Can empaths have healthy intimate relationships? Being over-givers, empaths tend to have a hard time in relationships. As they can see what’s going on below the surface and look into your soul, being in a relationship can be overwhelming for them. Due to the fear of sensory overload, empaths usually prefer to stay single until they’ve met the one. Here are a few things you need to know about empaths and relationships.
“Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. It is not the empath who is broken, it is society that has become dysfunctional and emotionally disabled. ” – Anthon St. Maarten
Wanting Love VS Wanting to Be Alone: My Challenge as an Empath
As an empath, I’ve spent much of my life being single. Too much togetherness always seemed overwhelming to me. I wanted to love, but I would experience sensory overload when I was in an intimate relationship.
Then things changed. Four years ago, I met my partner. Though it’s been a fantastic growth and love experience, I’m still adjusting to being in a long term intimate relationship—a big stretch for me.
As I discuss in “The Empath’s Survival Guide,” like many empaths, I have a strong hermit side, and I’m not used to interacting with someone each day. I require a huge psychic space around me so I can breathe.
I need my quiet time and to replenish myself alone—not with other people. That’s why too much togetherness can be overstimulating for me. I also can’t take crowds, yelling, chronic talkers, loud voices and sounds, or strong scents. I’m an emotional sponge who absorbs the stress and negativity from others (including from my partner) into my own body.
This can be exhausting if I don’t practice self-care.
“A loving relationship is one in which the loved one is free to be himself to laugh with me, but never at me; to cry with me, but never because of me; to love life, to love himself, to love being loved. Such a relationship is based upon freedom and can never grow in a jealous heart.” – Leo F. Buscaglia
However, the beautiful side of being an empath is that I also absorb other people’s joy, compassion, and loving-kindness, which feels marvelous. I love nature. I love baths and the sound of the ocean. I love candlelight and Leonard Cohen.
Until I met my partner, I was mainly single, except for occasional short-term love relationships.
Typically, I’d bolt out of these relationships by year two, because I’d feel overwhelmed and suffocated from interacting with someone so much.
I wasn’t able to be fiercely honest about my emotional and energetic needs—which is so necessary for empaths in relationships. So I kept a lot of emotions inside until they became unbearable. At that point, all I knew was that I yearned for my safe, low-stimulation cave of aloneness, where I could find my own comfort level again.
My current relationship is different. This man respects and understands my sensitivities as an empath (as much as any non-empath can). I’m more honest with him, and he’s more accepting.
I adore his loving heart, sexy exterior, love of nature, and high emotional intelligence. And we truly love and are devoted to each other.
Even so, the struggle I face as an empath in an intimate relationship is that my strong desire for love and connection conflicts with my deep desire to be alone.
I’ve been torn in this way my entire life, programming that runs deep within me.
“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” – Mohsin Hamid
When I was single, I’d long for a soul-mate. When I was in a relationship, I’d get overwhelmed and long to escape.
It was a painful puzzle of conflicting needs that was hard to solve. Growing up as an only child, and then becoming a writer, have contributed to my intense desire for solitude. Still, this programming feels many lifetimes old and is hard to crack.