An empath and narcissist break up.
It can be a brutal transition.
But it’s the healthiest thing an empath can do for themself.
So today, we’re unpacking what happens when an empath has had enough.
We’ll start with a discussion about empath-narcissist dynamics, then look at things that happen after the split, and close with tools and ideas empaths can use to heal and live their best lives.
Empath Narcissist Relationship: Understanding This Toxic Dynamic
Before we dive into the empath-narcissist dynamic, let’s quickly review what each personality type represents.
- Grandiose Narcissists: These are narcissists with an impenetrable sense of superiority. They genuinely believe they are the best of any bunch and have zero patience for others’ emotions or situations. Grandiose narcissists are often gregarious, falsely charming, and egomaniacal. Frustratingly, these types are often very successful.
- Vulnerable Narcissists: Sometimes called covert narcissists, people who fall into the vulnerable category are hyper-competitive and cannot handle criticism. Like grandiose personalities, they believe they’re better than everyone else and can’t be happy for others’ wins. However, they’re perpetual victims who think their lack of demonstrable success proves that people are too slow or stupid to recognize their abilities.
- Empaths: Arguably the opposite of narcissists, empaths are deeply attuned to others’ feelings, and they prioritize the happiness of friends, family members, and sometimes even strangers over their own. They give without being asked while letting grace and compassion light their paths. These folks always give others the benefit of the doubt. In extreme cases, empaths can be enablers.
The idea that opposites attract is manifest in relationships between narcissists and empaths, and it’s a common occurrence.
But why? Why would a sweet and caring person get involved with an arrogant, manipulative braggart?
In a way, they fit together like a hand in glove.
The narcissist craves adulation, attention, and praise — and the people-pleasing empath is more than willing to oblige, setting off the cycle of narcissistic supply.
Empaths — consciously and subconsciously — think they can help their problematic partners, and narcissists take advantage of and manipulate their giving, caring natures.
The parasitic relationship usually devolves into codependency. The empath internalizes the narcissist’s emotional abuse, which wrecks their self-esteem and mental health, while the narcissist plays the victim.
What Happens When an Empath Leaves a Narcissist? 15 Awesome and Terrifying Things To Watch For
What happens when an empath breaks things off with a narcissist? Every relationship is different, but there are common patterns. Let’s explore some.
1. Empaths Wake Up to the Abuse
An empath waking up to the realities of their abusive relationship with a narcissist is both powerful and potentially explosive.
Studies show that empathy can diminish when the situation reaches an inflection point and the people-pleaser is out of energy.
The realization can be painful for the empath. After all, they put a lot of time and energy into the partnership and have nothing to show for it but criticism and abuse. All the manipulation and gaslighting hit them like a brick.
2. Narcissists Guilt and Gaslight the Empath
When an empath decides to leave a narcissist, the latter may respond with shaming and gaslighting.
They’ll flip the script and blame the empath for any troubles — because narcissists always prioritize their feelings, and nothing is ever their fault.
The egomaniac may throw around statements like:
- We wouldn’t be in this situation if you weren’t so [insert excuse]!
- You’re not trying hard enough to make things work.
- I can’t live without you.
- I’ll kill myself if you leave.
- Why are you so sensitive!? It ruins everything!
3. Empaths May Feel Pity
Since empaths are highly intuitive and sensitive people, they may begin to feel sorry for the narcissist post-breakup. They’ll worry about how their ex is doing and may even want to check in on them.
Moreover, the empathic person may realize the narcissist’s behavior is rooted in deep-seated insecurities and have compassion for their unaddressed low self-esteem.
If you find yourself in this situation, do your best to resist the urge to check in. If you must, remove them from your phone and use social media blocking. That’s what it’s there for!
4. Narcissists May Try To Win Back the Empath
One of the hallmarks of narcissism is an unquenchable need for attention and adoration. So when an empath ends things, the narcissists may not be able to handle the rejection and do everything in their power to win back their estranged partner.
They’ll lie and say whatever they think the empath wants to hear.
Often, this tactic works because narcissists are experts at turning on the charm. But empaths should resist the love bombing and empty promises. Because in the overwhelming majority of cases, the narcissist will not change, and the supply cycle will regenerate.
5. Empaths May Retreat and Go Back
As mentioned, empaths may fall for the narcissist’s reunification tango and find themselves back in the toxic arms of their emotionally abusive partner. It happens all the time.
The empathic person’s friends and family may even beg them to reconsider, but the pull of the narcissist is too strong.
Remember that there are a few good reasons to plant yourself back in a troublesome dynamic. Even if you have children together, it’s probably healthier to go your separate ways.
Infrequently, people may have successful reunions if the narcissists seek professional help and show genuine progress. But even then, choosing to go back to the narcissist is a big risk.
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6. Narcissists May Threaten the Empath
All narcissists are emotionally abusive, and some are physically combative. When dealing with the latter, situations can grow dangerous.
Domestic abuse, no matter the circumstances, is never acceptable. Even if you are the nastiest person on the planet, nobody has the right to lay their hands on you. So if you find yourself in this situation, remove yourself from the situation and find someplace safe to retreat. If that’s not possible, take advantage of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
7. Narcissists May Try To Isolate the Empath
If you’re living together, things can get especially tricky. Some narcissists will try to isolate the empath to manipulate the situation. Plus, it gives them time to work their damaging magic to win you back.
Isolation is dangerous, and it’s vital to be vigilant against it. If the narcissist in your life says things like, “I need you around so we can work on things,” or they feign illness and take advantage of your good nature, be very careful. Factually, it’s best to get out. Remove yourself from the space.
8. Narcissists May Turn People Against the Empath
One of the most toxic things in an empath-narcissist breakup is that the narcissist goes on a campaign to turn the empath’s friends and family against them, and it’s a nightmare when it works.
Some empaths may choose to return to the destructive relationship just to relieve the stress of becoming a target of ridicule. They may also assume they’re the ones in the wrong. After all, everyone else appears to be agreeing with the narcissist!
In these times, empaths need to dig deep, trust their instincts, and stand their ground. Without fail, people eventually realize the narcissist’s toxicity and return the empath’s fold — often with a bouquet of apologies.
9. Empaths May Start To Question Themselves
Sadly, empaths breaking up with a narcissist may start to question themselves. They may even spiral into a pit of depression and anxiety. Some may even wonder whether they’re narcissistic because they began to mimic their partners’ behaviors during the relationship — which happens in all relationships, healthy or not.
When other people in an empath’s life are bamboozled by the narcissist, they may even take the egomaniac’s side and begin to judge the sensitive person.
Surviving this can be challenging. At times, the empath may feel all alone without support.
If this sounds like your situation, do your best to stay strong. Explain to your friends and family how narcissists behave and urge them to see the reality of the present circumstances. If that fails, hop online and participate in one of the many narcissist survivor support groups.
10. Empaths May Start To Worry About the Narcissist
Empaths that end relationships with narcissists sometimes worry about their exes’ fates — even when they know their bad news. Why? They innately worry about their fellow human beings.
If this sounds like you, remember that narcissists will never appreciate your care or concern. They don’t even notice it. They are the end-all, be-all of importance in their worlds. Love that for them, and move on!
11. Narcissists May Move On
When a narcissist and empath break up, and the former decides to cut ties and ghost the latter, the empath should count their lucky stars.
Revel in the space. Get your life back. Dive into your passions and hobbies. That way, when the narcissist comes crawling around — which many do — you’ll have the strength to say, “No thanks,” and ghost them right back.
12. Empaths Might Have Trouble Readjusting
As we’ve discussed, empaths are kind, thoughtful people — to an extreme degree. Resultantly, they frequently have a tough time adjusting to their post-breakup life, especially if they were together for a long time.
In these cases, if you have the means, get yourself to a therapist, STAT! If you don’t have the resources for counseling, lean into self-care. Exercise. Eat well. Meditate. In time, things will feel better, and you’ll be able to start living your best life once again.
13. Narcissist May Have a Breakthrough
No matter what, there are always exceptions to the rule, and a few “impressive” narcissists have a breakthrough, acknowledge their terrible behavior, and make actual positive changes.
We hesitated to add this point because self-aware narcissists are about as common as a four-leaf clover. But it is an outside possibility, and when it does happen, the narcissist can become a kind and helpful person.
14. Empath Will Heal and Move On
While it may not feel like it when the going gets rough, time does an excellent job of healing wounds. And with a bit of help from friends, family, and maybe a good therapist, most empaths eventually get over the drama of their toxic relationship and go on to lead extremely fulfilling lives.
15. Empath Will Learn Valuable Lessons
Challenges and hardships teach us valuable lessons. When an empath walks away from a relationship with a narcissist, they may discover:
- They’re truly not responsible for other people’s behaviors
- How to be more independent
- To trust their instincts
- How to build a healthy support system
- How to practice self-care effectively
How Does an Empath Hurt a Narcissist?
There’s a lot of information on how narcissists destroy empaths.
But did you know that confident and stable empaths have the power to break narcissists, especially vulnerable ones?
How does it work?
Since empathic people are highly sensitive and in tune with others’ emotions, they begin to recognize the patterns after a while.
Once that happens, they can see through the narcissist’s facade —the equivalent of handing Superman a stick of kryptonite. In these situations, empaths can:
- Identify insecurities
- Destroy entitlement
- Insist on accountability
- Deflect projection
How Does An Empath Get Over a Narcissist?
We’ve gone over what happens when a narcissist and an empath end a relationship. Now let’s unpack a few tools that empaths can use to heal and move on.
1. Set Boundaries
Everyone leaving a destructive friendship or partnership should set firm boundaries. Narcissists will often try to push the limits, so empaths must learn to stand firm in their choice to leave.
But it may be challenging for people pleasers to do so, as they’re conditioned to meet people at their level. As such, it may be helpful to use a life-balance app, like Calm, Asan, or Unhook, to keep them on track and focused on what matters.
2. Establish a Reminder Plan
The ultimate key to staying detached from a narcissist is remembering why you broke up in the first place. So lean into it. Write reminders on post-it notes and place them around the house. Keep a gratitude journal in which you focus on how your life is better without them in it. Do whatever works for you.
3. Read Up on Narcissism
When we have a deep understanding of a given topic, it often helps us let go and put things in perspective. So why not feast on books, articles, and videos that explore the empath-narcissistic dynamic?
4. Enlist a Therapist
Therapy can be hugely beneficial. So if you can afford it, go! They’ll give you tools that will help you weather the transition. Besides, talking things out is a proven path to healing that sticks.
5. Work on Yourself
Instead of focusing on the problems, challenges, and behaviors associated with having a narcissist in your life, turn your attention inward. (We promise you it’s okay!) Dive into your interests and hobbies.
6. Focus on Friends and Family
Get by with a little help from your friends (and family)! That’s what they’re for. Since empaths are such caring people who go out of their way to help others, the positive people in your life will be thrilled to return the favor.
Exiting an empath-narcissistic relationship is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. It may be tough, but if you hang in there, satisfaction, inner calm, and confidence will rush to your side.