Dating can often be challenging as it requires numerous skill sets and insights to do well; one must be self-aware, able to soothe themselves when upset and manage their emotions, have healthy boundaries and a clear idea of what they want/need but must also be willing to be flexible and open minded about negotiable areas. Dating is further complicated if one is an empath. For some of us, being an empath is an identity that just fits.
The American Empath Association defines an empath as:
someone who understands the mental or emotional states of others in a way that defies conventional science and psychology. Empaths have the ability to sense the feelings, thoughts, and energies of people, plants, animals, places, or objects. Empaths can also absorb the energy of those around them and often experience stress or illness if they are overwhelmed by too many negative emotions. Empaths can also use their abilities to help others by imagining themselves in someone else’s situation and connecting with them on a deep level.
Empaths are people who have a heightened sensitivity to others feelings, needs and wants but unfortunately, often neglect their own needs to care for others. I’m like most people who identify as an empath in that it is my tendency to see the best in others; almost as if others are surrounded by rainbows and unicorns (think living with a heart eyes emoji lens 24/7). It is a beautiful thing to focus more on people’s positive qualities more than their flaws but, unfortunately, empaths will neglect logic and facts when it debates with this perspective.
It has taken me years of practice to balance this view of others with an acceptance of the facts even when they are inconvenient truths. Some people just aren’t healthy for us. Period. We can’t debate or hope this away. It’s just a fact of life.
Denying these inconvenient truths is deeply painful because fundamentally it is self-neglect. (Furthermore, we can’t truly learn to love ourselves if we are engaged in self-neglect). However, if you relate to any of this, the good news is there are definite strategies you can take to protect your energy better and date more effectively:
- Stay aware that not everyone will return your love. Some people are willing to continuously accept the love an empath is willing to give but unwilling to return this love. Successful couples do not keep score of what they give or receive. Instead, in a healthy relationship there is a sense of respect through reciprocity and mutual effort. If you start to feel like your partner is never/always doing something for you or feel taken for granted or resentful these are all signs there is a lack of reciprocity in a relationship. With healthy people, we can give this feedback to them and they care. They make amends and find strategies to be more supportive. Unfortunately, an empath may neglect to assert themselves or continue to forgive their partner if they don’t try at all because they are well aware of reasons their partner isn’t living up to the potential the empath has assigned to them. Which brings me to my second point….
- Potential is not reality. Sometimes, an empath will see a light within someone they don’t even want to access. Some people don’t value becoming more mature, self-aware, or loving. All of us would benefit from remembering this wisdom from Maya Angelou but especially empaths: “When people show you who they are, believe them.” Years ago, I would actually “forget” if someone I cared for revealed to me an irreconcilable truth about them and their values. People have the right to live their lives according to their own values system; even if they are living in a way we perceive is unkind or unhealthy. One of the kindest things you can do for yourself is to see reality for what it is; even if it hurts – especially if it hurts! The pain of seeing and accepting reality and taking appropriate action eventually subsides. The pain of neglecting that something is unhealthy for you never goes away for as long as you don’t take action. Finally,
- Use your sensitivity to your advantage. Our bodies will often give us cues if someone is healthy or unhealthy for us; this especially true for empaths! If someone isn’t healthy for you, your body may react with nausea, chest pain, throat tightening or hives (amongst other things). Pay attention to your body’s cues that someone being in your life isn’t in your highest and best interest.
These tips support an empath in becoming more loving of themselves. As an empath, you already know how to love and support another person. This comes as naturally as breathing air but, you deserve this same kind of love and attention. And, it’s a fact, you will feel dissatisfied until you learn how to show up for yourself the way you would any other human being!