“Love doesn’t die a natural death. Love has to be killed, either by neglect or narcissism.” – Frank Salvato
Not so much.
I would much rather choose the wording ‘codependent’ relationship over any other alternative. Why codependent you might ask?
For starters, due to the fact that there are two roles at play: the wounded (a.k.a the narcissist) and the healer (a.k.a the empath).
People with narcissistic tendencies typically have endured childhood trauma in varying degrees. Thus, this has inevitably lead them to experience negative consequences along their path. Such consequences consist of the feeling of worthlessness, as well as possessing little to no value. The constant toxic inner need for validation, approval, and admiration is hence self-explanatory.
Consequently, narcissists tend to be highly charismatic and deceiving, on top of being masters of shifting blame from themselves to others, especially when it comes down to their pain.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have the empath. People of this kind possess the simultaneously admirable yet hindering quality of sensing and absorbing other people’s pain. They often take it as their own and struggle deeply with experiences and emotions that are not theirs, to begin with. Consciously unaware of the realistic boundaries that must be put into place, they are oblivious as to how to shield and protect themselves and their energy.
Therefore, at its base, the relationship between the two is considered one of giving and taking. The empath is the giver and nurturer, attempting to “fix” and relieve their troubled partner.
Hence, the narcissist is the taker (or “energy vampire”) who firmly grasps onto the energy of the soothing empath and uses it for selfish gain and purposes.
One might argue that this is a ‘symbiosis’ of sorts, minus the fact that it is not a beneficial relationship for both parties involved. The narcissist feasts and recharges on the high levels of support and selflessness, draining the empath of his/her strength.
The described ‘power‘ dynamics confuse the naivety and purity of an empath. This is in turn used as an upper hand by the narcissist. Of course, that is to be expected.
Empaths tend to neglect the simple real-life circumstance that not everybody is like them in regards to well-intentioned actions. For that reason, the ‘taker’ typically has no issues executing his/her straightforward agenda to manipulate and control in order to sustain his/her self-image. In doing so, they exploit the gullibility and blindness of the ever so caring victim.
The Vicious Cycle
“Relationships with narcissists are held in place by hope of a ‘someday better,’ with little evidence to support it will ever arrive.” – Ramani Durvasula
As mentioned above, there is a staggering imbalance in such a relationship, hence why it is referred to as toxic. The fact of the matter is that there is little to no chance of such a balance to ever be achieved. The unconditional (yet foolish) love and appreciation the empath is willing to offer with mostly nothing in return is the sole cause for his/her victim status in the end.
A big change commences when the wounded empath begins to exhibit narcissistic characteristics of his/her own. This is a subconscious mechanism to protect their energy while at the same time seeking validation and love. The narcissist would then do anything to keep them on this level of suffering, never appealing to the empath’s inner desire to feel worthy. In spite of all this, the empath would much more likely try to find the ‘fault’ in his/herself, blaming themselves in the long run.
At this point, the empath will be aware of the destructive character of his/her relationship. So, a choice lies ahead: to indulge in a healthy self-awareness, or remain the play toy of the charismatic and manipulative narcissist. It would be a struggle to try and comprehend how things have spiraled in such a manner. Moreover, to understand what has happened to the once ‘loving’ and charming partner they thought they knew so well. Emotionally drained and insecure, the empath needs to realize that ‘we’ as people tend to be treated as a product of our own choices and actions. Whatever we ‘think’ we deserve on the inside is how others will most probably treat us on the outside.
No one is need of ‘fixing’, nor can we change anyone for that matter. If a person wishes to change something about his/her ways, they would manage to do so successfully on their own, without the need for a sacrificial lamb. Therefore, an empath in such a toxic relationship must build up the courage, self-love as well as the confidence to walk away for good.
No one is entitled to your time or energy.