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is inability to empathise with sadness a red flag?

(26 Posts)
Anapit Wed 08-Jun-11 23:02:36

my Mum just died. She was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in November and died at the beginning of April.

I loved her so much.

I don't want to do the stealth thing but nor do I want to give a huge explanation other than to say we have primary school aged kids whom we both love but our relationship is not ideal.

Specifically, right now, it concerns me that my husband finds it hard when I am sad/ tearful about my mum. Which is lots

I heard a song on the radio today that set me off. I cried off and on all day , work permitting . When I got home( he does not work) I just sat on the sofa and sobbed. My husband got very agitated and said 'why are you crying" and I said "because I love her and miss her so much"and he seemed slightly annoyed at me, and very agitated.

can anyone comment

fuzzpigFriday Wed 08-Jun-11 23:06:22

Is he like this with other issues? If you were upset about something else would he react the same way?

Is/was he close with his mum?

Anapit Wed 08-Jun-11 23:09:42

his mum is still alive and mostly well. He is quite close to her , in a non demonstrative way.I am also close to his mu, she is great and has been really lovely and supportive over the death of my mum

Yes he is like this whenever I am upset. He never just hugs me or says kind words.
when I am sad or upset he seems to get angry, something I have never understood.
I have asked him "are you angry? " but he claims he is not

I'm not sure that it is a red flag taken alone, it depends how it fits into the context of your relationship.

Some people find emotions hard to deal with, their own and other people's. Does he think that you are expecting him to do something to try and 'fix' you? Can you explain to him that you just need him to be there for you and not necessarily do anything?

I am so sorry about your Mum. sad I lost my grandfather to pancreatic cancer some years ago, it is a vile disease.

atswimtwolengths Wed 08-Jun-11 23:13:42

I think it is a red flag. For god's sake, you're crying about the death of your mum and he can't put his arm around you and try to help you through it? This is one of those times in your life when you really, really need someone to do that and he can't do it. And for him to be angry!

Frizzbonce Wed 08-Jun-11 23:15:06

I'm so sorry to hear about your mum.

As fuzzpig says - what's he like when you're distressed about other issues?

It's possible that he feels helpless in the face of your grief and gets agitated because he can't do anything. Lots of men feel they need to 'fix' things and if they can't sort it, or do something practical they feel lost. Have you tried telling him that there's nothing he can do to make the pain go away but couldn't he just put his arms round you and hug you? Or make you a cup of tea and just allow you to be sad? It's horrible feeling that you have to cope with your grief and his inability to cope with your grief too. Keeping a lid on your sadness won't make you feel better any quicker.

On the other hand if he seems affronted or annoyed by your pain then yes - big red flag.

plebshire Wed 08-Jun-11 23:19:28

I'm so sorry to hear about your Mum.

My DP finds it very frustrating seeing me or the DC upset. His first instinct is to fix and protect and that's just not possible with bereavement. Sometimes he needs reminding that a cuddle is needed, especially in the weeks after bereavement where it might look like you're functioning quite well.

Anapit Wed 08-Jun-11 23:21:29

I have even said to him all I really want is a cuddle. I said it tonight and he said "no you don't"

atswimtwolengths Wed 08-Jun-11 23:24:40

Was he different in the past?

His comment is disgraceful.

Portofino Wed 08-Jun-11 23:26:16

Not necessarily a red flag for your relationship if everything else is OK.

Anapit Wed 08-Jun-11 23:36:35

no , Portofino, it's not okay at all. It's very poor but we rub along for the kids, mostly harmonious on the surface. We have been in separate bedrooms for about 8 months.

I just wondered if the lack of empathy was taking things to new depths

BoiledFrog Wed 08-Jun-11 23:42:32

If he is not generally demonstrative, he may just feel overwhelmed by your grief, I would be slightly worried by the "no you don't" thing, the last thing you need when you are grieving is to have your feelings disregarded or undermined.

So sorry about your Mum, I was a wreck when I lost mine, Dp isn't the greatest with the talking, but he is great with the cuddles. Do you have other people to support you?

I wouldn't put any kind of emphasis on your relationship at the moment, everything is so raw and you need to concentrate on yourself, get counselling if possible.

animula Wed 08-Jun-11 23:48:15

Withholding comfort and love is very cruel - if that's what he's doing. It diminishes you as a person, it refuses to treat you like a person, it refuses to acknowledge your pain (and that's a way of symbolically "killing" you, or refusing to accept your being, too).

On the other hand, it could just be a cack-handed way of establishing boundaries. But, to be honest, it's just too crap, really. See points above for why it's a nuclear-option means of boundary-setting.

It could be that he's just bad at empathy and support. but you'd have noticed before, surely?

It does not bode well for any plan you might have for living as housemates and co-parenting. Housemates don't treat each other like that. Well, they might do, but only before one moves out because they really don't like each other.

Sorry to sound heavy. It's only one possible interpretation. but the clue is in the fact you feel hurt and angry. That indicates that it is behaviour that is intended to cause pain.

And I'm very sorry to hear about your mother.

Anapit Wed 08-Jun-11 23:56:08

animula, thank you. I fear you are correct.
I may need to start another thread with the main issue

pickgo Thu 09-Jun-11 00:05:15

Or why not give yourself a break and put your feelings about your relationship on hold for a few weeks at least while you grieve for your mum? Be kind to yourself for a bit.
Poor you, so sorry for your loss. Hugs x

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Thu 09-Jun-11 09:22:16

Hard to say, Anapit. Inability to empathise, full stop, is definitely a red flag, but clumsiness in dealing with another's grief is all too human.

The difference lies in whether he recognises that you have a right to your feelings and the right to grieve, and he just doesn't know how to handle it, or whether he is put off that you have emotions at all that do not fit with his view of how you "should" be behaving. The former would be normal, the latter a red flag, imo.

Anapit Thu 09-Jun-11 12:01:27

I am moved greatly by these responses.
I guess I cant do anything about the relationship just now anyway.

Need to tough it out for a bit

Anapit Thu 09-Jun-11 12:02:18

amimula yes he has always been bad at empath and support. I had hoped he might rise to the challenge for mum

redrollers Thu 09-Jun-11 12:08:40

my mum and dad have been married for 45 years, very happy.

Whenever my dad is sick, my mum shows him no sympathy at all.
To the point where you think it's really a bit mean.

She freely admits that it's because she cannot deal with him being ill, she just can't deal with those emotions, so she switches off.

Just something to think about maybe?

I'm really sorry about your mum
x

CandyS Thu 09-Jun-11 12:20:13

I have Aspergers so cannot 'do' empathy (having 'learnt' what the correct response is to a bevreament, whenever I do say something about it, it sounds false & concited).
I was diagnosed after a similar situation when I was a child, first they thought it was 'just' depression, since you've said he's always been bad at empathy & support, could he have a mental health issue?

From a non-MH point, has husband ever had to deal with death before? He may be useless and distant because he can't relate to you, or maybe he's thinking about his own mothers mortality?

Anapit Thu 09-Jun-11 12:25:00

candy,thank you. He has never dealt with death before.

Yes , I think he may have a mental health issue, he refuses to consider the possibility. In the meantime I definitely have one sad

he thinks I should be getting over it by now. He has NOT said this but I know thats what he thinks

If there are major issues in the relationship already, this is just another way of him demonstrating that he just isn't bothered about you, by the sound of it. I don't know what your other issues are, but living in a kind of cold war is always poisonous for all concerned. Can you not agree to separate? In the meantime, seek out other sources of support; friends, siblings, other relatives - it's clear you can't rely on himfor any.

tak1ngchances Thu 09-Jun-11 12:31:59

My dad is like this with my mum. He always says "oh for god's sake" when someone cries and asks "why are you crying??".
I am pretty sure he does not have Aspergers or similar, but he is emotionally stunted. This is because he grew up in a house where emotional displays were discouraged (to put it mildly) and he believes that to show emotion is weak.

He probably won't change and my mum knows that. She just accepts him for who he is and looks elsewhere for empathy/comfort.

ohboob Thu 09-Jun-11 12:36:34

This sounds so very sad. The least you should be able to expect is a hug when you're upset. I really feel for you, whatever the reason behind his behaviour. Some men are just totally useless at handling other peoples' emotions.

SheCutOffTheirTails Tue 19-Jul-11 09:32:41

You are not allowed to be upset. You're not a person, you're a piggy bank.

So, sorry about your Mum sad

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