Ever wondered what it would be like to easily tap into—or even take on—the feelings of others? Welcome to the world of an “empath,” or a highly sensitive person.
While empathy itself is a wonderful character trait, empaths naturally take it a step further. Empaths feel the weight of the full emotional spectrum—taking on stress and negativity from others, or even pain and suffering. That extraordinary level of perception can extend to their romantic partners, leading to an emotional rollercoaster of sorts with amplified highs and lows for both people.
When dating an empath, the ability to understand your partner’s unique responses is critical for intimacy and a successful partnership. Here’s how to know whether you’re dating an empath and identify common empath responses in relationships.
Am I dating an empath?
According to Judith Orloff, M.D., empaths are highly sensitive people who absorb others’ energy, or “emotional sponges” of sorts. Empaths can often feel others’ experiences so deeply that they confuse others’ feelings with their own.
Not all empaths are the same, but you might be dating an empath if you notice these subtle signs in your partner:
- They feel emotions deeply and intensely
- They internalize the feelings and pain of others
- They take a while to wind down after an emotionally-involved experience
- They are often overwhelmed or anxious with multiple tasks or too much stimulation at once
- They can detect subtle shifts in your energy or mood, even if you haven’t said anything
If these traits sound familiar, you’re probably dating an empath.
Dating an empath creates a unique relationship dynamic. Here’s an in-depth look at what to expect when dating an empath, and how to navigate challenges that may arise.
They might try to rescue you.
Empaths are naturally drawn to others because they can feel their energy. They have a natural inclination to relieve others’ pain because they feel suffering on a visceral level. This might lead to your empath partner taking on a “rescuer role” of sorts, or trying to shield you from pain or negative emotional experiences. For example, they may offer to do everything for you or relieve you of taking responsibility for things.
What to do about it: Without intervention, a savior complex can easily spiral out of control, leading to a lopsided relationship and resentment. If this is happening in your relationship, bring your concerns to your partner. Let them know you understand they are trying to shield you from pain, but their attempts are ultimately not helpful for you. Ask them how you can support them in taking a step back (rather than constantly trying to protect you).
Taking these steps will ultimately ward off any consequences that may arise when dating an empath who is trying to “save” you.
They put your needs before their own.
Empaths are natural helpers who tend to put others’ needs first. Some empaths may be aware of this pattern, while others may not. Like their tendency to save people, constantly prioritizing others’ needs can easily lead to burnout and resentment, which is detrimental to any relationship.
What to do about it: If you’re dating an empath, make it a point to prioritize the needs of your partner early and often, and encourage them to do the same for themself. Learn your partner’s love language and communicate your care by meeting their needs. Don’t allow your love to stagnate by constantly allowing your partner to take care of you.
They feel overwhelmed easily.
Being constantly bombarded by emotions can feel like too much. This aspect of being an empath might lead to your partner having a short temper or acting irritable when overwhelmed. It also might take them longer to recuperate from an emotionally taxing experience.
What to do about it: Be aware of situations that might be emotionally taxing for your partner, and be willing to help them come up with a plan to cope ahead of time. Ask your partner what is most helpful for them in moments when they feel overwhelmed. For example, some people love a hug in times of stress; others need alone time. Some seek distraction through a relaxing or comedic activity like watching a movie or playing cards. Each person is different, so it’s important to know what will work best for your partner in minimizing overwhelm.
They know your feelings before you do.
When someone picks up on your feelings before you even know what they are, it can feel unnerving. Your partner might be able to label that you are feeling sad, angry, or ashamed before you even get a chance to label it yourself.
What to do about it: Avoid getting defensive when your partner picks up on your emotional shifts. Take a deep breath, pause, and articulate what you’re feeling and what your needs are.
If this pattern is very bothersome to you, ask your partner to avoid labeling your feelings so you have a chance to do it yourself. Even though it may feel like your empath partner knows what you’re feeling, empaths are not mind readers, and you must clearly communicate what you need from them.
Top takeaways when dating an empath
Dating an empath can come with unique challenges. Fortunately, you can feel equipped to support your empath partner by following these tips. Identify your partner’s needs early and often, and try to take equitable responsibility in the relationship. Have a plan for tackling emotionally difficult situations. Ask your partner about their needs, and communicate your own. By following these suggestions, you can navigate the nuances of an empath partnership.
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