In my practice and workshops I’m struck by how many sensitive people come to me wanting a long term soul mate. Personally, I can relate to this. Yet, despite online dating services, expensive match-makers, friend fix-ups, and blind dates, they still remain single. Or else they’re in relationships but feel constantly fatigued and overwhelmed. The reason isn’t simply that “there aren’t enough available people ‘out there’” or that they’re neurotic. Personally and professionally I’ve discovered something more is going on.
In my life, I’ve found that a vital missing piece to this puzzle has been discovering I am a relationship empath. Empaths are highly sensitive, intuitive, and caring, but they’re also shock absorbers with an extremely permeable nervous system and hyperactive reflexes. They experience everything, pleasure and pain, sometimes to an extreme. The amazing part of being so sensitive is that empaths are attuned to people (at times even telepathically), to nature, and can be exquisitely sensual, responsive lovers. The downside is that empaths are sponges for the world’s angst. Without a membrane between themselves and the world, they unknowingly absorb other people’s stress into their own bodies. Then they become overloaded, anxious or exhausted. This differs from ordinary empathy, say when you sympathize with your partner’s harrowing day at work. Relationship empathy goes much further. You merge with your partner and actually feel his or her joys and fears as if they were your own. Thus, romantic relationships, particularly live-in ones, can be challenging.
In my book on the Power of Surrender I go into detail describing what a relationship empath is and also present strategies to cope and not absorb the stress or symptoms of your mate. If you’re highly sensitive and haven’t identified this dynamic, you may unknowingly avoid romantic partnerships because deep down you’re afraid of getting engulfed. A part of you wants a soul mate; another part is frightened. This inner push-pull stops you from surrendering to a partner. The closer you are to someone the more intense empathy gets. To feel safe enough to let go in a relationship, it’s crucial for empaths to learn how to set healthy boundaries and assert their needs. Then intimacy becomes possible.
To surrender to a soul mate, it’s important to discuss your fears of letting go with each other. However, if you’re an empath, you may not know what these are or that you’re even resisting intimacy. Thus you can’t convey your needs or set healthy boundaries. To determine whether you’re a relationship empath take the following quiz from my book, The Ecstasy of Surrender.
Quiz: Am I a relationship empath?
- Have I been labeled as overly sensitive?
- Am I afraid of getting engulfed or losing my identity in intimate relationships?
- Do I prefer taking my own car places so I can leave when I please?
- Do I get drained by too much togetherness and require time alone to refuel?
- Do I sometimes prefer sleeping alone?
- When my partner and I travel do I prefer adjoining rooms?
- Do I tend to take on by my partner’s stress or physical symptoms?
- Do I feel overwhelmed by noise, smells, crowds, or excessive talking?
If you answer yes to one to three of these questions you’re at least part relationship empath. Responding yes to four to six questions indicates strong empathic tendencies with partners. If you answer yes to seven or more questions you are a certified relationship empath.