The Empath & The Narcissist – The Most Painful Dynamic

People are built fundamentally different – and these slight tweaks in our programs can lead to an overflow or an absence of certain traits.

While some of these opposites in personality may just be fun little quirks like introversion/extroversion, there are a few damaging dynamics that attract that can lead to bigger problems.

In this article, you will get to explore two types of people that fall under opposite sides of the axis of empathy: the narcissist and the empath. 

What makes this dynamic so painful? Let’s explore this together.

Who are Narcissists and Empaths?

First, you need to understand the two types in this dynamic.

Narcissists are people with inflated egos and zero empathy towards others. They have a high sense of self-importance, an excessive desire for attention and admiration, and a tainted view of empathy.  They also crave special treatment and will react in rage or outburst if things don’t go their way.

Empaths, on the other hand, are highly sensitive people that have an overabundant supply of love and admiration to give. They absorb the emotions of other people readily and compassionately. What’s more, they are also incredibly gifted in connecting with another person’s thoughts and feelings.

The empath and narcissist on first contact

At first contact, it may feel as if the two complement each other’s needs perfectly. 

An empath is a natural when it comes to sharing and attuning their emotions to someone willing to take it. On the other hand, a narcissist loves companionship with someone who would tolerate their actions, capable of forgoing the emotional needs of others. 

An empath is a giver, and they give generously. A narcissist is a taker, and they always want it their way.

Do you see the imbalance?

How do empaths show their love?

In a healthy relationship, empaths are one of the best types of people to foster a relationship with. They care for their partner with all their heart and they always communicate their feelings openly. If a relationship between two empaths form, their connection and communication skills can last for life.

What draws an empath to a narcissist?

Many narcissists can appear irresistibly charming at first. Their charisma and the way they conduct themselves on a surface level can draw all sorts of people under their spell, especially empaths. This facade attracts the empath for the same reason an empath would love anybody else – and that is mostly based on an empath’s genuine and natural inclination to be empathetic to anyone they love.

This tendency, unfortunately, makes an empath incredibly susceptible to play right into the narcissist’s hands.

Once a positive first impression is formed, the empath becomes incredibly loyal to the narcissist, loyal to a fault. Once a narcissist picks up on this, they start to reveal more unpleasant sides of themselves. 

How do narcissists take advantage of empaths?

Narcissists can employ one of two tactics.

The first one is a full revelation of their bad side. They start to take advantage of the empath in abusive ways, realizing that their harmful tactics aren’t met with any strong opposing reaction by the empaths.

The second tactic is more sinister. Some narcissists are more strategic and weaponize their use of empathy, sprinkling small doses of their artificial love and charm that the empath first fell in love with. They retell their faults saying things along the lines of “I’m not perfect.” tugging the heartstrings of the ever-patient and loving empath, only to manipulate them and continue this unfortunate cycle at a later time. This controlled cascade of hope of change is enough to keep an empath strung along for a long time.

For non-empaths (or healthy empaths), any of these tactics are clear deal-breakers. They could take the hint to step out of that relationship, however painful it may be. 

For some empaths, however, removing someone from their lives can be an extremely difficult undertaking. They are true believers of growth and hope – even at the expense of their well-being at times.

What makes it problematic?

What an empath needs to know is that narcissists are not people that need to be saved. Nor are they people that an empath should adjust to in hopes that they can still change.

Narcissists can actually be perfectly aware of their actions, and when they realize that they no longer need you, they find it easy to step all over you. They are also discerning over when’s the right time to employ a show of empathy to keep an empath from finding a reason to step out for good. This makes for an extremely problematic relationship that’s founded not on healthy, growth-filled love, but rather on a constant push-and-pull trauma bond.

How can empaths deal with a narcissist?

If you’re an empath with a narcissist in your life, or you know someone with that relationship, here are some ways to deal with narcissists.

  • Learn to say no
  • Establish boundaries
  • Have faith in yourself
  • Be aware of signs of abuse and gaslighting
  • Adopt emotional independence

All dynamics are different. Hopefully, you become more aware of the toxicity lurking around relationships concerning the empath and narcissist.

That’s all for now, Psych2Goers. Stay safe out there!


  • Ramani, (2020). The empath and the narcissist: a dark fairy tale.  Retrieved February 08, 2021 at
  • Ramani, (2020). Narcissists don’t lack empathy – they just choose not to use it. Retrieved February 08, 2021 at
  • Narcissistic personality disorder. (2017, November 18). Retrieved February 08, 2021, from

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