at times. Remember which wolf you feed!!! I completely understand the dynamics of this destructive relationship patterning which prompted me to include a segment about this negative relationship patterning in my 2nd book, soon to be published. It is important to recognize if your relationship is showing these tendencies. Know that there is no perpetrator when there is no victim!! When the empath, playing out the victim role, begins to feel empowered and stops their behaviour and no longer tolerates being disrespected, then the narcissist, playing the perpetrator role has a choice to stop the behaviour OR choose to go and do it to someone else. It is sad that some that have found themselves in this negative relationship patterning have chosen to avoid relationships altogether. We are all striving for balance in life, and these relationships give us the opportunity to transform ourselves if we take 100% responsibility for our part in the relationship. These relationships offer us incredibly opportunities for growth in learning to become assertive, get in touch with what we want and learning to ask for it!!

  5. Lucy says:

    Thank you so much

  6. Nicole says:

    I’ve read a lot of articles on the empath/narcissist attraction, but I think yours is one of the best. It perfectly described what I went through in my 4 year on-again-off-again relationship with my covert narcissist. I didn’t recognize him as such until until after we split. If nothing else, that relationship helped me recognize that I’m an empath. Now I’m trying to figure out how to forgive *myself* for giving my ALL to a man who didn’t (or couldn’t) love me back…the emotional equivalent of a black hole.

    But today, I found this…

  7. JP says:

    My son took his own life 2 years ago. Before it happened, he had spoken to me and to some of his close friends about emotional abuse like what you described. The relationship lasted 3 yrs beginning at euphoric and slowly going downhill until the tragic ending. There were young children in the home 3 stepchildren who he helped take care of and had bonded with and one that he and his wife had together. We knew he was feeling trapped and depressed but never thought he would take his own life. He had always been a very positive person until the last few months when things started going downhill fast. I wish I could have understood about toxic relationships what I do now. I thought it would be worked out one way or another and he knew we would support him no matter what he decided. He was almost 29 years old. I guess I just want to warn people that these relationships can suck the life out of a person and sometimes an empath may want out but stays for the children, or because the narcissist begs him to(which is only a ploy). Sometimes their depression can cause them to make an impulsive and deadly choice. If you love someone in a toxic relationship, remember they may need help getting out.

  8. Mia says:

    But you don't understand that being an empath and in a relationship with a narcissist could cause Complex PTSD, and getting out is not as easy as one may think. The getting out is about getting out of the destructive thought patterns that are caused by trauma – in the past and now with the narcissist. Trauma changes the brain, and the part of the brain responsible for fight or flight remains on. It's a complicated subject and making it sound easy puts the blame on the victim. A victim is a victim and healing or getting out, as I mentioned before, is not easy. Putting the pieces back together is not easy. No one wants to be in a toxic position, no one.

  9. Noel says:

    While I appreciate the article for the discussion and awareness it is raising, I must add that narcissism is a personality disorder. A personality disorder is not a coping mechanism as might be learned from an event. A personality disorder is not something that can be unlearned. Personality disorders cannot be medicated or counseled away. For the author to suggest in any way that narcissism can be treated, reversed or modified in any way only serves to keep someone, especially an unsuspecting empath, in a terrible relationship GAME THEY CAN NEVER WIN. Be grateful for the lesson, be grateful for the opportunity to rebuild yourself and discover all the beauty and light and love that YOU ARE and leave that relationship behind. Distance and time will reveal how much you have gained from the experience. I promise.

  10. Carol says:

    This is so true. I’ve never really understood why I stay in my past relationship for so long, but this all makes sense.