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Relationship Challenges for Empaths

After a break-up two weeks back, and then some additional stress from work travel plus a sick donkey, I've been finding myself particularly vulnerable to outside emotions barging in and causing disturbances.

All week, I've found myself scooting a few extra inches away from people who come into my space, sneaking out for extra walks in between meetings, and retreating to dark rooms to breath and stretch and regroup. A friend telling me about his dog's terminal illness left me soaking for hours in a sadness and loss that were not my own. At the hotel while traveling, I barely slept for 3 nights straight. Although my room door was locked and bolted, the doors guarding my inner self kept crumbling and letting in the anxieties of people in rooms around me and fears left behind by previous guests. It's provided a very exhausting reminder that being an empath can significantly impact my well being and health, and that I need to stay more vigilant with my boundaries and self care.

Looking to review some shielding strategies, I ended up burrowing down a really useful rabbit hole into Judith Orloff's articles and interviews. While most of the info about life as an empath is familiar, I also stumbled across a few new ideas which lead me to some much-needed insights:

  • Empaths need more space, physically and emotionally, than most people, but we're also generally so troubled about the prospect of hurting other's feelings that we're terrible at asking for that space, or often even realizing that we need it

  • Outside emotions affect us strongly, most especially if coming from a someone we spend lots of time with. This openness is intoxicating when those emotions are positive, like at the beginning of an exciting relationship - making it difficult to be appropriately cautious. Ironically, caution with new relationships is especially vital for empaths as we often attract and are vulnerable to energy vampires

  • Having a sexual connection with someone amplifies the flow of emotions into an empath's system, making both the positive and negative energy from an intimate partner easily able to drown out and smother our own feelings and needs. There is great potential to lose touch with ourselves when caught up so intensely in someone else's energy. That disconnection is something many of us fear but do not know how to prevent, leading us to end or avoid relationships altogether

  • When an intimate relationship hits a bump in the road, even a small dose of aggression or anger is unusually triggering to an empath. If our partner becomes upset about the relationship or us, it has an echo affect in our bodies as their emotions flow freely in, stir up our own highly-sensitive feelings in response, and pretty soon we're caught in a storm of painful emotion. These storms can be so excruciating and disorienting that it quickly becomes difficult to untangle what feeling belongs to whom

  • While negative emotions easily invade or are stirred up within us, empaths are often highly adept at masking all our feelings but the positive ones for fear of upsetting others. Depending on our upbringing and experiences, the compulsion to hide our negative emotions might be so overpowering that we're hardly able to recognize our own feelings, instead letting them eat away at our energy and health in the subconscious fight to keep them bottled up

  • Even when a relationship is mostly smooth sailing, a persistent personal struggle in a partner's life can cause unbearable discomfort. As many people cope by denying or disassociating from their negative emotions, the suffering of our partner may feel significantly more intense to us than it does to them. Consequently, the partner might do very little to address the underlying problem - maybe prolonged unemployment, untreated illness, or unresolved grief - while the empath feels consumed by the pain it is creating yet powerless to heal it

...more to come in the next post about how to better handle relationships either as an empath or with an empath