How Sympathy Could Put You in Danger: Empathy and Narcissistic Relationships
It’s natural to want to show empathy or sympathy in relationships. We all have an innate desire to connect with others by understanding their feelings and struggles. But if you’re dealing with a narcissistic partner, expressing empathy can be dangerous. Here’s why.
What is Narcissism?
Narcissism is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy towards others. A person with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) has difficulty seeing themselves from another's perspective and often manipulates those around them for their own gain. If you think you may be in a relationship with someone who is exhibiting these behaviors, it’s important to protect yourself at all costs.
Why Sympathy Can Be Dangerous
When interacting with someone who has narcissistic traits, it can be hard not to feel sympathy for them as they express their feelings of insecurity or other negative emotions. Unfortunately, when we show sympathy to people who are seeking emotional validation, we give them the fuel they need to continue manipulating us in order to get what they want—namely attention and admiration. By sympathizing with them, we are validating their behavior and allowing them more control over our lives. This kind of dynamic will only lead to further emotional abuse down the road if we don’t take steps now to protect ourselves from it.
How To Set Boundaries With Narcissists
If you find yourself feeling sympathetic towards your narcissistic partner or friend, it’s important to remind yourself that this type of behavior is not OK and that you should create boundaries that will help keep your relationship healthy and equitable. Setting boundaries means having clear expectations about how each party should behave within the relationship—and then following through on those expectations when necessary. For example, if your partner is constantly talking about themselves without showing any interest in your life or experiences, it might be time for a serious talk about how both people can contribute equally in the relationship moving forward.
It’s important that you protect yourself from being taken advantage of emotionally by setting clear boundaries about what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable within the context of the relationship. Showing sympathy can make us feel like we are connecting with somebody on an emotional level but ultimately this kind of connection only serves to empower narcissists further while leaving us vulnerable and exposed at the same time. When dealing with narcissists, remember that it's OK--and even essential--to put your needs first!