Empaths In Relationships: 15 Tips For Happy And Healthy Love

If you’re an empath, you know what it’s like to have an incredibly strong, understanding bond with another person.

Since you’re able to not just sense their emotions, but feel them almost as intensely as they do, you’re able to connect with them like few others ever will.

That doesn’t mean that every relationship you have will be an ideal match. In fact, empaths often face challenges and difficulties that others will never have to deal with. Below are some of the most common issues that empaths have to contend with, plus helpful tips on how to navigate them.

Challenges Empaths Often Face In Relationships

There are a number of challenges and difficulties that empaths can face in their relationships. The list below encompasses most of them, although they may manifest differently in each individual.

Emotional overwhelm.

Since empaths can literally feel other people’s emotions, they can end up feeling overwhelmed on a regular basis. This is especially true if they’re in a relationship with someone who experiences intense emotions.

Perfect examples may be partners who have high-stress jobs (paramedics, surgeons), highly charged family issues (sick or abusive parents, special-needs children), or problems with emotional dysregulation.

Empaths with highly emotional partners or spouses may get ill rather often because they have to expend so much energy dealing with both their own emotions and their partner’s. The same goes for people who have to deal with intense coworkers on a daily basis without any time to decompress later.

Alienating potential partners.

Many people can be uncomfortable or unnerved by those who can read them like a book. This is especially true for those who try to maintain their stoicism whenever possible.

They may have rock-solid control over themselves and keep their emotions well-guarded for a number of different reasons. As such, when and if an empath can tell what they’re feeling (because they’re feeling it too), they might not know how to process that. Furthermore, they may not want to be with a person who sees right through their defenses and masks at all times.

Avoidance of emotional intimacy.

Because of their ability to feel other people’s emotions so intensely, many empaths avoid getting close too quickly. The average empath will have fallen for others hard and fast in the past, and gotten hurt badly as a result.

This may be especially true if they’ve ignored obvious red flags early in the relationship because they sensed the other person’s emotions, and thus their “potential.”

Keeping distance like this may cause others to perceive the empath as cold or distant, when in fact the opposite is true. Empaths just guard themselves fiercely until they know they can trust a partner. Some might be okay with physical intimacy, but won’t stay the night. Or they’ll only agree to meet occasionally, with weeks in between meetings.

Uncertainty regarding how to best use their empathy.

This builds upon the previous challenging situation in that an empath might not always know how to use their abilities within the bounds of a relationship, or even whether they should be using them.

For example, most people don’t like it when others intrude into their personal lives, and that includes tapping into their emotions. You might get too attuned to a new lover too quickly and make them feel uncomfortable, or inform them that you know they’re lying, not telling you everything, and so on.

Being called “oversensitive” or “dramatic.”

A lot of empaths find themselves on the receiving end of mockery and disdain on a regular basis. After all, we live in a world that values emotional detachment, aloofness, and independence above intense emotion or connection.

Since empaths are so sensitive to what others are feeling, they might break down in tears when others are hurting, or get angry or upset when others are going through a rough time.

This may lead those around them to call them names or make fun of them for being overly emotional. In fact, some might think that they’re intentionally trying to redirect attention to themselves instead of being a pillar of support, or otherwise behaving the way others want them to.

Hesitance to rock the boat by establishing or maintaining boundaries.

Empaths can feel what other people are feeling around them, and they have an extraordinary amount of compassion for others’ pain and suffering. Because of that, most of them are loath to cause any kind of upset or suffering in others.

This means that these empaths may refrain from defending their boundaries or speaking up about things that upset them for fear of hurting or angering the other person. They know that if they do, their partner might get sad or frustrated, which could initiate an argument.

As a result, not only will the empath have to feel their own discomfort and upset—they’ll have to feel what their partner is feeling as well.

Since this can be an incredibly uncomfortable situation to deal with, many of them choose to suffer in silence rather than face the maelstrom that may ensue from speaking their truth.

Codependence with narcissists.

Sadly, one of the most unhealthy types of relationship pairings also happens to be one of the most common, and that’s the pairing of an empath with a narcissist.

Empaths are natural givers who are highly attuned to other people’s needs, while narcissists are natural takers who thrive on being pandered to. In this type of relationship, the empath feels that they are wholly responsible for their partner’s happiness. As a result, they attune themselves to their partner’s needs and basically martyr themselves for the sake of the narcissist’s wellbeing and fulfillment.

Since the narcissist partner will never reciprocate, the empath ends up getting more and more depleted. They’ll eventually break in some manner, whether it’s because of a health issue (nervous breakdown, for example) or because they end up having nothing left to give. That’s when their partner will leave them for the next empath who’ll sacrifice themselves for the sake of the narcissist’s happiness.

15 Tips For Empaths In Relationships

The tips below may be helpful for empaths who are struggling with personal relationships. Not all will apply to everyone, but the average empath will be able to learn and grow from at least a few of them.

1. Learn how to sense and acknowledge others’ emotions without absorbing them.

This one may sound easier said than done, especially if you don’t have much control over your empathic abilities yet. Basically, it involves acknowledging that you can feel what your partner is feeling without taking those emotions on as if they were your own.

It’s rather like the difference between seeing that your partner is getting wet out in the rain—even sensing the dampness on their skin—and running out there so you get soaked as well.

It’s important to learn how to shield yourself with protective energy so you don’t take their feelings on like a burden. It’s nice that you want to help them, but their emotions aren’t yours to carry.

2. Don’t lose yourself in your partner.

Quite simply, don’t allow yourself to feel and absorb so much from your partner that you start to become more like them and less like yourself.

It’s natural for partners to influence each other’s tastes and interests to an extent because they spend so much time together. For example, you and your partner may introduce one another to new music, books, and films that you hadn’t even heard of before. You might even pick up one another’s speech cadences, common phrases, and fashion preferences.

Problems may arise when one partner starts to abandon aspects of themselves in favor of what their partner prefers. A person who used to spend most of their time doing art might not bother picking up a brush anymore because they now spend all their free time watching competition shows on TV with their spouse.

Similarly, someone who used to love Thai and Japanese food may exclusively eat pasta and pizza because that’s what their partner prefers.

Remember to hold on to your own interests and preferences, and return to your own center on a regular basis.

3. Get plenty of time in nature.

Are you familiar with the concept of “forest bathing?” In simplest terms, it involves spending time in the woods to replenish body, mind, and spirit. While this may involve a bit of walking or hiking, the main emphasis is stillness—making contact with the earth while listening to the wind, observing the trees, listening to birdsong or rushing water, and so on.

Studies have shown that doing this can improve our immune systems and cardiovascular health, while also reducing anger, anxiety, stress, depression, and overall inflammation.

As an empath, you’re likely in overwhelm mode a lot of the time due to being barraged by other people’s emotions on a constant basis. This may be particularly intense if you live in a large city.

If you have the opportunity to spend time in nature, try to do so on a regular basis. In fact, if you have the option to move to a more rural location where you can forest bathe almost daily, definitely do so. You’ll be a far more emotionally balanced and supportive partner if you’re not highly strung and overwhelmed on a constant basis.


4. Spend time with animals whenever possible.

Most empaths get along far better with animals than they do with humans. Animals are completely honest and sincere in their motivations and are never manipulative, evasive, or cruel to others because they’re going through something difficult. Furthermore, spending time with animals can lead to greater overall health and wellbeing.

This is because time spent tending to, walking with, grooming, and cuddling animals can reduce stress and depression and increase “happy hormones.” As a result, there’s usually a decrease in inflammatory conditions, as well as anxiety and depression.

Furthermore, people who own dogs, cats, and rabbits are significantly less likely to suffer from harmful cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension, heart attacks, and strokes.

What does this have to do with your interpersonal relationships? Well, would you rather be in a relationship with someone who’s high-strung and jittery all the time? Or calm and grounded? Having a pet might make you a much calmer partner, as well as a healthier one.

Furthermore, the unconditional love we receive from our pets can help to open and soften our hearts. If you’ve been hurt badly before and have kept others at a distance as a result, having a pet you adore might help to crack open your defensive walls so you can let someone else in.

5. Make sure to get plenty of alone time.

Since you’re feeling other people’s emotions (and tending to their needs) all the time, it’s important to make your own self-care a priority as well. Most empaths are also introverts who recharge in solitude, and few get enough quiet alone time to be able to replenish their energy banks.

If you don’t get enough quiet time to yourself, you may find yourself getting more and more depleted. This can lead to anxiety, irritability, depression, and even physical illnesses. Taking this time for yourself isn’t selfish or self-indulgent; it’s absolutely necessary for your continued well-being.

Counterintuitively, this is also an issue in the case of two empaths in a relationship. There can be such soul-deep connection and understanding that it can feel difficult to pull yourself away from each other, but you must.

On a similar note:

6. Don’t feel bad if you need to sleep (or even live) alone.

Since empaths feel one another’s emotions and energy all the time, this can be incredibly disruptive to sleep patterns. In fact, empaths can get overwhelmed and intruded upon if they live with a partner, since that person’s thoughts, emotions, scents, sounds, and daily habits can all be immensely intrusive.

Many believe that if you’re in a healthy relationship, you and your partner need to be joined at the hip. In fact, many think that if you don’t sleep beside your partner, then there’s something inherently wrong with your dynamic.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, partners who are able to get the type of sleep they need have significantly more patience with one another. This is especially true if said partners have different circadian rhythms or have opposing needs at night.

For example, one might be a thrasher who wakes their partner by elbowing them in the head, while the other needs stillness and a CPAP machine for sleep apnea.

My partner and I sleep separately because I need complete darkness, a soft mattress, and 300 duvets to rest properly. In contrast, he needs a rock-hard mattress and relief from my troll-like snoring or he won’t get proper sleep. We’d both be miserable if we had to share a bed, so this arrangement keeps our relationship happy and healthy.

You and your partner might even be happiest living next door to one another, or even down the road. Guard the space you require in order to have the emotional and psychological peace you need, and you’ll be in a much better headspace for a solid relationship.

7. Create and defend your boundaries without guilt.

Many empaths refrain from defending their boundaries because they don’t want to make their partner “feel bad.” This isn’t just because they don’t want to cause upset, but they don’t want to have to share any bad feelings with their partner either.

As you can imagine, this can lead the empath to feel as though they have no personal autonomy. They feel like they’re sacrificing their happiness and comfort for the sake of someone else’s preferences.

Avoid the inclination to “people please” to make others happy. If you’ve established that you want a night to yourself so you can partake in your hobbies, but they’re pressuring you to hang out, stand your ground. The same goes for holding fast to your convictions, ideals, and priorities.

You are two individuals who have chosen to walk side by side for as long as your love lasts, not codependent support animals for one another.

8. Recognize that it’s not your job to regulate other people’s emotions for them.

Empaths inevitably end up feeling what their partners feel, whether that’s elation about a job promotion or despair because of difficult personal circumstances. In the latter situation, many empaths try to make their partners feel better for both their sakes; it’s a type of selfish altruism, because when and if their partner feels less sorrow, so will they.

In cases like this, it’s important to examine your intention. Is your main priority to alleviate their pain? Or your own? Do you feel like you need to do whatever is in your power to make them happier so you aren’t suffering anymore? Or being sincerely supportive in the way that’s best for them?

People will all go through difficulty at various times in their lives, but if they don’t develop their own coping mechanisms, they’ll find themselves lost and dependent on others when crap hits the fan. As such, sometimes you’ll need to let them hurt so they learn how to muscle through on their own.

Although your instincts might be screaming at you to help, to fix things, to make them all better, that’s not your responsibility. In fact, you’d be doing the other person a disservice by interfering. Ask them how you can best support them in whatever they’re going through, but repress the urge to step in and manage their emotions for them.

9. Develop resilience and coping mechanisms.

Sometimes, the best way out of a situation is through it. As such, if your partner is experiencing despair, anger, or other similar emotions, they may need to continue feeling these things in order to work through them.

This is especially true if they’re trying to heal from something intense. They’ll need to feel their feelings and work through them instead of pushing them away or forcing happiness and peace before they’re naturally ready.

Since you’re feeling these emotions as well, they’re likely making you uncomfortable. You may be inclined to help your partner so you stop feeling these things along with them, but that isn’t going to be helpful to them in the long run at all. As a result, it’s your responsibility to develop coping mechanisms and resilience in order to get through it.

This will result both in allowing them the grace and time they need to work through their own stuff and you learning how to shield yourself against emotions that aren’t coming from you.

10. Give your partner space when they need it.

If you can sense that your partner is going through a lot and they need some time alone to figure things out, then retreat to your own space, put on some headphones, and either listen to music or watch a movie so you aren’t affected by their thoughts and emotions.

My partner used to work with horses a lot and found that when he wanted them to stay close to him, they’d inevitably run to the other side of the field. As soon as he turned his focus inward and did his own thing, they’d relocate closer to him.

Give your spouse some uninterrupted alone time to figure things out on their own, and they’ll curl up next to you as soon as they’re ready to.

11. Withdraw when and if you need to.

Make sure to express to your partner that you may get overwhelmed easily at times, especially if you’re at a large gathering or in a highly emotional situation. We mentioned earlier that many (if not most) empaths are natural introverts who can go into full-on overwhelm mode if there’s too much going on around them.

As such, if you’re at a concert or large party with your partner and you get overwhelmed by all the thoughts and emotions swirling around you, it’s possible that you may need to leave so you don’t have a panic attack or pass out. Establish this with your partner ahead of time. Then they’ll be aware of your needs and won’t cause a scene or try to convince you to stick around.

12. Don’t put other people’s needs or wants ahead of your health and wellbeing.

It’s not uncommon for an empath to deplete themselves utterly for the sake of those they love. They generally put other people’s needs ahead of their own, often placing themselves as the last priority on their list.

As such, they might work themselves until they collapse or push aside all the things that they love to do—that nourish and replenish them—for the sake of making others happy.

You don’t exist for anyone else’s benefit.

13. Be aware of potentially hiding behind or weaponizing your empathy.

There’s a dark side to empathy, and that involves weaponizing one’s abilities or using them to manipulate others.

For example, an empath who doesn’t want to deal with a difficult conversation might cry about the fact that the heightened emotions are overwhelming and crippling them. They know that their spouse won’t want them to hurt, so they’ll stop the discussion and put the kettle on.

Similarly, some empaths can either try to establish dominance in their relationship or manipulate their partner because they know what they’re thinking or feeling.

For instance, their spouse might be trying to keep their emotions tightly in check, but the empath will call them out on what they’re feeling and demand that they express it. That’s not fair, and it can be both intrusive and abusive, as it may be construed as encroaching upon someone else’s sovereignty and free will.

Nobody wants someone else to be in their head uninvited, and it’s unethical to use one’s empathic abilities for one’s own desires.

14. Be clear about what you’re using your empathic abilities for.

I know one couple that’s a perfect pairing of empath and narcissist, we’ll call them Abby and Alex. Abby is a perfect example of someone whose empathic abilities arose due to family instability.

Her father is on the autism spectrum and was abusive toward her when she was a child, and she always had to be hyper-attuned to his subtle emotional shifts in order to avoid his outbursts. As a result, she has dedicated her life to trying to keep the people around her even-keeled and happy.

She ended up with narcissistic Alex, whom she believes is more attractive and has greater “value” as a partner than she does. As such, she goes above and beyond to ensure that he’s content at all times, so there’s no risk of him leaving her.

She wants him, and thus uses her empathic abilities to keep him so fulfilled that he knows he’d never have it as good with anyone else as he does with her. They both get what they want out of this arrangement. She gets him, and he gets fussed over day and night.

On the outside, this looks like a supportive relationship between people who balance and complement each other well. In fact, Abby might sincerely believe that she’s living in selfless devotion to Alex because his happiness and wellbeing are of great importance to her. When, in reality, her desire to keep this person is the driving force behind all her empathic focus and intention.

15. Choose a partner who understands and counterbalances you.

If you find yourself in a relationship wherein you feel used and depleted, or you’re being mocked or berated for your hypersensitivity, then you’re likely not with the right partner. You may love this person, and they might love you as well, but a healthy relationship also requires understanding, respect, and support.

It’s always awful when a relationship ends, but it’s far worse to stay with someone who doesn’t understand you.

A Final Note

It’s important to be aware of where your empathic abilities stem from. For example, there’s a difference between being an empath, and being hypervigilant because of past traumas.

Someone who experienced abuse or war-like trauma during their childhood and/or adolescence may have learned how to read the slightest shifts in other people’s energy for the sake of self-preservation.[1]

If people around them suddenly exuded different energy, or change their body language or vocalizations, those shifts in behavior could be perceived as subtle cues that a screaming fit or beating would happen shortly.

As such, what they construe as empathic attunement may instead be a highly sensitized trauma response.

If you’re a trauma or abuse survivor, you may benefit from therapy to determine where your empathy ends and your hypervigilance begins. While these two traits do overlap, there are major differences between them.

Furthermore, you may be experiencing more anxiety or tension than you need to because you aren’t aware of how much energy goes into staying alert at all times.

Additionally, while people who experienced trauma in their youth are more empathic as adults than their peers,[2] they also tend to take on responsibility for other people’s emotional regulation.

For instance, they may feel that it’s their job to ensure that their partner and children are happy and also to alleviate these people’s sadness, frustration, and anger.

As you can imagine, this can cause a great deal of difficulty for everyone involved. The empath ends up overwhelmed and depleted from trying to keep everyone happy, and those around them don’t learn coping mechanisms and emotional control.

Know yourself, take care of yourself, and find the balance that works best for you. Your love life will end up being significantly happier and healthier as a result.


  1. Levy, J., Goldstein, A. & Feldman, R. The neural development of empathy is sensitive to caregiving and early trauma. Nat Commun 10, 1905 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-09927-y
  2. Greenberg DM, Baron-Cohen S, Rosenberg N, Fonagy P, Rentfrow PJ. Elevated empathy in adults following childhood trauma. PLoS One. 2018 Oct 3;13(10):e0203886. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0203886. PMID: 30281628; PMCID: PMC6169872.

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About Author

Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.