Tanya Carroll Richardson

By Tanya Carroll Richardson

mbg Contributor

Tanya Carroll Richardson is an author and professional intuitive, giving readings to clients all over the world.

5 Golden Rules That Will Help Empaths Thrive In Relationships (Without Losing Themselves)

January 9, 2023

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Being a sensitive person who can pick up on the feelings and energy of others sets you up for uncommonly close connections. It can be a very nourishing experience to feel so in tune with the people and world around you. Yet being a hyper-perceptive empath who picks up on everything—including the energy of spaces and subtleties in physical stimuli—can also be overwhelming.

As an empath, you are naturally wired for very intimate connection with others, and because of this you also need to pull back and create space from others in order to stay in balance. It’s an empath paradox! Toggling between these two polarities consciously—opening up to energetically commingle with others and mindfully separating—is key to a sensitive person maintaining nourishing relationships of all kinds.


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Below are some golden rules for being an empath in relationship to lovers, friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and the collective. Adopt and adapt them to suit your individual needs and relationships. As a sensitive person among millions of other sensitives, you are still one-of-a-kind. Your unique life, personality, history, and circumstances demand a unique approach.

Rule #1: Understand the difference between feeling and absorbing versus witnessing and observing.

Empaths are naturally wired to feel with others, to the extent that they feel others’ energy and emotions in their own systems. This can be a sensitive person’s default response, so many empaths don’t realize they can usually choose to compassionately witness and observe the feelings of others instead of absorbing them.

When witnessing and observing individuals, groups, or the collective, you remain firmly anchored in your own energy. Instead of going into your heart for clairsentient (or feeling) intuitive guidance, you get curious about others and go into your head for claircognizant (breakthrough thoughts) guidance. Witnessing and observing involves creating emotional space between yourself and someone else. This healthy detachment and neutrality gets easier with time and practice.


When you’re drained, overwhelmed, or frazzled by feeling with others, mindfully transition to witnessing and observing.


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Rule #2: Practice retreating from others so your sensitive system can recover.

Empaths need what I call regular “retreat and recover” time. That’s because as someone who is more sensitive to emotional, energetic, and at times even physical stimuli like noise, you’ll need to rely on a rhythm of being in low-stimulation environments, like quietly putting together a puzzle with your partner, or reading before bed, or strolling the neighborhood with your dog.

Retreat and recover time doesn’t have to happen alone, but most of the thousands of empaths whom I’ve done intuitive readings for truly cherish their alone time. Make this retreat and recover time a predictable pattern so you don’t become chronically overstimulated. The amount of retreat and recover time you require will vary based on things like where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, your baseline tolerance for stimulation, and how much stimulation you’ve been dealing with lately.

Let others know that retreat and recover time is healthy and that your sensitive system craves it. Make sure you communicate that your need for solo or quiet time has no bearing on how much you value and enjoy spending time with the folks in your life.


Pulling back into alone time or low-stimulation time regularly gives you more stamina to once again be out in the world enjoying others.


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Rule #3: Seek out and create healing intimacy with others and avoid isolation.

One of the themes in my new book, Empath Heart: Relationship Strategies for Sensitive People, is encouraging empaths to build nourishing relationships of all kinds—even with the collective. There is much information in the empath community about how to protect yourself from others, and that makes a lot of sense and is covered extensively in my book. Yet we have to balance this by remembering that humans are, by design, pack animals. Empaths, who are naturally wired to feel with others, certainly crave that feeling of deep connection to other individuals, groups, and the collective.

Invest in relationships of all sorts for a better sense of well-being. As you improve your skills at setting boundaries as a sensitive person and practicing self-care, isolating yourself to protect your sensitive system will no longer be a go-to coping skill.


Intimate, close connections with others are healing for empaths and with the right tools can be maintained in a balanced way.


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Rule #4: Don’t try to “fix” others, own other people’s issues, or manage other people’s emotions.

When you can feel other people’s emotions and energy in your own system as an empath, it can make you very compassionate toward the hopes and dreams, and suffering, of others. It could also make you want to make others feel calm and “OK” so you don’t have to feel any of another person’s challenging or intense emotions.

Have you found yourself worried about a co-worker’s dream of a promotion when you aren’t at work? While it’s normal to care for others and want to help, empaths may be more susceptible to enmeshment, people-pleasing, and codependency.

While it’s normal to care for others and want to help, empaths may be more susceptible to enmeshment, people-pleasing, and codependency.


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If a dear friend is contemplating divorce, practice compassionate listening, offering advice if and when it’s asked for. Then take your thoughts somewhere else after the conversation because where your thoughts go, your energy flows. Empaths going on healing rescue missions is another theme in my book, and it’s something sensitive people can and must avoid. 


Remembering that other people’s lives are their business will help you enjoy your relationships more and help you prioritize your own wants and needs more too.

Rule #5: Practice mindfully tuning into others with your sensitivity to understand your intuition and feel more whole.

An empath’s ability to absorb the feelings and energy around them gets a bad rap. After all, it is an empath’s superpower! Mindfully opening up to feel with others and the collective—whether those feelings are joyful or painful—can be incredibly nourishing if done in a balanced way. Sometimes feeling with someone else can be a road back home to yourself, if something in their situation speaks to something you are dealing with. And feeling with the collective during both celebrations and tragedies can inspire you to take meaningful, helpful action in the world and be a force of grace for others.

The clairsentient or feeling psychic pathway may be only one of your intuitive gifts as an empath, depending on how you are uniquely wired. But it’s certainly a significant one that should be honored and exercised.


To understand your intuition as a very sensitive person, you must allow all of it to be present and active. The more you accept and work with your sensitivity, the stronger it will become—and the easier to manage.

The takeaway.

Practice using your exceptional intuition as an empath to decide which empath rule to practice more mindfully right now. Ask your intuition for a number between one and five. Do you hear a number as a gentle voice in your mind? This would be clairaudience, the hearing psychic pathway. Or maybe you picture a number as a mental image? That’s clairvoyance, the seeing psychic pathway. Or employ your empath psychic pathway, clairsentience, and notice which numbered rule you feel most pulled or drawn to energetically when you scan all five.