Do empaths—people who are sensitive to the energies and emotions of others—have certain requirements in romantic relationships?
Your hyper-perceptive system means that you can feel the energies and emotions of your partner intimately—almost as if their emotions were your own. Therefore empaths can bond very deeply with lovers. This dynamic can make for rich relationships, but it can also produce boundary issues and other risks. Empaths should keep the following guidelines in mind when dating or navigating your current romantic partnership:
1. Remember that just because you can feel other people’s emotions does not make you responsible for other people’s emotions.
This is a big one for empaths, and something I cover extensively in my book Self-Care for Empaths. It’s understandable that an empath would mistake feeling someone else’s emotions for needing to manage, contain, or shift someone else’s emotions. Your partner has a right to their own emotional experience. If the way they process or express their emotions is unhealthy or toxic for you, that’s a separate issue to address with them and possibly a counselor.
2. Keep your best interests at heart by owning your personal power in romantic relationships.
Because empaths can sense everyone else’s perspectives so intimately and easily, it’s important empaths emphasize their own perspective. Only you can understand, communicate, and advocate for yourself in your relationship—which could be anything from how you raise your children together, how you handle your joint finances, or where you live together. While others genuinely care for and love you, only you can have your best interests at heart. Own that power and don’t abdicate it to another.
3. Learn how to witness so you can mindfully choose between feeling and observing.
While your default wiring is to tune in to others and feel with them, empaths can also choose to employ witnessing energy to observe others from a more neutral, detached place. It’s not an exact science, but you can switch to witnessing energy and enter observer mode with your partner—or anyone else. This helps an empath not feel at the mercy of their sensitivity. Switching back and forth between feeling and observing keeps empaths more emotionally balanced, energetically centered, and physically energized.
4. Allow your hyper-perceptive system physical space in intimate relationships.
Many empath clients tell me they like to have physical space away from their partners—quality alone time as well as a place in the home they can retreat to. The fear of not having enough physical space can make some empaths feel intimidated about moving in with a partner. Explain to your partner that having space in an apartment or housewhere your sensitive energy body can unfurl is important. It’s more about you and your partner being mindful of this need for space than having a certain amount of square footage in your home.
5. Help your partner understand that physical spaces are important to you.
Many empaths find clutter or an aesthetically displeasing environment distracting and draining. If you’re an empath who is especially sensitive to physical spaces and your partner isn’t, explain that the maintenance of your shared space—or their space when you come to hang—really affects you. Do a clean and energy clearing of your shared space and afterward ask your partner if they notice an improvement in their mood or energy levels.
6. Honor your needs by avoiding people-pleasing or enabling narcissistic tendencies in mates.
Because empaths can feel other people’s challenging energies and emotions so intimately, empaths can fall into people-pleasing, which can enable self-sabotaging tendencies in others. While clinical narcissism is real, anyone—including empaths—can occasionally fall into unhealthy narcissistic patterns. Part of your romantic partnership is trying to bring out the best in each other, which means holding each other accountable and to a higher standard of conduct in the relationship and in the world.
7. Cherish your ability to feel with your partner, both their challenging times and their big wins.
As an empath, you can celebrate your partner’s wins in a unique way by tuning into their sense of accomplishment or joy. You’ll also be able to experience their suffering in a unique way—setting you up for a life of rich experiences. Feeling with people can honor their experience, support them, and honor your empath nature.
Put boundaries around this ability too. When feeling with people is draining or overwhelming, pull back into observing.
8. Have a healthy life outside of the relationship so you don’t merge with your partner.
Make a point of having friends, hobbies, and interests separate from those you share with your partner. This will highlight your own unique identity—important since empaths bond deeply. Mindfully nurturing your life outside of the relationship will keep the relationship healthier and make it easier if the romantic partnering ends for any reason.
9. Prioritize sharing your emotional experience with your partner.
This will help remind you what’s yours and what is other people’s in emotional territory since an empath can feel a lot. Staying connected to your feelings helps keep you from going into the emotions of others in an unhealthy way too.
If you have problems sharing because you fear your emotions will create uncomfortable emotions in your partner that you have to feel secondhand—like telling your partner something needs to change in the relationship for you to stay and then feeling your partner’s anxiety about what you revealed—speak to a counselor or get any support you need to shift this pattern so you can share more.
10. Know that your partner doesn’t have to be an empath—they just need to respect that you are.
There’s so much more to you than your sensitivity, so it shouldn’t be the deciding factor in relationships—it just needs to be strongly considered. You may have a very sensitive partner, or there may be many other things you two have in common. Sometimes sensitivity is a trait that reveals itself or awakens later in life, so just being around you and learning about sensitivity might make your partner more sensitive. Your partner may need to understand that some of your quirks—like needing more retreat and recovery time or having one weekend “on” with social events and the next weekend “off” chilling around the house—are due to your sensitivity.
11. Be confident.
Many empaths are incredibly caring people. When you can sense so well how someone else is feeling, it’s easy for your heart to go out to them with tenderness. When dating, remember that your sensitivity is not a drawback—it’s an incredible asset to you and potential partners. Your sensitivity to other people’s energies and emotions makes you a very considerate, compassionate partner.