Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

Why can't I feel empathy? (long and convoluted)

(21 Posts)
k2togm1 Tue 02-Oct-12 16:13:32

Have had a horrid time since ds birth 18 months ago, got PTSD, treated with Cbt which worked wonders and things are on the up, so the thing now is, I don't feel empathy for dh. Through treatment and reading I think I am emotionally immature, and know that I lack empathy, but this gets really exaggerated when it comes to dh. 
Last night I took ds out to the park and went back home much later than normal because dh was going to go out so we didn't need to be back for dinner together. Only to find dh half way up the road furious saying that he was about to call the police, grabbing the pram fom me and not looking or talking to me all the way home or when leaving. Turns out he was really worried because I hadn't texted and it was dark and not normal for us to be back at that time. I didn't do any of those things because I thought he'd be out by then. 
This morning we had a massive row because I was trying to explain this and he just wanted some sympathy for having felt the way he did, sick with worry. I don't know why I can't just say sorry I understand. I felt really scared when he took the pram from me last night, the way he did it makes me want to cry, he said today that it was the way parents get angry with their children when they've been in danger, but I don't get it! It felt as if he was worried about ds and hated me for having made him feel like that. 
I'm not sure about what I'm asking, he often says that dealing with me is like dealing with a teenager, but I'm not! How can I change the way I react so I'm  less like a teenager and more like an adult? Or are the ways we treat each other too ingrained after 12 years together/ 9 married? 
On the other hand I have matured lots since having ds, while he is still the same  person. This doesn't make sense does it?
I would love to be able to just say yes I understand how you felt, I am sorry it happened. Instead of feeling angry and following every apology with but...

BinksToEnlightenment Tue 02-Oct-12 21:02:48

It doesn't sound to me like you don't feel empathy. Maybe more like you've spent so long with someone that their feelings don't have the same impact on you as they would a stranger's?

You sound very down on yourself about something that seems quite normal.

k2togm1 Tue 02-Oct-12 22:19:26

Do you think? When I've mentioned this to a close friend she laughed at the idea of me not having empathy, so is it normal for people after being together for long that, as you say, their feelings don't 'feel' the same? Surely I should care more about what dh feels than what my neighbour does? Thanks for your reply, it's nice to hear another perspective.

garlicbutty Tue 02-Oct-12 22:40:56

I agree with your friend.

There is nothing wrong with my empathy and I certainly am not feeling much of it for a man who says he'll be out, then comes chasing after his wife because she's doing something on her own, terrifies her and tells her he treats her like a child!

I'm afraid that what seems to have happened here is your therapy has grown you up. You're now wiser, more able to see the bigger picture, and more in tune with your feelings. Your H, unfortunately, has probably always been a patronising, controlling, intimidating twat. It's just that you're no longer dumb enough to stand for it.

I suggest getting back to that counsellor for a different kind of therapy.

garlicbutty Tue 02-Oct-12 22:43:02

Sorry, I wasn't too clear ... One grown-up tells another grown-up they will be out for the evening. The second grown-up decides to use the time productively. There is nothing wrong with this, and NO cause for anger or emotional punishment. I hope this is as clear to you as it is to everyone else!

garlicbutty Tue 02-Oct-12 22:47:54

Also, do you not have a mobile phone?

BinksToEnlightenment Tue 02-Oct-12 22:49:21

I understand what you're saying about lacking empathy. But I think if you truly did, you wouldn't be worrying yourself over not having it. I think you wouldn't even realise you didn't have it. You'd just think you were right and other people were crazy.

And yes, I think with people you're very familiar with, it can get a bit 'can't see the wood for the trees'. Your neighbour's reactions would be unpredictable and potentially a puzzle to you. It would be natural for you to be more alert to them. It doesn't mean you care more about them.

What's started you thinking like this? Is it something you've always wondered, and worry about more since becoming a mother?

I have a son a few months older than yours. It really shakes the stuffing out of you, doesn't it? I've worried an awful lot about who I am since becoming a mother.

garlicbutty Tue 02-Oct-12 22:50:16

Sorry (spamming your thread) - you mentioned texting, so you did have your phone. How come he didn't ring or text you if he was worried, instead of charging after you and making a scene?

How did he know where to find you?

TheLightPassenger Tue 02-Oct-12 23:12:22

agree with garlic. It's not a case of you not feeling empathy, but feeling rightfully cheesed off at your DH's behaviour. I wonder how much of the supposed "teenage" behaviour by you is actual him wanting you to run around reassuring him?

k2togm1 Wed 03-Oct-12 13:13:36

Well thanks everyone, you are right blinks that motherhood has shaken me to the core, in more ways than I could have ever imagined! And yes I am a worrier and care about being a good person, something which I have not been to dh this past years as he is the only close family near and had to bear the brunt of my PTSD.
Oh no garlicbutty your first post was perfectly clear! He isn't a twat, but I do think he got scared and overreacted. I didn't mean to drip feed but did forget to mention the 10 missed calls in 10 minutes blush, but we were walking on a busy road. And he knew where we were going that's why he found us.

I have to put my hands up to some teenage behaviour, like sulking which I've always been prone to, but also PTSD does things like negative assumptions that I am still dealing with and such so that's where that's coming from.

Thanks for your input, my take now on the matter is that he got really worried, then scared, then pissed off, all understandable, but then failed to understand my explanations and got more pissed off at my lack of apology. I failed to apologise because I got scared and angry too at his reaction. I understand and feel sorry that he got that scared about us, but I didn't do anything wrong ( other than not hear my phone, which I never ever do anyway).

PrincessSymbian Wed 03-Oct-12 13:18:30

Sounds to me there might be some control issues going on, surely the emotion he should have been feeling was relief? Or at least handling his anger in a more grown up manner? And ok he was worried about you but ten phone calls in ten minutes? Seems a bit excessive to me.

Harecare Wed 03-Oct-12 13:29:27

Sorry to disagree with everyone, but it gets dark pretty late still. Being at the park in the dark with an 18 month old would make me worried - nothing to do with needing to be home to enjoy dinner together.
He was perfectly within his rights to feel worried.
If he tells you he was upset, worried and scared, then whether you think you are right or not you must acknowledge his feelings and take responsibility for causing them and apologise. You may feel you did nothing wrong, but he was so worried he came out looking for you. It was dark. I'd be worried too. I'm pleased you have a concerned DH, trust him.

MouMouCow Wed 03-Oct-12 13:32:23

I beg to differ, if I left with my DS and stayed out late, changed the routine and didn't tell DP he'd be terribly worried, he'd be furious and upset. I think he'd react pretty similarly to your H.
It's all about communication, there is nothing wrong with changing routines and plans but it is only fair to inform your h or P. He evidentely waited for you at home, otherwise he wouldn't ahve looked for you in the street, so he was expecting you home as per normal and you weren't. If the table were turned around and your DH left with your son and did something out of the ordinary wouldn't you want him to tell you, or send a text?

CinnabarRed Wed 03-Oct-12 13:42:19

My DH would have been worried too. Especially after 10 missed calls.

But then I think he would have listened when I apologised and given me a hug afterwards.

Xales Wed 03-Oct-12 13:42:22

Massive over reaction on his part in my opinion. Do you live somewhere where it is exceptionally dangerous for a person to be out when the light has gone?

1 phone call to say its a little late I am at home would be OK. Followed up maybe half hour later by another (by which time you would have got home) checking would have been fine.

BerthaTheBogBurglar Wed 03-Oct-12 16:44:05

My dh might have been worried too. But he would have stopped and realised that phoning once every minute was a bit pointless and that probably I couldn't hear my phone. And when he found us, he'd have given us a hug and had a bit of a laugh at himself for getting in a stew. And he'd have told me (calmly) that he had been worried and I'd have said "oh poor you", and he'd have said it wasn't my fault at all as he wasn't supposed to have been home.

So, has your dh apologised for grabbing the pram and stomping home not looking at you, and stropping out without speaking to you? Because if you're looking for teenage behaviour, it's right there. Rather hard for you to feel sympathy for someone who is behaving like that, I think.

What apology is it that he wants from you? You didn't come home because you were enjoying yourselves, and you didn't call to tell him so because he wasn't supposed to be at home. You didn't answer your phone for ten whole minutes because you were on a busy road and didn't hear it. What on earth have you got to apologise for?

How did he feel about your therapy and the changes in you? Does he cope with you being more emotionally stable/in control? Or did he prefer it when you were more childlike and needy? And why is he talking about "dealing with you"? It sounds like he wants to control and manage you and is finding it hard!

BinksToEnlightenment Wed 03-Oct-12 22:36:26

Worrying that you're a good person is a healthy thing - but not when you do it too much. It's hard when you're a mum and suddenly everything you are has this massive implication on the rest of your child's life.

I know it's only a few short posts, but you sound like a lovely and thoughtful person to me. My advice is to try not to think about what kind of person you are too much. Not when, as you say, you're all shook up from becoming a mum and recovering from ptsd.

From my own perspective, I had something like this happen to me but the other way round. We both got quite angry at each other, briefly. It didn't make sense but I was very frightened and I suppose dp wasn't expecting my reaction to be so intense, because he thought everything was fine. It didn't last long, but it did cause a bit of a ruck. It's normal for both of you to react the way you each did, in my opinion.

k2togm1 Thu 04-Oct-12 15:29:20

I'm glad there are a few different points of view.
A few things: he was supposed to be out so thats why i didnt text that we were later than normal, etc.
Yes it was late, but ds is going to bed later and later so plenty of physical excercise at 6-7pm is a necessity these days of the 18mo sleep regression.
DH got really upset that I didnt apologise only the next morning when I didnt see why he was making such a fuss and got so angry, and I started arguing my corner. BUT if he had not made me angry too with his overreaction at the time I would easily have apologized.
Basically we are both exhausted, ds is not going to bed till 10.30/11pm, refusing to sleep on his own, etc so we have had no time for ourselves at all in over a month now, so I think he overreacted, yes, but I think I understand why. Perhaps I overeacted too. We both made things worse and out of proportion perhaps.
He is normaly very supportive, he is a sahd two thirds of the week and is still here despite me being a complete horror for more than a year (I know, I didnt want to live with myself!), and i can honestly say that he is a good person so I don't think there are other issues going on.

Oh, and I told him in the past to ring continuously if desperate as that may increase the chances of me hearing the damm phone and avoids me trying to call him back and getting answer phone, etc. ridiculous I know but only to be used in emergencies.

Thanks blink your compliment made my day! thanks

MouMouCow Thu 04-Oct-12 16:34:11

I talked about your thread to DP yesterday night and he confirmed that he would have been very distressed if something similar had happened, especially as you didn't answer your phone. He further commented that you don't seem to communicate much, DP mentioned that he would have expected a text to say we're in the park, have a good evening, won't catch you before you leave xxx or something similar...

I'm calling DP every evening at the same time so that he can "talk" to DS. DP is usually on the train on his way home so it's a bit silly as we'll see him for bath time but I think DS likes the routine and DP is conforted that we're home, safe, waiting for him. Maybe you could look to be a bit more communicative?

Please don't take it as a criticism , it is only a suggestion.

BinksToEnlightenment Thu 04-Oct-12 20:50:33

You're welcome. It's the truth.

I know exactly what you mean with the last year being a horror. Mine is a little further away now because it was more from birth to thirteen months (he's twenty one months now), but it was the most horrendous thing I've ever been through in my entire life. I thought having a baby was going to be lovely! I ended up with crushing pnd. I'm over it now, but it took a long time to get over feeling like a failure, or like I'd done something wrong, or that I just wasn't a good mother or even a good person.

It will get easier. For both you and your DH. I know it will. Tuck that philosophizing away until you've had a few months regular sleep xx

k2togm1 Thu 04-Oct-12 21:28:03

moumou yes I am definitely not the most communicative person in the world, but I didn't do any of those things because he was ping to be busy, out on a rehearsal where he doesn't normally look at his phone. I know anyone would have been worried, it was our way of dealing with it that sucked!

Oh blinky! I also was so looking forward to having a tiny baby, and instead I spent a year crying and having flashbacks sad
Glad you hear things are better now for you.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now