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21 Stages Of The Relationship Between A Narcissist And An Empath

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By Sara Wylie

Empaths and narcissists: two severely different types of people, and yet, empaths will too often find themselves caught up in relationships with narcissists. 

Empaths are people who are highly sensitive to the world and the feelings of others and can take on the emotional experiences of others as if they were their own. They have powerful tendencies to give of themselves to those around them. Narcissists, on the other hand, are people that are exceptionally self-absorbed and have strong tendencies to manipulate others into catering to their own personal and selfish agendas. They have craving needs to be cared for and admired.  

Why do empaths end up with narcissists? 

The reasons behind why empaths can become so easily attracted to narcissists (most often without realizing it) are complex, but it usually has to do with the fact that narcissists are wounded people who hunger for attention and empaths are quick to want to help and be that nurturing hand.  

Here is an outline of the 21 stages of a common relationship that can take place between an empath and a narcissist… 

Stage 1: Attraction

The narcissist attracts the empath and a relationship commences. The empath feels validated and needed by someone who seems to be in need of their care and appears as though they value that care. They will begin to develop a strong sense of unconditional love for the narcissist, while the narcissist doesn’t actually have any intent on returning that love, even though they may appear as if they are doing so.

Stage 2: The Illusion

As the relationship continues, the empath will start to feel they’ve made a true connection with someone and start to think they’ve met the love of their life. The narcissist will design the illusion that they are a perfect match for the empath and will wear the facade that they want this relationship in the same way as the empath, when really their goal is to be in control. 

Stage 3: The Manipulation

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Over time, part of the narcissists agenda will be to break down the empath’s self-esteem. They will never directly attack the empath, but they will say things and make comments that put the empath’s choices and abilities into question to the point the empath will start to doubt him/herself. At that point, the empath will begin to feel that they are weak and the narcissist will make them feel that they are lucky to have them, creating an unhealthy dependence and creating space for the narcissist to take control. 

Stage 4: All About Control

Once the narcissist is in control, they will play the role of the victim and constantly prey on the empath’s need to care for them, be there for them, make them feel better, etc. because the empath feels that the narcissist is their one and only and don’t want to fail them. It becomes a constant cycle of manipulation. 

Stage 5: Failure

The empath will have pure intentions on loving the narcissist and want to do anything they can to help heal the narcissist, because they don’t see that the narcissist’s wounds are different from theirs. The reality is that the narcissist doesn’t believe they are damaged and that they are immune to love, and therefore, cannot be healed by the empaths honest and pure efforts. 

Stage 6: The Trap

The relationship gets to a point where it’s all about the narcissist. It’s all about their needs, their wants, their decisions, etc. The empath will begin to realize this overtime, and they will experience fear about calling the narcissist out and speaking up for themselves. The empath hates to hurt others and give them any reason to dislike them, so for the time being they will continue to please the narcissist even though they have found they are unhappy in the relationship. 

Stage 7: The Cycle 

The more the empath gives to the narcissist, the more in control the narcissist feels. They will continue their cycle of manipulation and continue to take and drain the empath, not seeing any issue with the relationship because nothing has changed… that is, until the empath hits their breaking point. 

Stage 8: The Shift

The empath will finally raise their voice and speak up because they can no longer stand the devaluing ways of the narcissist. The empath will be feeling devastated, exhausted and drained because of how the narcissist treats them and will also realize that their own emotional needs are not being met. The delusion of the relationship will fall away and the empath will start to resist the manipulation cycle. The narcissist does not like this shift in the relationship.

Stage 9: Never Enough

Narcissists are people who need constant attention and will do whatever they can to fulfill that need, especially when it comes to relationships. They only feel any sense of satisfaction when people obsess over them and validate their enlarged ego. They will always need more; this is something that the empath often fails to understand. 

Stage 10: Back to Stage 3

When the empath starts to vocalize their concerns, the narcissist will deal with it by shutting it down, saying the empath is “crazy” or “delusional” and completely invalidate their feelings. They will do this with the intent to break the empath back down and keep them in their manipulative control. 

Stage 11: Mental Abuse

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For the empath, they will have a difficult time understanding this behavior and turn back inwards, feeling like they are to blame for everything that is wrong with the relationship and that they are not good enough and not worthy of love. 

Stage 12: Who is the Villain? 

The empath fails to understand that they are being manipulated by the narcissist once again. They cannot see that the way the narcissist is making them feel is simply the narcissist breaking the empath back down so that they can continue to maintain control. At this point, the narcissist has made the empath feel like they are the villain in the relationship and driving them to question their sanity, to the point the empath fails to see the truth of the matter. 

Stage 13: The Blame Game

The empath may make more attempts to vocalize their concerns, but their efforts grow weaker overtime as they are shut down and invalidated time and time again by the narcissist. The narcissist will continue aiming the blame at the empath in order to justify themselves and to keep control of the upper hand in the relationship. 

Stage 14: The Retreat

The empath will naturally retreat back into themselves and try to work through the things they are feeling, thinking that it’s supposedly normal to feel lost, defenseless, and deeply hurt. They need a lot of time in order to pull through and work through what’s happening to them. 

Stage 15: The Healing

Empaths are considered the healers of society. They have the power and the ability within them to heal themselves, making them more than capable to work through the challenges thrown their way. They have just as much capability to heal those around them… as long as they make the choice and are willing to give of their healing abilities. 

Stage 16: The Realization

As the empath works to heal themselves, they will eventually realize the bitter truth of what the narcissist has done to them and that the narcissist does not deserve their love, care, affection or healing abilities. They come to understand that not everyone who puts on a sad face is being authentic and is truly in need of their nurturing hand. The empath must face the truth that not everyone who says “I love you” truly means it or even understands what that means. 

Stage 17: Who is the Victim

At this crucial point, the empath will realize that they were the victim of the relationship all along, and not the narcissist. 

Stage 18: The End

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When the empath realizes that the narcissist will never change and that nothing they can do can ever fix that, this will be a huge and often painful awakening for the empath. However, this is an essential step for the empath to take that will help them break free of the awful manipulative cycle and the narcissist’s control. They will be able to break free of the toxic relationship with the narcissist. 

Stage 19: The Breakup

Once the relationship has ended, the narcissist will move on as if nothing happened. They won’t even remember what it was like to experience the love and care of the empath. 

Stage 20: Moving On

The narcissist will move on and find another victim to fill their needs

Stage 21: The BreakThrough

The empath will have a lot more healing to do, but they will come out on top, becoming stronger, wiser, and more cautious of who they give their love and care to. 

Of course, this may not be word for word how a relationship between an empath and a narcissist always pans out, but it has happened time and time again, so often to people – to empaths – that it is possible to spell out a basic outline like this.

Be Aware and Be Strong

The more awareness that we can raise about what relationships like this look like and call out narcissistic behavior, hopefully the more wary people will become when narcissists unsuspectingly come into their lives.

Have you ever been the victim of a narcissist? What did you learn and what are your thoughts and advice for others who may have or may be experiencing a relationship like this? Feel free to share with us, we’d love to learn from you and support as many people as we can. 

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Jenna Barrington

Jenna Barrington is the founder of The Hired Pen; a professional content creation company. The Hired Pen is a team of dedicated writers who create high-quality, research-based content. Our writers possess different certifications and qualifications including degrees in English, Professional Writing, Creative Writing, Nutrition, Health Counseling, and more. You can meet our individuals writers by visiting our website.
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