Although relationships are varied and complex, there is a particularly strong dynamic that exists between narcissists and empaths. These two personality types are like to two sides of a coin; they are destined to conflict despite being magnetically drawn to one another. These are the seven stages of an empath-narcissist relationship, from their first meeting to their long-awaited release, in a relationship that is bound to end.
Narcissist vs. Empath
Before diving into the stages of these relationships, we need to look at what a narcissist is versus an empath. A narcissist is someone who has an exaggerated sense of self-importance, a need for attention and admiration, and a lack of empathy. They can be manipulative and controlling in relationships, while they may also display aggression.
On the other hand, empaths are highly sensitive people with an innate ability to sense other people’s energies. Empaths are often drawn to narcissists because of their ability to empathize with them. However, narcissists will often use this against the empath by pretending to care about them and then treating them poorly. Empaths may also have difficulty setting boundaries with narcissists due to their need for attention.
The 7 Stages Of The Relationship Between An Empath And A Narcissist
While these relationships often start well, it is really because the empath doesn’t know they are dating a narcissist. They will then go through certain relationship stages before finally freeing themselves from their partner’s grasp. This process is not linear, can repeat itself, and sometimes can take years for an empath to break out of. (1)
Stage 1: The First Meeting
In this stage, the empath and narcissist are often unknowingly drawn together. The empath, with their compassionate and nurturing nature, is intrigued by the charismatic qualities of the narcissist. On the other hand, narcissist sees an opportunity to fulfill their need for admiration and control. A powerful connection is formed from the start, setting the stage for what lies ahead.
Stage 2: Taking Control
As the relationship progresses, the narcissist begins to assert their dominance. They manipulate the empath, subtly taking control of various aspects of their life – making decisions on their behalf, isolating them from loved ones, and establishing a sense of dependency. The empath, driven by their desire to help and heal, becomes entangled in the narcissist’s web, unaware of the manipulation occurring.
Stage 3: Deception/Gaslighting
In this stage, the narcissist’s true colors begin to emerge. They employ tactics such as gaslighting, where they distort reality to make the empath doubt their own perceptions and sanity. The empath, with their inherent trust and desire to see the good in others, finds themselves questioning their own experiences. They become trapped in a maze of confusion and self-doubt.
Stage 4: The First Break
Eventually, the empath starts to recognize the toxicity of the relationship. They may confront the narcissist about their behavior or attempt to establish boundaries. This will cause the narcissist to react with anger, manipulation, or a dismissal of their concerns. This first break marks a crucial turning point for the empath as they begin to realize the need for change and introspection.
Stage 5: The Begging and Reunion
In this stage, the narcissist may attempt to regain control over the empath by resorting to desperate tactics, such as begging for forgiveness or promising change. Even hopeful and prone to second chances, the empath may be lured back into the relationship despite their better judgment. This cycle of break and reunion may repeat itself multiple times, trapping the empath in a repetitive and draining pattern.
Stage 6: The Final Break
As the empath gains clarity and strength, they reach a point where they can no longer tolerate the toxic relationship. They recognize the damage it has caused to their well-being and emotional health. It is in this stage that the empath must summon the courage to sever ties with the narcissist once and for all, breaking free from the chains that have bound them for so long.
Stage 7: The Liberation
The final stage represents the journey towards liberation for the empath. It is a phase of healing, self-discovery, and rebuilding. The empath begins to reclaim their identity, rediscover their strengths, and establish healthy boundaries. They learn to distance themselves from toxic relationships and surround themselves with positive influences and genuine connections. With time, the empath emerges stronger, wiser, and more resilient than ever before.
How To Recognize a Narcissist
To avoid ending up in a relationship with a narcissist, it is important to understand how to recognize one. This is more than just someone with a big ego. Narcissists have a pathological need for attention and approval. They are envious of others, lack empathy and remorse, and are often selfish and manipulative. Narcissists are also very competitive, even when there is no competition or threat of losing. Some common traits to spot a true narcissist are (2):
- They are extremely sensitive to criticism and perceive it as a personal attack.
- They have a grandiose sense of self-importance and exaggerate their achievements or talents. They may also claim to be an expert in many areas when they are not.
- Narcissists are preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, intelligence, beauty or romance. They believe that they have some exceptional quality that sets them apart from other people.
- They have a complete lack of empathy or remorse for the feelings of others
If You Are In A Relationship With A Narcissist – Get Out
The relationship between an empath and a narcissist is filled with complexities and challenges that can be difficult to navigate. Understanding the seven stages of this relationship can provide clarity and insight for both empaths and those who find themselves entangled with narcissists. Awareness is the first step towards breaking free from this toxic cycle and finding the deserved liberation and happiness.
- “21 Devastating Stages of a Narcissist Relationship With an Empath.” Live Bold and Bloom. Barrie Davenport. February 7, 2023.
- “How to Spot Narcissistic Behaviors.” Psych Central. Traci Pedersen. November 5, 2021