5 Big Challenges Empaths Face In Romantic Relationships + How To Overcome Them
If you're an empath—someone who can feel the energies and emotions of other people as if other people's energies and emotions were your own—your sensitivity sets you up for some unique blessings regarding love. Empaths can be incredibly compassionate, supportive partners. Yet being an empath also sets you up for unique challenges with lovers.
Here are the biggest challenges empaths tend to face in romantic relationships and how to navigate those challenges so you can enjoy a more nourishing, healthy love life. If you're happily unattached and not looking to date or partner, consider these helpful guidelines for navigating any close relationship—like a close friendship:
Fearing intimacy and getting closer.
Some empaths may avoid dating or romantic commitment because they fear being overwhelmed by a partner's energies and emotions. Many empaths like to have plenty of space—energetic, emotional, and physical. This is how empaths retreat and recover, or give their hyper-perceptive systems a break from overstimulation and absorbing the energies and emotions of others. If you're a single empath and loving it, congratulations! If you're an empath who wants to date or be in a committed partnership, remember that your sensitivity does not have to hold you back. You can maintain your need for space while enjoying a successful partnership. If you're already in a committed relationship, mindfully creating space for yourself might improve the relationship.
Empath pro tip: You don't have to be in a relationship with another empath for your partner to get your need for space. Let a lover know that you need to regularly pull back and create space for yourself, especially when your sensitive system is overwhelmed and frazzled. This might look like having one weekend "on" with social engagements and the next weekend "off" to chill, recover, and reground. If you're already in a partnership, let your partner know that sometimes you want to walk the park by yourself, have quiet time reading in bed next to each other, or do another activity either alone or together that is low-stimulation and creates space for your sensitive system to retreat and recover.
Unconsciously prioritizing a partner's wants and needs in an unbalanced way.
Many empath friends and clients have confessed that it took them too long to realize they were prioritizing their partner's wishes over their own. Because empaths can feel other people's energies and emotions so intimately, they may struggle with confrontation or asserting themselves in a romantic relationship. Instead of challenging a mate on a big purchase, for example, an empath might bury their objection in order to avoid feeling all the challenging emotions their partner will feel when challenged. This is how empaths can fall easily into people-pleasing—in a romantic or any other relationship.
Empath pro tip: Practice asserting yourself more in the relationship, voicing your needs and wants more regularly. Practice makes anything easier over time. Empaths who are recovering people-pleasers can build up a tougher skin around confrontations by being more of an observer and less of a feeler during these interactions. Remembering that prioritizing your own wants and needs is healthy for both you and your partner will help. By not sounding the alarm when you think your partner is making a poor choice, you can enable their self-sabotaging patterns. By not sharing one of your great ideas that your mate may disagree with or resist, you're cheating them of benefiting from your brilliance and cheating yourself in so many ways. Keep in mind that relationships are about compromise—no one person should dominate.
Getting lost in a partner's emotions instead of having clear emotional boundaries.
Humans can bond deeply with lovers and partners, and when you're a sensitive empath, it's important not to take bonding too far and merge with a partner. Because empaths pick up easily on what's around them, if you're feeling a challenging emotion out of the blue—like sadness or anger—ask yourself, "Is this mine or someone else's?" You may be carrying some of your partner's emotions to an unhealthy degree. Even intense joy can be draining when you're too much in another's emotional experience. Allow your partner to have their own emotional experience, and remember that you don't always have to feel with them. You have a lovely shared emotional and energetic bubble with lovers, but you also have a bubble that is all your own. Keeping that in mind is powerful.
Empath pro tip: Cultivate hobbies, interests, friendships, and activities that are separate from those you share with your partner. Have grounding practices that keep you centered in your own energy, like meditation, pulling oracle cards, journaling, a solo exercise routine, or a creative hobby. Have empath-friendly methods for processing your own emotions, so you know what's yours in emotional territory.
Tuning in to a partner without understanding observation and witnessing.
An empath's default wiring is to tune into what's around them—the energy of a crowd, a physical space, or a lover—with their clairsentient or feeling psychic pathway. Being able to feel with people or take the energetic pulse of a space or group is useful, but if it's the only way you navigate life, it can quickly leave an empath feeling drained or overwhelmed. Sometimes tuning into a partner is the nourishing, healthy, supportive option. Other times it's the opposite, especially if the empath is already feeling drained and overwhelmed.
Empath pro tip: Learn about witnessing so you can pull back and observe your partner from a more neutral emotional and energetic place. When you witness and observe, you employ the claircognizant or intellectual psychic pathway, so you still receive intuitive information. When it comes to dating as an empath, being able to more mindfully tune into or out from a partner is an incredible tool I feel all empaths should learn more about.
Trying to manage, contain, or change a partner's emotions.
Because empaths can feel a partner's emotions in their own system, they can mistake this for being responsible for a partner's emotions. Consider that your partner's emotions are their own business. If a lover's emotions make you overwhelmed or uncomfortable, that's usually your business. Yet handling your overwhelm by attempting to control your partner's emotions, which could look like always wanting to soothe your partner when they are upset or trying to talk a partner out of a challenging emotion, isn't the best path forward for either of you.
Empath pro tip: Encourage emotional intelligence and maturity in the relationship by talking about how your emotions affect each other. If the way your partner processes or expresses their emotions is really unhealthy, let them know and suggest they get help. Try individual or couple's counseling sessions if your partner has rage issues or if they have prolonged periods of high emotional intensity that trigger you. Do a loving self-inventory to see if there's a pattern of feeling responsible for your partner's emotions or trying to control their emotions. With awareness and tools, these self-sabotaging patterns can shift dramatically and positively.