As children, we are all naturally empathic. That is, as children, we are all highly sensitive to the environment and connected to life that surrounds us. The problem for all of us is that, as we grow up, a toxic and violent "system" beats the empathy out of us. As we endure what I call toxic socialization we become (sadly and unnecessarily) disconnected, desensitized, and shut down. This is a particular problem for men socialized in traditional male gender roles because traditional male gender roles encourage men to disconnect from all emotions except anger; but women experience disconnection also. Regardless of the “gender” of your emotional damage, it is not a healthy outcome for anybody; it is a pathological outcome that represents a limitation on our true nature and potential.
As noted above, for most people “the problem” is that they are shut down in some way. Some people, however, can't be shut down no matter how toxic their situation is. Some individuals come to this planet formally as empaths and these people do not lose their emotional responsiveness no matter how much toxicity, abuse, and voice they experience. Remaining empathic "no matter what" might seem like a good thing, especially since I just said that damaged emotional responses are pathological, but it is not. The reality is that our world is extremely violent and toxic. On this planet even our families are toxic. People who remain empathic in this toxic stew have no real boundaries at the best of times (think about it, you can’t have boundaries and be empathic at the same time) and thus remain perpetually vulnerable to conscious, unconscious, or “accidental” assault, from friends, family, coworkers, and (increasingly) total strangers. If you are an empath, there really is no respite. As a result, being an empath on this world means ongoing hurt and damage. In the worst cases, it can even destroy empaths. I have to say, it’s dangerous to be an empath on this world.
Despite the fact that it is dangerous for empaths, nevertheless, this planet sorely needs them. As anybody with eyes can see, the pain and anguish of this Earth is currently exploding in violence and war. If progress is to be made forward, and if we are not to repeat the horrific mistakes of the past, we (and by “we” I mean the people of this planet) need all incarnated empaths to awaken, activate, and get to work. That can’t happen however until the rest of us wake up and learn to do our part to assist and protect the powerful empaths of this world. This is really important because empaths cannot do their work alone. It is simply too dangerous.
In a previous article, What to do if your Child is an Empath, I spoke to parents of child empaths. In this article, What to do if your Spouse is an Empath, I’m going to speak to the spouses/partners of empaths. Following this article, I’ll address the empath directly in an article entitled What to do if You are an Empath. Of course, these are just content divisions. Whether you are an adult empath or the spouse, sibling, or parent of one, each of the articles has value.
Eight Points to Remember
If you are the spouse or protector of an empath, the primary, really the only, important question is, how do you protect and support the empath To answer that question there are few things you have to understand about empaths first. The first thing you have to understand is what an empath really is, and that is a healer. Empaths are healers that specialize/work at an emotional level. Put another way, empaths are highly trained emotional specialists. Specifically, they have the ability to “connect” with other people and “take on” their emotional pain and suffering. This is a very powerful, and as we shall see below, very dangerous (for the empath) talent. As dangerous as it is, however, it is a critical capability. Empaths are healers and as healers, they cannot function without empathy. As the spouse of an empath, it is important you keep this reality front and center in your mind at all times.
The second thing you have to understand is that empaths, as already noted, cannot easily turn their abilities off. In fact, empaths are naturally and automatically open at birth. This is not a bad thing, it is just a thing. It is a feature of the vehicle they choose to inhabit. Nevertheless, as we shall see below, this “feature” does have serious implications. Therefore, in addition to remembering that your spouse is an emotional specialist, a healer, keep in mind that they can’t easily close their empathic connections off.
As the spouse/protector of an empath, the third thing that you need to know is that empaths “take on” the toxic sludge of the people they connect to. They take it on, they absorb it, and they “transmute it.” This absorption and transmutation is part of the healing process. Taking on the emotional sludge of a sick person helps the healing process by providing respite and relief, and by building trust. Of course, by itself this is inadequate. Healers must also address the source of the sludge, facilitate the development of boundaries and self-protection strategies, transform maladaptive thinking, and so on, but they do that most effectively when they’ve given the individual they are working with some respite and relief from the pain. Empathy is thus a critical component of the empaths healing process.
The fourth thing you have to understand is that there are absolute limits on how much an empath can take on and transmute. Put another way, an empath can be easily overwhelmed. Sometimes empaths themselves can view this as a weakness, as if they should be able to bare all weight placed on them no matter how much it is. This is the wrong way to think about it. It is not a weakness, it is simply a limit. It is like a weightlifter in a gym. If you put enough weight on the bar, even the strongest, most steroid burned Kong in the world will collapse under the burden. This is not a sign of weakness; we’ve all seen the size of some of these men. It is just an indication of a limit. It is the same with empaths. Surround and empath with enough toxic people and eventually they collapse under the emotional burden. It’s not weakness. It is just an indication of what happens when you put too much weight on the bar
The fifth thing you have to understand is that we live in a very toxic world. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, there’s lots of pain and suffering, lots of ongoing trauma and abuse, lots of exploitation, lots of misery, and lots of death. A lot of this toxicity is sourced in our families (think about it for a moment; chances are it is your family of origin that has hurt you the most), but it also comes from work, social, and (increasingly) random sources as well. I probably don’t have to say it again, but I’ll do so anyway—this makes this world a very dangerous place for empaths. Empaths are in jeopardy whenever they leave the cocoon of their safe spaces. It is important to keep this in mind.
The sixth thing you have to understand is that empaths are instinctually driven to help, and by instinct, I mean the same powerful instincts that drive us to have sex or to protect our children. Put an empath into a room of one hundred sick people and they’ll be driven to help them all, often with total disregard for their own health and well being. Again, this is not a bad thing; it is, like the difficult empaths have in turning their connections off, their absorption and transmutation of toxic emotional sludge, the absolute limits on their ability to bear the burden, and the dangerous and toxic world they live in, just a thing. It is who they are. It is what they do. As such, it is something to keep in mind, especially if you’re responsible for their care and feeding. If you don’t keep this in mind you’ll have a hard time understanding and acting correctly when the empath needs your help and support.
A seventh very important fact about empaths, and something really worth wrapping your head around is that sick people are drawn to them like moths are to flames. My own wife provides a great example of this, and I’m sure any empath who is reading this will easily relate. My wife can be standing in grocery line minding her own business and within seconds the person next to her, a person she has never met before, is suddenly spilling the beans on their entire life. It is remarkable to see, and disturbing at the same time. It is remarkable in as much as total strangers feel so instantly comfortable with the empath that they don’t mind dumping their entire life story. It is disturbing because of their total lack of awareness and/or total disrespect for boundaries, and the total desperation that must be present to drive them to open up to a “random” stranger in this fashion. It is also disturbing because of the total disregard for the health and well-being of the empath (remember, there are limits on what an empath can take) they display as they unconsciously dump their shit.
Finally, you have to realize, many empaths are “sleeping at the wheel.” Put another way, many empaths don’t know who or what they are just yet. That will change over the next five years or so, but right now, a lot of empaths are flying blind. This is a problem because while flying blind it is very easy to get into trouble or get overwhelmed. An empath who doesn’t know they are an empath may not know what is happening to them, and may consequently struggle in confusion with the burden that desperate people place down upon them. The world is dangerous for empaths in general, but it is even more dangerous to those who remain unaware. Sleeping empaths can easily accumulate toxic levels of pain, anguish, and despair. Endless rounds of mishandled and unsupported empathic connection lead to emotional breakdown, addiction, debilitation, disease, and even death. The picture is not pretty, but it is the truth. The question now is, what are you going to do about it.
Five Things that You Can Do to Help your Empathic Spouse
The next result of the “eight points to remember” means not only that being an empath is very challenging, but also that caring for an empath is difficult as well. Still, despite being difficult, the situation is manageable. If you are someone who is responsible for an empath there are several things you can do to help out.
The first thing you can for the empath in your life is help them to wake up. If you think your spouse/sibling/friend is an empath and they don’t know it, and if you think they are open to it, help them become aware of the fact. If they are relatively open, and chances are if they are an empath they will be, show them this article and my other article articles on the same topic. These articles will help boost the empath into greater awareness and, consequently, set the stage for the implementation of effective protection and support strategies. My book The Great Awakening: Concepts and Techniques for Successful Spiritual Practice also has a lot of information useful to empaths.
The second thing you can do is help the empath build strict boundaries, particularly around family and friends (who often have no respect for boundaries at all), and especially around those who do not understand and are not respectful of, the empath’s nature and capabilities. You and your empath charge have to realize, the empath is not a “normal” person. Because of their talents, the level of toxicity of the planet, and the way sick folks are attracted to them, they can’t play by normal social/family rules. If they do, they will expose themselves to overwork, emotional/psychological exploitation, and possible emotional breakdown. The truth is, in the toxic shit pile that is our current planet Earth, empaths are easily overwhelmed. If the empath is to survive and thrive, boundaries are critical.
Of course, as noted above, because empaths dissolve boundaries in order to heal, because openness is a feature of their talent and a fact of their existence, boundaries are often perceived by empaths as anathema. Remember, empaths feel responsible and are driven to help. Putting up boundaries can feel wrong to them. Indeed, imposing boundaries and limits can often make them feel bad. In fact, boundaries often, unfairly, trigger guilt and shame. It is not right though and, for the sake of the health and wellbeing of the empath, there have to be limits; therefore, the third thing you have to do help them deal with the guilt and shame that often emerges when they try and assert necessary boundaries. In other words, don’t let them feel bad about doing the right thing for themselves and their family. If it helps, get them to think of it this way. You would never think of going up to your family doctor while he or she is standing in line at a grocery store or sitting at a family event, and asking for medical advice. If you did, you’d be quickly told where to go. Why should it be any different for empaths? If an individual wants the help of an empath, they should at the very least ask permission before they dump. If the empath is a professional, then it is appropriate to ask for their card. It is unfair to accost an empath in a lineup and exploit their free time.
In addition to helping with boundaries and guilt, the fourth thing you can do to help and empath is make your home a sanctuary, in every sense of the world. As noted above, often the only place empaths can get away from the toxicity of the planet is the cocoon space of a carefully guarded sanctuary. If that doesn’t exist for them, if it isn’t respected by others, if it is taken away, if there is no respite even in the rooms where they eat and sleep, disaster can result. If you want to help the empath, create a sanctuary (and who wouldn’t, except maybe predators or people exploiting the empath), then there are two rules that must be followed.
- Rule one, no abuse. Put bluntly, the home of an empath (child or adult) should be totally free of all forms of assault and abuse. This very important rule provides that violence of any form (e.g., emotional, psychological, spiritual, and of course, physical) is strictly disallowed. After reading the eight points to remember, it should be obvious why this is the case. A house is not a sanctuary, there is no respite, and empathic overload becomes a real possibility, when the place that we eat and sleep is the most toxic of all. A situation like this hurts everybody, but it hurts empaths even more. So if really want to create a safe haven for the empath, stop all forms of violence and assault.
- Rule two, no toxic people. Put bluntly, the home of an empath should be free of toxic people at all times. Keep this next statement in mind at all times. The home of an empath is always a sacred space. This is because empaths are, for reasons already outlined, particularly sensitive to the toxicity of others. They are easily hurt. For this reasons, you must disallow toxic people from entering your home. If you know a person who is (emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, or physically) violent, if you know they won’t follow the rules, if you can expect them to engage in passive or aggressive assault and attack, for whatever reason no matter how “good” they think it is, keep them away. There can be no compromise in this regard. The health and wellbeing of the empath, not to mention all people in the house, are paramount.
Obviously, practically, putting these two rules into practice can be difficult. We have a no abuse rule in our home (and not just because we have an empath, maybe two, to protect), but we are not perfect in its application. Sometimes we express hostility, raise our voices, or jab at the other person (we are only human). But, the no abuse rule means we can all call each other on our bad behavior, and this, in turn, ensures the abuse never gets to be more than a frustrated jab or two. Not perfect, I know; but safe enough for the empath and all residents of the house.
Finally, the fifth thing you can do to help your empath is make sure they a) get lots of rest and b) eat well. It’s a requirement. It costs empaths a lot of energy just to leave the home, and if they are professional healers, they give a lot to accomplish their healing. For these reasons, rest and nutrition need to be a particular focus. As regards sleep, I would estimate that your average empath an average nine hours a night. Empaths working in difficult conditions will need more. As regards diet, proper caloric intake, and nutrition proper for an empath is key. You can’t lift the heavyweights that bodybuilders do if you don’t eat enough protein; neither can you lift the heavy emotional weights, as empaths do, if they do not have proper nutrition. This is especially true if they are active as healers; so, encourage them to eat right. In particular, help them pay attention to the carbohydrates they eat. Empaths, because of the emotional/psychological nature of the work they do, require (and carve) a higher intake of carbohydrates than other people. But be careful here. Empaths should stay away from empty carbohydrates and instead consume only healthy carbohydrates with a moderate to low glycemic index. Avoid breads, pastas, and juices (even fruit juices), and eschew products loaded up with process sugars (i.e. soft drinks, chocolate bars, etc.). Empaths who are not careful in this regard end up with carbohydrate addictions, gastrointestinal difficulties, and weight/obesity issues.
That’s about all I have to say about how you can help your empathic spouse, for now. In closing, I’d just like to say that if you are the spouse/sibling/friend of an empath then, in that order, you are in the best place to provide the support they need. Of course, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed at this point just imagining the amount of work this may involve, but don’t fret it. It is not as bad as you might think. True, empaths need lots of help and support that is true. They need safe environments, they need help with protection, and they need nutritional support. But the hardest part is up front. Once you’ve raised awareness of the issues, once you have created the required safe spaces, once your home is a sanctuary, you disallow toxic people, your diet has shifted, and sleep patterns are appropriate, it is primarily maintenance. So take heart and stay focused. Use this article to help raise awareness and work together with your spouse and your children (if they are old enough) to create a safe, protective, nurturing cocoon for the powerful empath you are fortunate enough to have in your life at this time.
 Mostly their emotional response are diminished, corrupted, or sublimated (i.e. turned within).
 The information in this article is also relevant for friends and siblings, though to be honest, spouses are typically in the best position to provide empath support and protection.
 Of course, are any of us really normal?
 Of course, on this toxic planet, boundaries are critical for everybody, but even more so for empaths, for reasons already discussed.