1. The empath enters the relationship wanting deep, unconditional love. The empath is attracted to the narcissist, and feels their need for affection is being met even if the narcissist isn’t doing anything to develop the connection. The empath feels fulfilled and “in love” just from being around them.
2. The empath begins to believe that they have a “once in a lifetime” kind of connection with the narcissist, and the narcissist affirms it – what they have is special. This is what makes it seem impossible to just walk away.
3. The narcissist can, at times, seem to want the relationship as much as the empath does. In reality, the narcissist wants nothing but constant validation, and someone who is always willing to give it is a perfect match.
4. Over time, the empath will be made to feel incompetent. Even if not stated directly, the narcissist will imply that they have the power by saying they “don’t want to hurt” them, or by looking down on their interests, or maybe not letting them handle the day-to-day bills or anything else that’s a symbol of control. This will leave the empath feeling reliant on the narcissist, believing that they “need” them, or at least that nobody else would want them.
5. As their bond grows, the empath will find it unbearable to see the narcissist in any kind of pain. They will want nothing more than to talk to them, help them, cheer them up… do whatever it takes so they can feel better again. They subconsciously want to “fix” the narcissist, or at least change their lives.
6. What the empath does not realize is that the feeling or idea of healing their partner’s deepest, most unresolvable wounds, feels the same to them as healing their own. However, it is not the same thing.
7. Somewhere along the line, the empath begins to feel afraid to advocate for their true needs – it is more appealing to them to remain more likable (but secretly less happy).
8. The more love, care, devotion, affection and work the empath puts into making the relationship work, the more powerful the narcissist becomes. At this point, it can be difficult to see that there are any real issues in the relationship… that is, until the empath reaches their breaking point.
9. Eventually, the empath begins to adopt the traits of the narcissist. Because their emotional needs are not being met (and they’ve been confusing their partner’s emotional needs with their own) they start to seem “selfish,” or at least predominantly concerned with their own well-being. They are essentially declaring: “My feelings matter,” and the narcissist does not like this.
10. What neither party realizes at this point is that the narcissist’s needs will never actually be met (that is, until *they* wake up and choose to meet them). They will move on to other partners, other hobbies, other big business ideas and creative pursuits, travels across the world… and they’ll still be as miserable as ever.
11. The narcissist will make the empath feel “crazy” for responding the way they are. They will say they are being over-dramatic, and that their concerns are unfounded. This kind of dismissal is the most obvious way they exert power and mind-control over the empath.
12. The empath begins to blame themselves. They start to wonder if they’ll ever be worthy of love, or what it is they did that got them into such a horrible situation.
13. What the empath does not realize is that there’s nothing *wrong* with them, there’s something exceptionally *right* with them, they were just manipulated and used and lied to. They have a feeling capacity that outshines many other people’s – this isn’t a bad thing, it’s just something that must be protected.
14. Even if the empath tries to communicate authentically with the narcissist, it will be to no avail. They will be deflective and use shoddy logic, they’ll make excuses and find ways to pass the blame, if not convince the empath that it’s at least partially also their fault.
15. At this point, the empath will have to do some serious self-evaluation. They’ll be left no choice. They’ll recognize what happened in the past that led them to be so defenseless, and it will be the beginning of their transformation.
16. The empath will always identify as a “healer,” and in finding their inner strength, they will likely focus on their life’s mission of helping other people in healthy, constructive ways (perhaps through a job or calling).
17. The empath must realize that not everyone you fall in love with can be trusted. Not everyone has the same intentions they do, and not everyone thinks they way they do.
18. The empath must also realize that they were just as wounded as the narcissist was – and that the point of their relationship was a teaching opportunity, a moment for them both to wake up and see how they must heal themselves. (The empath will come around, the narcissist usually doesn’t.)
19. The empath will consider the experience a painful catalyst of their awakening.
20. The narcissist will carry on acting as though nothing’s wrong and as though nothing happened. They will deny and almost seem to “forget” about the intense, powerful connection they once had with someone, and they will go pursue it elsewhere. After a bit of time, their issues will come to a head, and they’ll have to cope with the fact that they can’t connect with themselves, let alone other people.
21. The narcissist will walk away looking for their next victim.
22. The empath will walk away wiser, stronger and more careful about who they give their time, energy, love and life too.
By: Brianna Wiest
Originally appeared on: thoughtcatalog.com .