Navigating being an empath is difficult enough on its own, let alone bringing that heightened sensitivity into relationships – specifically romantic ones. If you’re an empath and find maintaining relationships draining or difficult, this is the post for you.
Today I want to talk about the different types of empaths in relationships, the pluses and minuses of each, and the specific blockages that show up for us time and time again.
Being an empath can be a difficult thing to navigate because it is often triggered by negative circumstances in our childhood. Our empathy becomes like a defense mechanism which we use to read our environment and interact with the people around us.
When we go into a relationship we have to be aware of how our heightened sensitivity can be both a positive or negative addition to a relationship. We can either be so ungrounded in our gifts that the cause problems for the other person, or take on too much and burnout.
Empaths And Relationships
Contrary to popular belief, there are many different types of empaths! There isn’t a one size fits all description that applies to all empaths, empaths are as varied as each individual person is.
Our empathic sensitivity can manifest in a multitude of different ways based on how our sensitivity was initially triggered/awakened, our experiences, our level of knowledge and our individual inclinations.
It’s often assumed that empaths are a brilliant asset in relationships, on the flip-side many empaths become their own worst enemy. This is because you can be an aware or unaware empath, you can learn to see the best in your sensitivity or perceive it as a curse.
Below I want to go through the different empath archetypes in relationships, and how these can be shifted or embraced.
The People Pleaser
From my experience, the people pleaser is the most common empath archetype in relationships. Empaths have a tendency to put other people’s needs before their own, and end up feeling chronically drained because of it.
This type of empath usually had to a care for their parents or siblings as a child, and they bring this dynamic into adult relationships. Their needs were never a top priority for the adults around them and so they become desperate to please.
The people pleaser finds balance in relationships when they become aware of and express their own needs. We are often taught that the pinnacle of morality is to be selfless, but this become an unbalanced mentality like anything else.
The fixer is another common archetype that empaths take on in relationships. As the term implies, the fixer is one who always goes into a relationship with an unconscious desire to fix the other person.
The fixer usually does this with good intentions. They can tune into another person’s emotions and often feel like they are experiencing these themselves. It makes sense that they would want to save people.
As we develop as empaths we realize we cannot save anyone, only help them. We can guide people and give them certain resources, but it’s their responsibility to put those to use. The fixer learns to see self care as crucial rather than an optional luxury.
The empath mirror effect is something I’ve talked about before, this is when an empath is balanced and can act like a mirror for others. They have cleared up their wounds (for the most part) and move in an embodied manner. This coherency is what creates a mirror effect.
We are all mirrors in relationships, but we are often unaware of this fact. When someone is a conscious mirror in a relationship it can either help the other person grow, or devolve further. They can often be the victim of unreasonable expectations and projection.
The empath who relates with this archetype most, begins to heal when they start attracting those that are closer to their level. Once again this doesn’t mean we cannot help others, but there is a limit to what we should take on, to avoid resentment and toxic cycles in relationships.
The Emotionally Distant
Another way that empaths can express their empathic sensitivities is by becoming emotionally distant. This is the archetype I can relate to most, as there were periods of my life where I preferred to stay out of things, knowing how overwhelming getting involved could be.
The emotionally distant empath gets so inundated with other people’s energy (often without this being reciprocated) and becomes cold. When you feel your sensitivity is a curse, it makes sense to want to close it off altogether.
However with awareness the emotionally cold empath can begin immersing themselves in those deeper emotions without being sacred away. They can take on a great depth of emotion without losing themselves or feeling resentment. They place strong boundaries so as not to become an energy sponge. They learn to see vulnerability as a real strength.
I cannot talk about empathy and empaths without talking about the negative or dark side to this dynamic aswell. This isn’t to shame or even place blame, it’s simply something to be aware of in yourself and others.
You often hear that the flipside to an empath is a narcissist – I believe this to be accurate. On one hand we have a group of people who survive by tending to other people’s needs and on the other we have a group of people who prefer to attack first.
An unaware empath can quickly devolve into a manipulator or full blown narcissist. This often occurs when an empath is so desensitized by all the emotions they pick up on that they become apathetic.
The best way to avoid becoming a manipulative or even narcissistic, is by being aware of the emotionally distant/cold phase that comes with being an empath. Avoid the self-destructive behaviors that come from avoiding your sensitivity, and will eventually bring others down with you.
What Type of Empath Are You?
This list is only to be used as a rough guide, so you can better navigate your relationships. It’s easy to assign more importance to these labels than is necessary and end up putting yourself in a box.
This is even the case for the term empath itself. Many people are beginning to see that once they have managed their sensitivity and can navigate the hurdles that come with being an empath – that the label no longer fits them.
Anytime a label becomes too restrictive, it’s time to reconsider things or let go of it completely. In relationships you don’t want to play into the narrative that you must act a certain way as an empath.
Learn more about how to work with your energy as an empath with our free Empath Handbook