How to Build Trust in Relationships

How to Build Trust in Relationships

Trust is a fundamental element in any relationship, fostering a sense of security and allowing for open communication between partners. Understanding how to build trust in relationships takes time and effort, but the benefits can lead to stronger, more satisfying connections with those around you. 

By being reliable, honest, and empathetic, you can help create an atmosphere where trust can thrive. Consistently demonstrating that you value and respect your partner’s feelings can also help to reinforce the bonds of trust.

So what does this actually look like in a relationship, and why is building trust so important? Keep reading to explore the many ways to cultivate trust in relationships, including actionable tools to deepen your connections and strengthen your relationship.

What Is Trust?

Trust is one of the most sought-after emotions in human relationships, and yet it can be hard to define (like a lot of our feelings!). What trust means to one person can be very different from what it means to someone else.

At a basic level, trust in a relationship is the feeling of security and loyalty between you and your partner. It’s built on a foundation of honesty, reliability, and consistency in words and actions. When you trust your partner, you believe what they say, and you don’t question their intentions – even in times of conflict.

The way people experience trust in relationships can vary depending on various psychological factors.

The Psychology of Trust

Some people enter relationships with trust issues, while others might be too trusting. Your approach to trust in relationships can be impacted by several psychological factors, including:

  • Attachment style: Your early life experiences, such as your relationship with your caregivers, can shape your ability to trust others.
  • Past experiences: Negative experiences in past relationships might make it difficult for you to trust your partner.
  • Personality traits: Traits like empathy, openness, and agreeableness can affect your level of trust in a relationship.

Whether you enter a relationship with a strong level of trust in others, or you have a hard time trusting your partner, it is possible (and important) to actively build trust in relationships. This process starts by understanding the elements of trust.

7 Elements of Trust in Relationships

Brene Brown, a renowned researcher, professor, author and speaker, is most known for her work on vulnerability, courage and shame. But in one of her Super Soul Sessions events, she also talked about the seven elements of trust. 

Trust, Brown said, is not built by grand gestures of love or friendship, but in the small moments of life that show you a person can be counted on. 

John Gottman, a well-known psychologist, founder of The Gottman Institute and creator of Gottman Method couples therapy, has found similar truths in his work, writing: “Trust is built in the little moments of everyday life, not with grand gestures twice a year.” 

Watch the video below for Brown’s perspective on trust in relationships, or keep reading to explore all seven elements of trust:

  1. Boundaries
  2. Reliability
  3. Accountability
  4. Vault
  5. Integrity
  6. Non-judgment
  7. Generosity


Establishing clear and honest boundaries in your relationship is crucial for building trust. When you set boundaries, you express your needs and limits, which encourages your partner to do the same. Mutual respect for each other’s boundaries helps nurture a trustworthy environment.


Reliability is the foundation of trust in relationships. When you are consistently reliable, you ensure that your partner feels secure and confident in your efforts. Demonstrate your reliability by keeping your promises and following through on your commitments. 


Taking responsibility for your actions and admitting when you’re wrong is an essential aspect of building trust. By being accountable, you show your partner that you value your relationship and are willing to address mistakes in order to progress together.


The “vault” refers to the safe and confidential space you create with your partner by not sharing each other’s private information with others. Practice discretion and protect your partner’s privacy, as this will reinforce trust in your relationship.


Maintaining integrity means staying true to your beliefs and values, even when it’s challenging. Demonstrating integrity includes being honest, making ethical choices, and acting in the best interest of your relationship. By doing so, you foster a sense of trustworthiness with your partner.


Creating an atmosphere of non-judgment in your relationship allows you and your partner to be open and vulnerable. Emphasize empathy, understanding, and support when communicating, which encourages trust and emotional intimacy.


Be generous in your assumptions about your partner’s intentions. Give them the benefit of the doubt in situations where their actions may not match your expectations. Practicing generosity in your relationship fosters trust and promotes a secure connection.

A couple cuddles on the couch happily after building trust in relationships

How to Establish Trust in Relationships

When a relationship is new – or if your relationship needs a bit of a re-set – it’s important to pay close attention to the ways you establish trust with your partner. 

You can build trust by:

Setting Boundaries

Establishing trust in a relationship begins with setting clear boundaries. Define your personal boundaries and understand your partner’s boundaries. This includes:

  • Emotional boundaries: Consider how much personal information you’re willing to share and expect from your partner. Respect each other’s feelings and emotions.
  • Physical boundaries: Discuss your comfort levels with physical affection and your respective needs for personal space.
  • Social boundaries: Share your expectations regarding friendships, family relationships, and social interactions.

Openly discussing these boundaries will help you build a strong foundation for trust by ensuring that both partners feel comfortable in the relationship.

Practicing Consistency and Reliability

Another crucial aspect of building trust is demonstrating consistency and reliability. Here are some tips to achieve that:

  1. Keep your promises: Whether it’s a small favor or a significant commitment, make sure to follow through with your promises. This will show that you are reliable and trustworthy.
  2. Communicate openly: Honest communication is vital in building trust. Share your thoughts, feelings, and concerns with your partner regularly. Be open to listening and understanding their perspective.
  3. Be supportive: Show your partner that you are there for them in times of need. Offer emotional support and encouragement when they face challenges.
  4. Be punctual: Arriving on time for events, dates, or appointments shows that you respect your partner’s time and prioritize their needs.

By focusing on setting boundaries and maintaining consistency and reliability, you will create an environment where both partners feel secure and trust can grow in your relationship.

How to Maintain Trust in Relationships

Of course, it’s not enough to put time into building trust at the start of a relationship. It’s also critical to focus on maintaining that level of trust throughout the length of your partnership.

Maintaining trust in a relationship is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort from both individuals involved. Two of the most important aspects of maintaining trust in relationships include continuous improvement and conflict resolution.

Continuous Improvement

To keep trust strong in your relationship, focus on being true to your word and following through with your actions consistently. And hold yourself accountable when you fail. 

Here are some tips for continuous improvement in your relationship:

  1. Communication: Regularly share your thoughts, feelings, and concerns with your partner. Make sure to listen and understand their perspective as well.
  2. Honesty: Be truthful and transparent with your partner, even when it’s difficult.
  3. Empathy: Try to see situations from your partner’s point of view and validate their feelings and emotions.
  4. Support: Encourage and support your partner’s personal growth and interests.

Conflict Resolution

Disagreements and conflicts are natural in relationships, but it’s essential to address them in a healthy and constructive way to maintain trust. Here are some strategies for conflict resolution:

  • Stay calm: Approach conflicts with a calm demeanor and focus on the issue rather than attacking your partner’s character.
  • Active listening: Listen attentively to your partner’s concerns and demonstrate that you comprehend their point of view.
  • Collaborate: Work together to find a solution that both of you can agree on rather than imposing your own opinion.
  • Take responsibility: If you’ve made a mistake or hurt your partner, acknowledge it and apologize genuinely.
  • Forgiveness: Practice forgiving your partner and letting go of grudges to strengthen trust in your relationship.

Remember, nurturing trust requires ongoing effort, so implement these strategies consistently in your relationship for lasting results.

A couple embraces after learning how to build trust in relationships

Trust Challenges in Relationships

Unfortunately, even partners with good intentions can break their partner’s trust – or have their trust broken by a partner. 

Dealing with the betrayal of trust in a relationship can be incredibly painful. When you trust someone, you open up yourself to their actions and decisions, which could potentially hurt you. 

When betrayal occurs, it’s essential to first acknowledge your feelings. It’s normal to feel hurt, anger, and disappointment. Remember, these emotions are valid and should be respected.

Next, take time to reflect on the situation. Ask yourself if the betrayal was a one-time mistake or a pattern of behavior. Sometimes people make mistakes, and it’s important to differentiate between a singular event and ongoing disloyalty. 

Also, consider if there has been a communication gap between the two of you, as clear communication is essential to trust.

Lastly, seek professional help if needed. Whether it’s individual or couples therapy, working with a professional can provide valuable insights and guidance for rebuilding trust after a betrayal.

Common Questions About Trust in Relationships

What are key psychological principles that help strengthen trust in partnerships?

Key psychological principles to strengthen trust involve honesty, consistency, and empathy. Being open and truthful about your thoughts and feelings is crucial to maintaining trust. Consistently showing your partner that you follow through with your promises and plans helps to reinforce the foundation of trust. 

Also, empathizing with your partner’s feelings and experiences helps you both to better understand each other and develop trust.

Can trust be repaired once it’s broken?

Yes, trust can be repaired once broken, but it requires effort, time, and commitment from both parties. Steps to repair trust include acknowledging the breach of trust, expressing sincere remorse, and rebuilding trust through consistent actions. The person affected by the broken trust should express their feelings and be open to forgiving their partner. Patience is key, as rebuilding trust takes time and effort from both parties.

What can help develop trust at the beginning of a relationship?

In the beginning stages of a relationship, actions that contribute to developing trust include open communication, vulnerability, and dependability. 

Share your thoughts and feelings honestly, show your commitment by following through with plans, and demonstrate empathy for your partner’s experiences. Establishing boundaries and respecting your partner’s boundaries can help build trust as well.

How does trust affect relationship dynamics and what are its core elements?

Trust is at the core of any healthy relationship and affects multiple aspects, such as communication, emotional intimacy, and conflict resolution. Trust enables partners to feel secure, allowing for vulnerability and openness between them. Core elements of trust include honesty, reliability, empathy, communication, and mutual respect. 

Developing these elements can create a strong foundation of trust that supports the relationship’s growth and longevity.

a couple works with a couples therapist to build trust in relationships

Need Help Building Trust in Relationships?

Whether you’re struggling to trust your partner or your partner is the one with trust issues, therapy can help. 

At Couples Learn we offer individual and couples therapy for relationship issues and use a variety of couples therapy techniques to improve communication, improve conflict resolution and (of course) build trust.

Contact us to learn more about online couples therapy and book a free consultation today.

14 Common Misconceptions & Myths About Couples Therapy

14 Common Misconceptions & Myths About Couples Therapy

Counseling can be a valuable tool for those looking to improve their relationships, but many people hesitate to seek help due to misconceptions and myths about couples therapy. 

Unfortunately, dismissing the idea of couples therapy without a clear understanding of what it actually involves can prevent couples from reaping the potential benefits. 

If you’ve been wondering if you and your partner need therapy, it’s important to identify and debunk any couples therapy misconceptions you might have before making any treatment decisions. 

Whether you’re worried about couples therapy making your situation worse or concerned that going to therapy is a sign your relationship isn’t worth saving, taking time to explore the truth about couples therapy will ensure you and your relationship can get the support you need.

Keep reading to explore some of the most common couples therapy misconceptions debunked by our experienced couples therapists at Couples Learn. But first, let’s explore what couples counseling is all about.

What Is Couples Counseling?

Couples counseling, often referred to as couples therapy, is a type of mental health treatment aimed at helping couples navigate relationship issues and improve communication. Couples therapists use a variety of therapy modalities to help couples navigate major life changes, stressors and conflicts.

The goal of couples counseling is not to “fix” a relationship or decide who is right or wrong. Instead, couples therapists can help partners understand each other’s perspectives and develop healthy communication and conflict-resolution strategies.

While many couples attend therapy when they are dealing with major life changes, infidelity or other relationship challenges, counseling can also help couples proactively care for their relationship. In fact, proactive attendance can help couples prevent future conflicts and strengthen their relationship before major issues arise.

It is also important to know that couples counseling is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There are various methods and techniques used by couples therapists. An experienced counselor will tailor their approach to best suit your unique relationship dynamics and the specific issues you wish to address. At Couples Learn, we use a variety of couples therapy techniques including Gottman Method, Imago therapy, EFT and more.

A couple sits in a couples therapy session

14 Common Misconceptions of Couples Counseling

Considering couples therapy but worried about whether or not it’s right for you? Explore some of the common misconceptions and myths of couples therapy below.

1. Couples counseling is only for couples on the verge of divorce.

This is a common couples therapy myth, but it’s simply not true. Couples counseling can be beneficial for anyone looking to improve their relationship, regardless of the stage they are at. The stigma around couples counseling is often based on the thought that attending means your relationship is failing. However, many couples attend therapy to maintain a healthy and thriving partnership.

And even if you are trying therapy to work through issues or conflict, it doesn’t mean you’re failing. Attending therapy at all is a sign that you’re committed to improving your relationship, which is a great sign!

2. Couples counseling is only for married couples.

Couples counseling can benefit any type of relationship, not just those who are married. Whether you’re dating, engaged, or living together, counseling can help you develop a stronger bond, improve communication skills, and manage conflicts more effectively. 

Many couples also use premarital therapy before marriage to better understand each other’s love language, each partner’s attachment style and communication styles.

3. Therapists will take sides and pick a “winner” in the relationship.

A therapist should never be picking sides! This is one of the most incorrect myths about couples therapy. Professional therapists aim to remain neutral and help both partners navigate their issues. Their goal is to assist you in understanding one another’s perspectives and work towards finding common ground, rather than focusing on who is “right” or “wrong.” 

Besides, in most conflicts between couples, there isn’t one person who is wrong anyway. Instead, there’s often a lack of understanding or miscommunication at the heart of relationship issues.

4. Couples counseling is a last resort; it means the relationship is doomed.

Many couples view counseling as a last-ditch effort before breaking up, but this is a misconception. Seeking couples counseling early on can help to address and resolve issues before they escalate, preventing further damage to the relationship. In fact, many successful couples view therapy as a proactive measure to maintain their connection.

5. Couples counseling is a quick process, and you’ll see immediate results.

Unfortunately, like many things in life, good things come to those who wait. And while you may be able to work through some conflicts fairly quickly through couples counseling, therapy is usually an ongoing process. It may take some time to see significant improvements. How long couples therapy takes to work will depend on the complexity of your issues and your commitment to making changes. 

While some couples only attend therapy for a few months to work through specific issues or navigate a major life change, others will attend for years or even throughout the life of their relationship to keep their connection strong.

A couple discusses common misconceptions and myths about couples therapy

6. You must be in an extremely dysfunctional relationship to benefit from counseling.

This common myth about couples therapy is far from the truth. Couples with minor conflicts or small misunderstandings can also benefit from counseling. In fact, addressing these issues before they grow into larger problems can lead to an even stronger and healthier relationship.

Whether you’re welcoming a baby to your family, navigating a cross-country move or dealing with disagreements about money, attending couples counseling can help – even if the rest of your relationship is strong.

7. Couples counseling is only for romantic relationships; it doesn’t apply to friendships or family relationships.

Although couples counseling usually focuses on romantic relationships, therapists can also work with people in various types of relationships, including friendships and family dynamics. Ultimately, therapy is about improving communication, understanding, and connection, which can apply to any relationship.

Depending on the type of support you need, you may work with a couples therapist, a family therapist or even an individual therapist. An experienced counselor can help determine who can best help you navigate whatever relationship challenges you’re facing.

8. You have to share all your personal secrets and intimate details with the therapist.

The goal of therapy is to create a safe and trusting environment for open communication. While it’s important to be honest with your therapist and vulnerable with your partner during sessions, you can choose what you feel comfortable sharing. Therapists are trained to respect your privacy and boundaries and they won’t pressure you to disclose any details you don’t feel safe sharing.

9. Therapists will judge and criticize your relationship choices.

Therapists are not here to judge! Trust us, we’ve seen just about everything when it comes to relationship challenges, and we’re committed to approaching any conflict, dynamic or issue with empathy. 

A couples counselor’s role is to facilitate communication between you and your partner and help you navigate your unique relationship concerns. They will not critique your decisions, but rather support you in working through challenges.

10. Couples counseling is too expensive and only for the affluent.

This is one of the most common misconceptions about couples therapy. Part of this myth stems from the fact that many couples therapists don’t take insurance. While this can make accessing therapy hard for some couples, many therapists offer sliding scale fees to accommodate different budgets. You may also be able to get reimbursed by your insurance company for couples therapy sessions, even if your therapist doesn’t accept insurance.

A couple discusses myths about couples therapy

11. If one partner refuses counseling, there’s no point in seeking help.

It is still possible to benefit from attending individual therapy for relationship help, even if your partner is not willing to participate. A therapist can help you gain a better understanding of your own thoughts and feelings and provide guidance on managing your relationship issues. Working with a therapist can also help you improve your communication skills and give you a safe, neutral place to talk through your challenges.

12. Couples therapy will make your relationship worse.

We hear this concern from potential couples counseling clients all the time: “Will couple’s therapy make things worse?” It’s totally normal to worry about “rocking the boat” when it comes to your relationship. But the purpose of couples therapy is to help you and your partner grow as individuals and as a couple together. While addressing deep-rooted issues can bring about temporary discomfort, it ultimately leads to a healthier and stronger relationship.

13. Going before you are married means that your relationship is not meant to be and you might as well just break up.

Going to couples therapy before you’re married is not a sign of a doomed relationship! In fact, premarital counseling can actually be a proactive step toward building a strong and lasting relationship. It helps address potential issues early on, gives you tools for navigating through different stages of marriage, and strengthens your commitment.

While some couples who attend therapy do eventually break up, attending therapy is not a sign that the same will happen to you. If anything, it’s a sign that you and your partner are both deeply committed to your relationship.

14. You should be able to figure stuff out on your own.

Seeking help does not mean there is something wrong with you or your partner. Couples often have a hard time solving conflicts on their own because they are too emotionally close to the issue at hand. Working with a couples therapist can give you a neutral, third-party view of your challenges and help you each see things from a different perspective. 

Couples counseling is a valuable resource for strengthening your relationship, enhancing communication skills, and addressing common concerns. Embracing counseling is a sign of maturity and commitment to your partnership.

Common Types of Couples Therapy

If we’ve busted enough myths about couples therapy for you and you’re ready to find a therapist, then it’s time to start exploring some of the top types of couples therapy available.

A couple discusses the benefits of couples therapy

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT)

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) is an approach that focuses on the emotional bond between partners. In EFT sessions, you and your partner will explore patterns of interaction that contribute to emotional distance or disconnection. By creating a safe environment in which you both can discuss your feelings, EFT helps strengthen your emotional connection and improve communication skills.

Gottman Method Couples Therapy

The Gottman Method is based on the extensive research of Dr. John Gottman and his work on the factors that contribute to successful relationships. This approach emphasizes practical, research-based interventions to help you and your partner build a stronger bond. The Gottman Method focuses on improving communication, conflict resolution, and intimacy in your relationship by teaching effective communication strategies and problem-solving skills.

Imago Therapy

Imago Therapy is another form of couples counseling that addresses the unconscious factors that influence your choice of partner and patterns of interaction within your relationship. In Imago Therapy sessions, you will explore your past experiences and how they impact your current relationship dynamics. Through this exploration, you will gain new insight into your partner’s needs and feelings and develop a deeper understanding of how to address your own needs within the relationship.

Premarital Counseling

Premarital Counseling is a specialized form of couples therapy that aims to help couples build a strong foundation for their future together before getting married. It often includes discussing your expectations about marriage, learning communication skills, addressing any potential areas of conflict, and creating a shared vision for your life together. This type of counseling can help you and your partner build a solid base for a long-term, healthy marriage.

Frequently Asked Questions About Couples Therapy

Should I do couples therapy or break up?

The answer to this question is a deeply personal one. While some couples should break up for the health and happiness of the individuals involved, other couples can absolutely resolve conflict through couples counseling. Attending couples counseling can actually help you make the decision of whether to break up or stay together.

Can a therapist see partners separately?

Yes, they can! Many couples therapists will occasionally offer individual counseling sessions to each member of a couple individually to gain a better understanding of their inner dialogue, attachment style and relationship history. These individual sessions can give the therapist many key insights into how to better help the couple manage conflict or improve communication.

Does couples therapy mean your relationship is over?

Absolutely not! While some couples who go through therapy will ultimately break up or get divorced, committing to couples therapy is a big step toward the health of your relationship. In some ways, couples therapy means the next phase of your relationship is just beginning!

What is the success rate of couples therapy?

If you and your partner both want to be together, therapy can help you get closer than ever. An analysis of emotionally-focused couples therapy (EFT) found that 90% of couples significantly improve their relationship and 70-70% of couples no longer fit the criteria for “relationship distress” after treatment.

The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists reports that more than 75% of patients receiving marriage or couples counseling see an improvement in their relationship after therapy.

Do both partners need to attend every session?

In general, both partners should be present for couples therapy sessions to address issues and work on their relationship. However, there may be instances when individual sessions are necessary to address specific personal concerns. It is essential to discuss with your therapist about the best approach for you and your partner.

Is couples therapy only a short-term solution?

The length and duration of couples therapy can vary based on the needs and goals of each couple. It can be short-term, focusing on specific issues, or long-term, addressing more deep-rooted problems and fostering personal growth. Ultimately, the success and timeline of your therapy will depend on the commitment and effort put in by you and your partner.

a couple holds hands and runs into the ocean

Ready to Start Couples Therapy?

Now that we’ve debunked some of the most common misconceptions and myths about therapy for couples, are you ready to try therapy for your relationship? Contact Couples Learn to explore all our couples therapy offerings and determine the best fit for you and your partner.

With online couples therapy from Couples Learn, you can get the support you need to navigate any of life’s challenges. Schedule a free consultation today to get started.

Codependent vs Empath: What’s the Difference?

Codependent vs Empath: What’s the Difference?

Explore the difference between codependent vs empath and learn how to heal from codependency – without losing your empathy.

Relationships can bring up a lot of emotions. You may feel your partner’s emotions just as deeply as your own. If you identify as an empath, you’re probably very used to feeling and identifying with others’ emotions. 

It’s completely normal (and lovely) to want what’s best for your partner in the relationship and beyond. But if you’re consistently putting your partner’s needs above your own and spend all your time worrying about how they’re feeling, you may be more than an empath, you may be in a codependent relationship.

Keep reading to learn more about the difference between codependent vs empath and what to do if you think your relationship is becoming unhealthy.

Understanding Codependency vs Empathy

In relationships, codependency and empathy can appear similar. Both empaths and codependents typically understand and share others’ feelings. They deeply feel the emotions of their partner. But beyond these similarities, codependents vs empaths are actually quite different. 

What is an Empath? 

An empath is an individual who is highly tuned in to the feelings and emotions of those around them. Being an empath goes beyond having empathy. Empaths not only understand others’ feelings but actually feel what another person is feeling at a deep level.

This can be a wonderful trait. Empaths are often great listeners and understanding partners and friends. Empaths are also typically good at detecting dishonesty in others and have strong intuition.

However, without strong boundaries and a strong sense of self, empaths can risk emotional burnout and even codependency in relationships.

A woman sits on her phone and researches the difference between codependency vs empath

What is Codependency?

Codependency can look a lot like empathy on the surface, but it’s really quite different. Codependency is a problematic relationship pattern that involves trying to control and win love from people who are emotionally unavailable, such as addicts or individuals with narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder.

Codependent partners not only feel their partner’s emotions, they consistently put the feelings, needs and desires of others above their own. They are pathologically caring and sacrifice their own needs and sense of self for their relationship. 

As a result, they often find themselves in relationships with egotistical, self-centered and selfish people who take more than they give back to their partner. A codependent partner will try to control and change their partner’s behavior (usually unsuccessfully).

What is the root of codependency?

Codependency usually begins in childhood, so it’s important to understand the impact of your childhood trauma and wounding. 

If you’re codependent, you may have experienced:

  • Neglectful or abusive caretakers
  • An addict or mentally ill parent
  • A codependent parent
  • Overbearing, controlling and authoritarian parent that discouraged independence
  • A home that lacked boundaries
  • A volatile home where you had to learn how to sense your parent’s mood to stay safe
  • Love that was conditional on your achievements or obedience

How do I know if I am codependent?

It’s not always easy to spot the difference between codependent vs empath. The best way is to understand the signs of a codependent relationship and reflect on whether they ring true for you and your relationships throughout your life.

Signs of a Codependent vs Empath in Relationships

Codependents and empaths often function in similar ways in relationships, however, there are some key differences. 

At a basic level, while codependents and empaths both feel their partner’s emotions deeply, empaths are able to do so while maintaining a strong sense of self. Codependents, on the other hand, struggle to maintain their own identity in relationships.

Codependent vs Empath graphic

Codependent Partners and Relationships

Codependent partners:

  • Feel other people’s emotions but are often cut off from or dismissive of their own
  • Lack boundaries (they feel bad setting them or don’t know how)
  • Doubt and override their intuition
  • Are attracted to and keep attracting toxic partners
  • Try to fix toxic people and addicts rather than leaving the relationship
  • Are emotionally unavailable or vulnerable without boundaries
  • Lack confidence and self-love
  • Are invested in changing and controlling others

Empaths and Relationships

Empath partners:

  • Feel emotions deeply – both their own and other people’s
  • Have boundaries to protect their energy
  • Are connected to their intuition
  • Can recognize toxic people and relationship patterns
  • Do not let toxic people into their emotional space or set clear boundaries with them
  • Are emotionally available and vulnerable (but with boundaries)
  • Are self-confident and self-loving
  • Accept self and others as they are, without trying to change or control them

As you can see, while codependents and empaths demonstrate some similar qualities, healthy empaths are able to feel their partner’s emotions deeply without sacrificing their own needs or dismissing their own feelings. They’re able to set clear boundaries in relationships and avoid toxic people and relationships.

Can you be a codependent empath?

If you’re wondering if you’re codependent or empathic, you’re not alone. So, are codependent people empathic? The short answer is yes. 

Often, people who are codependent think they are empaths and may not realize the unhealthy relationship patterns they’re engaging in. 

A simple way of looking at the connection between codependents vs empaths is this: all codependents are empaths, but not all empaths are codependent.

Are codependent relationships bad?

Unless a relationship is abusive or dangerous, then a codependent relationship is not inherently bad. In some cultures, for example, a codependent dynamic is a social norm for married couples and both partners may be very comfortable in their roles.

However, in many cases, codependent relationships can absolutely be problematic for both partners.

As a codependent, you may have a history of dating narcissists, addicts or mentally ill partners who are not able to put your needs or desires ahead of their own. You may find yourself going above and beyond to make your partner happy, essentially performing for their love.

Often codependent partners overfunction in the relationship to make up for their partner’s underfunctioning. You may give more than you take. And while it’s not a bad thing to be giving in relationships, codependents are often resentful of their partner’s lack of reciprocation.

Codependent relationships also lack boundaries. You may take part in snooping, controlling behavior or even acceptance of abusive treatment.

And codependent relationships don’t serve the partners of codependents either. As a codependent, you might make excuses for your partner’s behavior and protect them from the consequences of their actions. You may minimize your partner’s negative qualities or try to manipulate, control and change their behavior. 

All of these patterns and behaviors result in a relationship that is very one-sided, lacking boundaries and trust and can destroy your sense of self.

A woman sits with her head in her hands while researching codependent vs empath

How to Move from Codependency to Empathy

The good news is, that it’s totally possible to move from a codependent to a healthy empath. It does, however, take some serious work to heal from codependency.

Here are some of the best things you can do to start healing:

Put Yourself First

Commit to your own healing above everything else. This can be really challenging, especially for someone who is used to putting everyone else’s needs above their own. But it’s critical to make healing a priority.

Set Boundaries

Learning how to set boundaries and hold them is critical to healing from codependency. One of the biggest differences between codependent vs empath is the ability to set and hold boundaries, even in the face of big emotions.

Share Your Needs

Start speaking your needs and desires, even if it means your partner gets mad or leaves. While it’s difficult seeing a relationship end or change, it can make room for new, healthier relationships.

Stop Making Excuses for Your Partner

If you’ve been covering up or lying about your partner’s behavior, it’s time to stop. Recognize that you’re not helping yourself or your partner when you enable them or try to control and change them.

Start Working on Self-Love

It’s cliche but true – you must first love yourself before you can truly love someone else. And if you want to have a healthy relationship that is not codependent, you need to give yourself kindness and positive self-talk.

Make Self-Care a Priority

Give yourself the same care and attention that you give to your partner. Put yourself first for a change. Take care of yourself the way you take care of others. Figure out what brings you joy and do more of it, whether it’s getting a monthly massage, reading a good book or spending more time with friends.

Heal Childhood Trauma

So much of codependency begins with your experiences in childhood. One of the best things you can do to heal from codependency is to work on healing your inner child. Working with a trauma-informed therapist, such as an attachment-focused EMDR therapist, is a good option.

Date Yourself

You need a therapist, not a new partner. Stay single for at least a year while working on yourself. If you jump into a new relationship too soon, the codependency cycle is likely to start up again. Spend time hanging out with yourself. Learn what you like, try new hobbies and spend time with friends. Learn to be happy on your own.

Tune Into Your Intuition

Somatic work is a great way to better understand your emotions and tune in to your intuition. One of the biggest differences between codependent vs empath is the lack of connection to your intuition that many codependent individuals experience. Working with a somatic experiencing therapist can help.

Stop Trying to Change People

Accept people for who they are and believe them the first time when they show you who they are. Don’t take on any more projects! Instead, find people you care about and accept just as they are.

A woman and therapist discuss the difference between codependent vs empath

Get Help Healing from Codependency

If you’re comparing codependent vs empath and realizing you’re leaning toward codependency (or maybe are fully there), then it’s time to seek professional help. While it’s possible to start working on overcoming codependency on your own, a trauma-informed therapist is going to give you the support you need to get to the root of the issue and truly heal.

An EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapist is a good option to help manage any childhood trauma and wounding that may be contributing to your issues with codependency. A couples therapist could also help if you want to work with your partner.

Looking for immediate help with codependency? Check out our webinar, Codependency 101. Sign up today for instant access to more than an hour of education about the signs of codependency, the problems with a codependent relationship and how to stop being codependent.

Simple Strategies for Healing from a Narcissistic Relationship

Simple Strategies for Healing from a Narcissistic Relationship

Healing from a narcissistic relationship can be a challenging and emotional journey, but it is possible. Whether you’re leaving a marriage with a narcissist or have only recently been dating one, understanding the impact of narcissistic abuse is key to recovery.

This means you’ll have to examine the patterns of your past relationships and come to terms with how they have impacted you. You’ll also need to develop healthy coping mechanisms, set clear boundaries and work on your mental health to avoid similar relationships in the future.

As you navigate the healing process, it’s essential to remember that it won’t happen overnight – be patient with yourself as you learn and grow. Surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family and seeking professional help can make the journey smoother and more manageable.

Understanding Narcissistic Behavior

Before you can move on from a narcissistic relationship, you have to understand what narcissistic behavior is and how it can impact you.

Narcissists often display a lack of empathy, an unrealistic sense of entitlement, and an unwillingness to engage in emotional intimacy. These traits can make it difficult for you to recognize the negative patterns in your relationship.

Narcissists are typically drawn to partners who will fulfill their need for validation and admiration. As a result, you may have found yourself giving more than you received in the relationship.

It can be difficult to recognize these issues in your own relationship. But if you do notice some of these patterns in your partnership, it’s important not to minimize the impacts dating a narcissistic can have on your life and well-being.

Realizing the Impact of Narcissistic Abuse

Dating a narcissist (or being married to one) can do more than make your relationship challenging. It can do real harm to your mental health, confidence and more.

What happens to your brain after narcissistic abuse?

Narcissistic abuse has a significant impact on your brain and mental well-being. It can result in chronic stress, which can lead to an increased release of stress hormones like cortisol. 

Over time, this consistent stress can cause changes in your brain structure and function. You might experience difficulty with memory, concentration, and decision-making. All of this can further affect your ability to recover and heal.

Prolonged exposure to stress can also lead to an elevated risk of developing anxiety and depression.

How does narcissistic abuse change you?

Being in a relationship with a narcissist can also impact your behavior, the way you live your life, your confidence and more. Some of the common ways narcissistic abuse can change you include:

  • Loss of confidence: Narcissists tend to undermine their partner’s self-esteem by constantly criticizing, belittling, or manipulating them. This can result in a profound loss of confidence and self-worth, making it challenging to regain your sense of self after the relationship ends.
  • Increased sensitivity: Experiencing narcissistic abuse can make you highly sensitive to others’ opinions, emotions, and actions. This increased sensitivity might lead to overthinking or feeling overly responsible for other people’s feelings.
  • Neglecting your needs: Dating a narcissist often involves prioritizing their desires and needs over your own, leading to a pattern of self-neglect. You must learn to prioritize yourself and practice self-care when healing from a narcissistic relationship.
  • Trust issues: Since narcissists can be highly manipulative and deceitful, dating one can lead to a deep mistrust of others. Overcoming this distrust and learning to trust again is an essential part of healing after narcissistic abuse.
A couple argues about healing after dating a narcissist

5 Steps to Take When Healing from a Narcissistic Relationship

Recognizing the impact of narcissistic abuse on your brain and emotional well-being is an essential first step in your healing journey. If you’re ready to move on from a narcissistic partner, there are some important steps to take to keep your healing going strong.

Recovering from Narcissistic Gaslighting

One of the most challenging aspects of healing from a narcissistic relationship is recovering from gaslighting. Gaslighting is a manipulative technique used by narcissists to make you doubt your reality and perceptions. To overcome this, you need to re-establish trust in yourself and your ability to make sound decisions. Seek support from friends, family, or a support group to help validate your experiences.

Regaining Self-Identity

Narcissistic relationships often result in a loss of self-identity as the narcissist projects their own wants and values onto you. Regaining your sense of self is essential for healing. Start by reconnecting with your hobbies and interests, reflecting on your own values, and rediscovering your strengths and accomplishments.

Building Healthy Relationships

After a narcissistic relationship, it’s crucial to learn how to build healthy relationships. Familiarize yourself with the signs of a healthy relationship, like trust, respect, and good communication. Practice setting boundaries and be mindful of your emotional needs to create healthier, long-lasting connections.

Prioritizing Self-Care

Self-care plays a significant role in healing from a narcissistic relationship. Implementing healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, meditation, or journaling, can help you process your thoughts and emotions. Prioritize your physical and emotional well-being, and make time for activities that make you feel good about yourself.

Restoring Mental Health After Narcissistic Abuse

The effects of narcissistic abuse on mental health can be profound and long-lasting. Restoring mental health may involve working through feelings of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Seeking professional help from a mental health professional experienced in trauma and abuse recovery can provide essential guidance. Look for trauma-informed therapists in your area or find an online therapist who can help.

Dealing with a Narcissistic Ex-Partner

Even when you do break up with a narcissistic partner, it doesn’t always mean they’re out of your life completely. Dealing with a narcissistic ex can be very challenging. But it is possible!

Most importantly, prioritize yourself and your well-being above all else. Set firm boundaries with your ex. You may need to limit or completely cut off contact (if you can). If communication is required (for example, if you share joint custody of children with your ex), keep it as brief and concise as possible. Avoid getting drawn into arguments or defending yourself against any accusations they may throw at you.

It’s also important to work on recognizing your ex’s common behavior patterns so that you’re better prepared to handle them. Remember that your emotions are valid and that you don’t owe the narcissist an explanation or validation.

Make sure you have a strong support network, too, including friends, family, a therapist or support group. When you need emotional support or you’re feeling lonely, these folks can help you resist the urge to engage with your ex.

A woman journals while healing from a narcissistic relationship

Common Questions About Healing from a Narcissistic Relationship

How can therapy help in healing from dating a narcissist?

Therapy can be instrumental in healing after dating a narcissist. A therapist can help you recognize the toxic patterns, understand your feelings, and develop coping strategies. Professionals can also guide you to establish healthy boundaries and rebuild your self-esteem. Through therapy, you can gain insight, process your emotions, and develop tools to build healthier relationships in the future.

How can one develop self-love after being in a relationship with a narcissist?

Developing self-love after a relationship with a narcissist may require relearning your self-worth and practicing self-compassion. It’s crucial to identify and challenge negative beliefs you may have internalized during the relationship. Focus on engaging in activities that make you happy and provide a sense of accomplishment. Surround yourself with supportive individuals who can help you see your unique qualities and strengths.

What strategies can help in overcoming PTSD caused by narcissistic abuse?

Overcoming PTSD caused by narcissistic abuse involves addressing the traumatic memories and integrating them into your everyday life. Ways to cope with PTSD include grounding techniques, breathing exercises, and learning to manage triggers. Professional help, such as trauma-focused therapy or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), can also help you process any traumatic experiences and alleviate symptoms.

How long does it take to heal from a narcissistic relationship?

How long does therapy take to help you heal? Healing from a narcissistic relationship varies significantly from person to person. Factors influencing the healing process include the severity of the abuse, the duration of the relationship, your support system, and the amount of personal growth and healing work you invest in. Remember that healing is a journey, not a destination. It’s essential to be patient and compassionate with yourself during this process.

Ready to Heal After Dating a Narcissist?

If you’re ready to start healing from a narcissistic relationship, then it’s time to seek professional help. While it’s possible to move on from a narcissistic ex without a therapist, it’s much easier with the support of a mental health professional.

The trauma-informed therapists at Couples Learn can work with you to improve your well-being, whether you’re interested in couples therapy with a narcissistic partner, want individual therapy for relationship help or want to try online EMDR to heal past trauma.

Get started today by contacting Couples Learn or booking your free, 30-minute consultation.

How to Know if You’re Dating a Narcissist

How to Know if You’re Dating a Narcissist

Learn more about how to know if you’re dating a narcissist – and what to do about it.

Entering into a romantic relationship can be an exciting experience. You’re learning about each other, trying new things together and (hopefully) feeling plenty of butterflies. But what happens if your new relationship turns out to have some unexpected ups and downs? Will you know how to determine if these are typical bumps in the road or something else?

While all relationships have some conflict, it’s important to keep an eye out for more serious red flags when you’re building a new relationship. One serious issue to look out for is dating a narcissist.

Unfortunately, recognizing whether you’re dating a narcissist isn’t always easy, as their manipulative and charming behavior can be deceiving (especially at the beginning of a relationship).

Understanding the signs of narcissism is essential. By learning about these red flags, you can better assess your partner’s behavior and determine if the relationship is healthy and worth pursuing.

Keep reading for more insight into how to tell if you’re dating a narcissist and what to do if you are.

Understanding Narcissism

The first step toward identifying if you’re dating a narcissist is to better understand what narcissism actually is and what it looks like in a relationship.

Exploring Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental health condition characterized by excessive self-importance, a need for excessive admiration, and a lack of empathy. Individuals with NPD often have an inflated sense of their own worth and achievements. They may also struggle with forming deep connections and maintaining healthy relationships.

While many people use the “narcissist” to describe individuals who may be self-centered or selfish, true narcissism is more than a personality trait. It’s an actual personality disorder.

8 Narcissist Partner Traits to Watch Out For

To identify a potential narcissist, pay close attention to their behavior and communication style. 

Narcissists often:

  • Love to talk about themselves, without showing much interest in others.
  • Belittle or demean others to elevate themselves.
  • Gaslight, manipulate, or control others.
  • Act with arrogance and consider themselves superior to others.
  • Feel entitled to special treatment and expect others to cater to their needs.
  • Use various manipulation tactics, such as guilt, to control others.
  • Lack empathy or struggle to understand or acknowledge other people’s emotions.
  • React negatively to criticism or perceived threats to their ego.

It’s important to be careful when labeling someone as a narcissist, as people may display some of these behaviors without having NPD.

A man dating a narcissist argues with his partner

Key Signs That You’re Dating a Narcissist

In addition to the narcissistic traits listed above, there may be some other signs that you’re in a relationship with a narcissist. People with narcissistic personalities often use some common tactics to try to control their partner and/or relationship.

These include:

Love Bombing

Love bombing is a common tactic used by narcissists in the early stages of a relationship. They will shower you with attention, affection, gifts, and compliments, making you feel extremely special and desired. 

This excessive admiration can lead to insecurity in relationships, as the sudden intensity may make you question its authenticity. Be cautious if your partner’s affections seem too good to be true, as this could be a warning sign of dating a narcissist.


Gaslighting is a manipulative technique narcissists use to make you doubt your own perceptions, memories, and sanity. They might deny things they’ve said or done, accuse you of making things up, or twist your words to make you feel confused and disoriented. 

This behavior can be emotionally draining and harmful to your mental health. If you find yourself questioning your reality frequently, it might be a red flag that you’re dating a narcissist.

Dismissing Your Feelings

A lack of empathy is a telling sign of narcissism. Narcissists struggle to understand and put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They might dismiss your feelings, criticize you for being too emotional, or simply show a lack of interest in your well-being. 

Pay attention to how your partner reacts when you express a concern or emotion. Be wary if they seem indifferent or unable to empathize with your experiences. This could be a sign that you’re dating a narcissist.

A couple of women argue in a kitchen

Being in a Relationship with a Narcissist

So, what if you are dating a narcissist? What if your new relationship seems great at first, but then signs of narcissism start to become apparent? 

You’re not alone if you want to continue the relationship anyway and hope that your partner changes. But it’s important to be clear on the impact dating a narcissist could have before determining whether or not to move forward with the relationship.

Emotional Impact of Dating a Narcissist

Being in a relationship with a narcissist can have a significant emotional impact on you. Because they often lack empathy and have a strong sense of entitlement, your relationship may leave you feeling emotionally drained or undervalued. 

Their inability to understand or take responsibility for their actions may also lead to emotional distress for you in the relationship. It’s difficult to feel fulfilled and happy in a relationship if your partner constantly dismisses your emotions or downplays your concerns.

Narcissists are also notorious for manipulating situations and gaslighting their partners, which can lead you to doubt your own feelings, thoughts, and perceptions. This constant self-doubt can eventually affect your mental health and self-esteem, making you feel trapped and unsure of your own emotions.

These challenges can not only affect your current relationship, it’s possible they’ll have a lasting impact on how you feel about yourself and relationships in general.

Managing Unrealistic Expectations

One of the biggest challenges you may face when dating a narcissist is dealing with their unrealistic expectations and constant need for admiration. You might find yourself constantly trying to please them. Their expectations may be so high that it becomes impossible for you to meet their demands. This dynamic can leave you feeling frustrated and emotionally drained.

It can also lead to people-pleasing behaviors in other areas of your life, or make you feel resentful toward your partner.

Communicating With a Narcissistic Partner

Another challenge is communication. Narcissists often find it difficult to engage in productive and honest conversations. They are typically more focused on asserting their superiority or diverting blame than on resolving issues within the relationship. This dynamic can result in unaddressed conflicts and a lack of emotional connection with your partner.

Navigating Life Beyond Your Relationship

Maintaining a healthy social life can also be difficult with a narcissistic partner. They might become jealous or controlling of your friendships and social interactions. They may also sabotage your relationships with others, further isolating you from your support network.

This is one of the biggest challenges of being in a relationship with a narcissist. When you’re isolated from friends and family, you may not talk openly about your relationship and may not get key outside perspectives about the way your partner is treating you.

If you recognize these signs in your relationship, it may be beneficial to consider couples therapy. Couples therapy can help you work through the emotional impact and challenges that come with dating a narcissist. If your partner is not open to doing therapy together, individual therapy for relationship issues can also help.

A couple talks sitting on the floor and holding cups and coffee

How to Break Up with a Narcissist

If you’ve realized that your partner is displaying signs of narcissistic personality disorder, it may be best to break things off. 

Determining whether to stay or go is a highly personal decision and one that only you and your partner can make. But if you do decide to break up with a narcissistic partner, use the tips below to make a plan that takes their personality into consideration.


Before breaking up with a narcissist, it’s crucial to love yourself first. Build your self-esteem and emotional strength, as this process may be difficult. Gather support from friends, family, and professional resources like therapists or support groups. Do your best to disengage emotionally from the narcissist, as they may use manipulation and guilt tactics to keep you around.


When you’re ready to execute the breakup, plan for a safe and private place. Set boundaries by clearly conveying your decision to end the relationship and not allowing them to interrupt you. Stay calm, assertive, and avoid getting into arguments. Remember not to take their initial reaction personally, as narcissists often react with anger or self-pity when facing a breakup.


Moving on from a narcissistic relationship can be challenging. Continue focusing on self-love and healing. Lean on your support network and eliminate all possible contact with the narcissist. This might include blocking their phone number, social media accounts, and emails. 

Keep in mind that narcissists may try to win you back with grand gestures or feigned remorse; staying firm in your decision to break up is essential for your long-term emotional well-being.

Common Questions About Narcissistic Partners

How does a narcissist behave in a romantic partnership?

In romantic partnerships, narcissists may initially appear loving and charming. However, they can quickly turn controlling and manipulative, often using subtle tactics like guilt trips or gaslighting to assert their dominance. They may also be overly critical and dismissive of their partners’ needs and emotions.

How can you identify narcissistic habits in your relationship?

To identify narcissistic habits in your relationship, pay attention to how your partner treats you and others. They may show a lack of empathy, be overly critical or dismissive, and prioritize their own needs above yours. They may also try to manipulate you using guilt, gaslighting, or by establishing a sense of dependency.

Are there common patterns in narcissistic relationships?

Yes, there are common patterns in narcissistic relationships. They often begin with a honeymoon phase, during which the narcissist is charming and attentive. However, the relationship can quickly become toxic, with the narcissist exerting control, devaluing their partner, and engaging in manipulative behavior.

How can you deal with a narcissistic partner effectively?

Dealing with a narcissistic partner requires setting healthy boundaries and prioritizing your own emotional well-being. Educate yourself about narcissistic personality disorder and seek support from trusted friends or a mental health professional if needed. In some cases, ending the relationship may be the best course of action for your emotional and mental well-being.

A couple dealing with narcissism in relationships talks with a couples therapist

Get Help With Dating a Narcissist

Dating a narcissist can be challenging, especially if your partner is unwilling to change their behavior and seek help. They might be more receptive to professional help if they realize it could benefit not only their relationship but also their overall well-being. 

But even if they’re not interested in couples therapy, you can seek professional help on your own to improve your relationship…or end it.

Online individual therapy can be a valuable resource for understanding the relationship issues that might arise in a relationship with a narcissist. With the help of a therapist, you can gain a deeper understanding of how narcissistic personality disorder presents in your partner’s life and how it impacts your mental health.

A therapist can also provide guidance on how to navigate your relationship and help you maintain your emotional well-being. With the right support and resources, you can better understand the complexities of dating a narcissist and make the best choices for your mental health.

Still not sure if your relationship is healthy? Learn more about the signs of a healthy relationship or take our healthy relationship quiz.

And remember: relationships should be built on mutual respect and trust. If your partner is making you feel inferior, belittling you, or consistently prioritizing their well-being over yours, it may be time to reconsider the relationship. Ready to seek professional help? Contact Couples Learn today to book your free consultation.