Two Sides of the Same Coin
Its important to remember that no one meets an N (I will be referring to Narcissists as "N's" and Empaths as "E's" going forward) and recognizes them as such and just continues to date them regardless. Its a literal trap. They do not show their teeth until they've won you over. I dont know how many times in my own experience with explaining my past relationship i have said "and by then i was already wrapped up in him,"or "By then i already loved him and would have done anything." Sound familiar? If you are dealing with an N, it should almost be word for word. I'm going to explain objectively what i know to be true of the beginning of the relationship with the N. I am then going to give my personal example. Ill try to be concise, but its easy for me to carry on because as an E myself, we tend to be very thorough when we are speaking on something we know well!
The state of the Empath.
Not always, but more often than not, an N comes upon the E when they are at a sort of vulnerable state. Either just getting out of an emotionally draining situation or sometimes when they are in the thick of one. There's a reason for this. Think of the Narcissist as an emotional predator. Honestly they can smell emotional strength from a mile away. I say strength and not weakness because it takes some serious strength to go through some of the crap we go through. In all honesty the Narcissist is the weak one. But I digress.....
So there sits lovely E in all of their emotional turmoil, and Here comes N. N is sweet. Doting. Caring. N is charismatic and reeks of promises of affection, attention, and presents themselves as a Savior. Someone who rides in like a white knight to relieve E of all of what ails them at the time. This can go on for however long it takes to essentially emotionally trap the Empath. In certain areas...the N is extremely patient. It a game to them. And they play to win miniature battles. Quantity over quality because remember, they love praise and reward, but lack the need for anything to actually be REAL. E absolutely falls for this. We as Empaths are quick to forgive. Maybe not always certain people, but the universe in general. So we've maybe ended a toxic relationship, but we are able to open our arms and jump into a new one because we are so willing to trust. even when we aren't if that makes sense. Honestly it takes way more to push an Empath away than it does to pull them in.
My own example. When Jekyll meets Hyde.
So this was the beginning of my relationship with the N. Ill just call him Brian. I had been in a relationship before Brian with someone i met when i was 19 years old. It had been off and on until i was 25 and had our son. then it was pretty much on. Long story short, that man began using drugs right before my son was born and i tried for the next 4 years to save him blah blah. Well, the last maybe 3 months of me being with my sons father I was just broken. To my sons father I had grown numb. Been pushed away emotionally. But i was scared and tired. My soul was just exhausted. Then Brian entered. He had just begun the process of getting a divorce. He was associated with my son's fathers family but not related. We had met several times at holiday functions and got along well. We had spoken online a lot always toying with the idea of getting the kids together. He has 3. I had confided in him that i was absolutely done with my relationship and would be moving to my mothers the following November. He started flirting. I gotta tell ya....i ate it UP. After years of fighting and feeling invisible, being chased was like a drop of rain on a desert. we hung out a few times. It progressed. He painted himself as the man who was going to make certain i'd never have to "feel that way again." He would meet me places and give me gifts. He got me my first real smartphone on his own plan and everything. bought me perfume, bought my son things. said things to me like "your face looks so beautiful in the moonlight." Which honestly i thought was super cheesy since he said things like that all of the time. But i let him. Because i thought that was what i was supposed to be told since the last thing my sons father had said to me was "you don't look like you lost that much weight to me," Anyway, fast forward and I move into my mothers house November 1st. Brian told me by December we would have our own place. I am someone who feels like they have failed when they do not stay true to their word. So with my mother thinking Id be gone in a month, when December 1st came and there was no place yet, I moved my son and I into a Hotel. Brian paid for it. We were there for 11 days. On December 12th Brian took me to a house and had me co sign on a lease. And then it began. From the previous May all the way up to that December 12th was like some kind of fantasy. It felt like the kind of "die without each other" love. I mean this man would drive 3 hours to my mothers just to see me for 15 minutes. The SECOND we moved into that house, he left me there with no furniture and a new puppy to go hang out with his best friend. But not before being physical with me. Of course. Everything that followed that should have been a red flag was easily explained away by me. After all, he wasn't a drug addict, he was always "chasing me" he was financially responsible, we had a house, we laughed a lot, he was a good dad (seemingly) and my life was finally feeling calm and stable. So when little things happened like catching him in a stupid lie (fyi...no lie is stupid and they all matter) or finding out he spent money and hid it from me (with zero reason because at the time i wouldn't even have cared) or finding out him "working from home" was him calling out and legit pretending to work on his laptop in front of me..." Anyway i started catching him in a lot of lies. and this is tactical. Its a chess move. An N will tell you they went to CVS when they actually went to Walgreens. This was a real lie i was told and until I figured it out, it drove me crazy trying to figure out what the purpose of this lie was. He went to CVS and told me he went to Walgreens. When he came home, he went into the kitchen and switched the bags but left the CVS receipt in the walgreens bag. When i asked him knowing full well what he just did, he said the receipt must have printed wrong. How can one store print another stores receipt??? They cant. and he knew i know that. Brian had 2 options for an outcome. I would either second guess my own sanity, or drop the argument in mental exhaustion from battling his ridiculous claims. Either way, he was able to start skirting weird line where he could get away with things even though i was too smart to fall for the lies. He trained me to drop the issue rather than get stuck in a circle argument. im not easy to manipulate, but then again i had never been met with that kind of dedication to absurdity. These little arguments were worthless so yes i'd drip them. And after enough of those, when an argument was valid and mattered and i was well within my rights to demand the truth....id drop those too after a few go rounds. i was already exhausted from arguments about receipts to go into a third round about why he always puts his phone face down and keeps it locked and points the screen away from me at all times. yea. This kind of "grooming" i guess would be as good a word as any, is essential to an N because it is used over and over again so that when they pull put the big guns, i mean the lies that they really need to get away with to really manipulate and control situations, you are already used to the argument cycle.
The Argument Cycle
Now that we've entered the state in which Mr. Perfect becomes Mr. Frustrating, It is important at this point to introduce what i affectionately call The Argument Cycle. The Argument Cycle is in my experience as follows:
1. N is caught in a small lie. Say he sad he was going to work on a Saturday but instead went to a movie alone or something.
2. E (empath) approaches N and tells them they know N has lied
3. N states that they did not lie
4. E sites 3 facts that all point to the certainty that N has lied. With proof
5. N accuses E of not trusting them, accuses E of LOOKING for a lie just so they can start an argument.
6. E asks N to please tell them the truth and they promise they wont be mad, they just want N to be honest.
7. N says something to the effect of "you can think whatever you want. But i'm not lying." or even "I'm not arguing about this."
8. E inevitably gives in and walks away frustrated. Now, in the beginning of the relationship it might take a few hours for E to concede. E has more energy in the beginning. Isn't used to the cycle. But months down the line it becomes so repetitive that E will stop themselves before they get too upset and usually walk away and isolate.
I myself am pretty stubborn. I was able more than a few times to be able to get "Brian" to admit that he lied. Because i would go at him HARD for HOURS. So he would admit it, apologise, and promise to never lie to me again. He would even repeat "actions not words." When this would happen i would think i was getting through to him. Little did i know, this was another tactic. Restoring my faith in his false ability to see it from my point of view. Manipulating me into seeing him as humbled. It is very important to the N that you see things in them that aren't there such as love, guilt, humility, self sacrifice, and empathy. Because they are not able to feel these things or do these things, they can use the ruse to affect your emotions therefore manipulating your boundaries.
I've explained it this way to my son; "Being an Empath is like having a Superpower and a Curse all at the same time." We feel A LOT. ALL OF THE TIME. Honestly its exhausting. But, we feel things more deeply than other people. We get more out of some things than other people do. When we love, we love deeply and when we hurt we hurt deeply. Our emotions, while taxing, are not something we would ever be okay with not having. Its honestly not our own emotions that exhaust us, but the emotions or sometimes lack of emotions in others that can be exhausting and confusing and draining. As we get older we are able to develop coping mechanisms and figure out ways to shut out other peoples energy when necessary. But love....love is our Achilles Heel. And as difficult as it may be to come to terms with, the Narcissist doesn't have the ability to love. I know....i still struggle with accepting that.