Ask an Empath: Do Empaths Get Too Close Emotionally, Too Fast?
Question: My mom is an empath. I’m not. No one else in our family is. Her friends and boyfriends are usually good for her if they stick around but she gets too close emotionally to them really fast. Once or twice, she’s had a perfect guy dump her because she got too close emotionally, too fast, and she scared him off. I don’t understand why she does this.
Easy. Been there, many times. Many, many times. Every man and woman, every deep platonic and romantic relationship I’ve had, I as an empath knew long before they did that we would be of importance to one another.
Vicki and I were best friends for 13 years, and when I met her that April, I knew that we would be close even though she was a good bit older than I was, me working full-time and with a toddler and newborn, and we didn’t seem to have a lot in common on the surface. But I could feel her emotions and see her at soul level, almost like a past life connection sort of feeling. I spent a few hours with her here and there over the next couple of months and by mid-summer, we were best friends and I was soon spending my lunch hours at her kitchen table during my work week. Some might say we got too close emotionally way too fast, but it was a beautiful friendship for many years.
Another example: I met Leah at a used book sale to raise money for a library in another town. We chatted for 10 minutes over a cashbox and a bag of old books, and I knew we were going to be close friends. Knew it. All we needed to bond was closer proximity than where she lived then. Even though our surface-level conversation was quite casual, I could feel who she was and I was very open to a friendship. Several years passed without seeing her again, and then Leah showed up in my office, now living in my town and working for the same employer. To anyone else, it seemed that we were instantly friends, and I suppose we were. If we’d been in closer proximity those first couple of weeks after we met at the book sale, it would have seemed that I became too close emotionally before having time to know her.
Close friendships like these have been plentiful in my life. These were actually two that took longer than most to get very close. In cases where the geography is close, I’ve become quickly inseparable from a new friend. To others, it’s often interpreted as “too close emotionally” to someone I’ve only recently met. To me, it feels like, “Why waste time playing the game of limiting exposure over the course of months to get to know them…because I already know them through my empathy?”
The flip side is that I get turned off from a person almost instantly upon meeting them, and no one can make sense of why. But I can feel their emotions and if I’m repelled, I don’t waste my time. It’s a quick insight into their hearts and minds, and I feel I know them at a deeper level than non-empaths would know them so quickly. It’s not a matter of being too close emotionally but rather, an instant and permanent wall between us.
This instant closeness (or repelling) can be problematic in both friendships and romantic relationships, though. I’ve met some female friends who thought I came on too strong with some of the collaborations and social events I suggested within a few days of meeting. A few men have been very confused by my quick acceptance of them and understanding of who they are because they were used to getting to know romantic partners through a slower courtship that involved them viewing actions and interactions whereas I could tell how much I liked them very quickly through sensing their emotions and inner, hidden aspects of their personality. They, as non-empaths, could not understand how I could feel so close emotionally so soon–I seemed like a crazy, clingy female who expected too much of our fledgling relationship–and the safest answer was for me to do something that felt inauthentic: step back, keep my mouth shut about how much I liked them, and let their slower feelings catch up with what I already knew. These turned out to be just as deep as the ones where the potential romantic partner was empathic and also threw himself into the relationship sooner than “normal.” From their prospective, I needed to slow down. From mine, I needed to give them time to catch up with my empathic feelings.