In my practice and workshops I’m struck by how many sensitive people come to
me wanting a long term soul mate. Personally, I can relate to this. Yet, despite online
dating services, expensive match-makers, friend fix-ups, and blind dates, they still
remain single. Or else they’re in relationships but feel constantly fatigued and
overwhelmed. The reason isn’t simply that “there aren’t enough available people ‘out
there’” or that they’re neurotic. Personally and professionally I’ve discovered something
more is going on.
In my life, I’ve found that a vital missing piece to this puzzle has been
discovering I am a relationship empath. Empaths are highly sensitive, intuitive, and
caring, but they’re also shock absorbers with an extremely permeable nervous system
and hyperactive reflexes. They experience everything, pleasure and pain, sometimes to
an extreme. The amazing part of being so sensitive is that empaths are attuned to
people (at times even telepathically), to nature, and can be exquisitely sensual,
responsive lovers. The downside is that empaths are sponges for the world’s angst.
Without a membrane between themselves and the world, they unknowingly absorb
other people’s stress into their own bodies. Then they become overloaded, anxious or
exhausted. This differs from ordinary empathy, say when you sympathize with your
partner’s harrowing day at work. Relationship empathy goes much further. You merge
with your partner and actually feel his or her joys and fears as if they were your own.
Thus, romantic relationships, particularly live-in ones, can be challenging.
In The Power of Surrender I go into detail describing what a relationship empath
is and also present strategies to cope and not absorb the stress or symptoms of your
mate. If you’re highly sensitive and haven’t identified this dynamic, you may
unknowingly avoid romantic partnerships because deep down you’re afraid of getting
engulfed. A part of you wants a soul mate; another part is frightened. This inner push-
pull stops you from surrendering to a partner. The closer you are to someone the more
intense empathy gets. To feel safe enough to let go in a relationship, it’s crucial for
empaths to learn how to set healthy boundaries and assert their needs. Then intimacy
To surrender to a soul mate, it’s important to discuss your fears of letting go with
each other. However, if you’re an empath, you may not know what these are or that
you’re even resisting intimacy. Thus you can’t convey your needs or set healthy
boundaries. To determine whether you’re a relationship empath take the following quiz
from my book, The Ecstasy of Surrender.
Quiz: Am I a relationship empath?
* Have I been labeled as overly sensitive?
* Am I afraid of getting engulfed or losing my identity in intimate relationships?
* Do I prefer taking my own car places so I can leave when I please?
* Do I get drained by too much togetherness and require time alone to refuel?
* Do I sometimes prefer sleeping alone?
* When my partner and I travel do I prefer adjoining rooms?
* Do I tend to take on by my partner’s stress or physical symptoms?
* Do I feel overwhelmed by noise, smells, crowds, or excessive talking?
If you answer yes to one to three of these questions you’re at least part
relationship empath. Responding yes to four to six questions indicates strong empathic
tendencies with partners. If you answer yes to seven or more questions you are a
certified relationship empath.
Recognizing that you’re a relationship empath is the first step to removing this
obstacle to finding a soul mate. Next, you must redefine the traditional paradigm for
coupling so you can find a comfortable way of being together. This means letting go of
society’s stereotypes about marriage or relationships, forging a new path for yourself. If
you’re an empath or if the ordinary expectations of coupledom don’t work for you,
practice the following tips.
Surrender Old Relationship Rules, Create New Ones from The Ecstasy of Surrender
Tip 1. Evaluate a potential mate’s compatibility
As you’re getting to know someone, share that you’re sensitive, that you value
having alone time. The right person will understand; the wrong person will put you down
for being “overly sensitive.”
Tip 2. Vibrations Speak Louder Than Words
Notice how you relate to a potential mate’s energy. Ask yourself: Does the
person’s words match their energy? Or is something off? If you have any doubts about
his or her authenticity, go slow. To avoid getting involved with someone who won’t be
good for you, keep tracking the person’s energy with your empathic abilities to find out
who they really are.
Tip 3. Allow quiet time at home to decompress
Get in the habit of taking mini-breaks throughout the day. Tell your partner how
important this is to you. Stretch. Breathe. Walk. Meditate. Listen to music. This time
alone will replenish you.
Tip 4. Limit your time socializing with others
Tell your partner what your ideal time limit is to stay at parties or other social
occasions before you burn out. If your comfort level is three hours max– even if you
adore the people– make an agreement with your partner to take your own car if he or
she prefers to stay longer.
Tip 5. Negotiate your square footage needs
Breathing room is a must. Experiment with creative living conditions. Ask
yourself, “What space arrangement is optimal?” Having a private area to retreat to?
Separate bathrooms? Separate houses? Agree not to crowd each other. When traveling
together, you may prefer getting adjoining rooms with your own bathroom (this works
wonders for me). If sharing a room is the only option, hanging a sheet as a room divider
Tip 6. Get a sleep divorce
Traditionally, partners sleep in the same bed. However, some empaths never get
used to this, no matter how caring a mate. Nothing personal: they just like sleeping in
their own space. Discuss options with your mate. Give yourself permission to sleep
separately. Separate beds. Separate rooms. Sleeping together a few nights a week.
Because non-empaths can feel lonely sleeping alone, make compromises when
In my medical practice, I’ve seen this creative approach to relationships save
marriages and make ongoing intimacies safe for emotional empaths of all ages– even if
they haven’t had a long-term partner before.