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How to deal with a husband who lacks empathy?

(34 Posts)
littlemisssunny Sat 19-Jan-13 16:24:48


My husband struggles to see other people's point of view, and its very hard to have a discussion with him if its not something he agrees with/has a different view on and turns into an argument.

It's really hard for him to see and consider other people's point of view, and I find it really hard to get my point across with him arguing and sulking.

I have read about the different personality types and he had a personality test as part of a job interview once and it basically said he has strong opinions and he likes to get his own way (or words to that effect!) and he struggles to empathize with others.

Don't get me wrong I like to get my own way but am happy to compromise but it works both ways, and I do admit if I am wrong, or if someone else has an idea I am happy to discuss it.

So how do I have a conversation with him and get my point across and get him to understand?

An example is a couple of years ago I was looking through the calendar and noticed he was out on my birthday so I said oh so you are out on my birthday then? He got all stroppy and said well this do is always on the first Thursday of dec! All I wanted was him to ask first and just say I'm really sorry but this do is on your birthday but I really should be there do you mind and I shall make it up to you?

I would have said yes and I would have been a bit upset but just glad he considered my feelings and asked!

So am I expecting to much from him? Any help and tips gratefully received smile

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 19-Jan-13 16:48:43

"So how do I have a conversation with him and get my point across and get him to understand?"

Very simply, you're not. If he was going to change his personality and start considering that someone else (you) might have a point of view he would have done it by now. The kind of person who wants all their own way and argues or sulks when they don't get it.... and I could have saved him a personality test... is a bully.

This is as good as he gets. Is this what you want?

tribpot Sat 19-Jan-13 16:50:49

He must be a bloody nightmare to work with. What is he like with work colleagues?

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 19-Jan-13 16:52:48

Does he ever apologise for the arguments and sulking episodes?

TurnipCake Sat 19-Jan-13 16:53:45

What Cogito said, I'm afraid.

I've had ex-boyfriends who wore lack of empathy like it was a badge of honour (although they were always keen for me to see their point of view once the relationship ended and I was no longer prepared to tolerate any of their shit)

littlemisssunny Sat 19-Jan-13 16:54:56

He is the boss of his team, and so I think he is ok in work because he is in charge if that makes sense? And the role he is in means following procedures and policies but if a decision needs making he can make it.

I think his colleagues like him, that's what he thinks but who knows what they say when he's not there!!

littlemisssunny Sat 19-Jan-13 16:55:53

No he never admits he is wrong or apologies.

I just ignore him when he sulks! He is worse than a child!

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 19-Jan-13 16:55:58

Has he ever offered to seek help for his lack of empathy? Tried to learn to be more empathetic? Done anything, in short, that makes you think he sees selfishness, egocentricity or bullying behaviour as a problem? (I'm guessing that's going to be ... 'no'.. 'no'... and.... 'no')

CardiffUniversityNetballTeam Sat 19-Jan-13 16:56:48

My DP is very similar to this. He always has to be right and anyone who is different from him or has differing opinions is often dismissed as "wrong" or "stupid." I find it is easiest to do one of two things. I either treat him a bit like I would a child, I explain to him that something is going to happen whether he likes it or not, and if it makes him cross then he is the one who will be miserable about it, not me. Other times I let him think he is right, even though I know he's not!

CardiffUniversityNetballTeam Sat 19-Jan-13 16:57:52

Oh and YY to ignoring the sulking. If he wants to be miserable, let him. I won't let it affect me by rising to it.

Good luck! wink

TurnipCake Sat 19-Jan-13 16:57:53

I've had a look and remember your other thread, OP. How he lives a very selfish life and you felt your self-esteem had taken a battering over the years. Does it still feel that way? What do you actually get out of this relationship?

CailinDana Sat 19-Jan-13 16:58:40

Expecting someone to be nice to you is a pretty basic thing in a relationship IMO. What's the point in being in a relationship if one partner is going to just please themselves?

As Cogito says you can't "make" him understand. He either does understand and doesn't care, or doesn't have the capacity to understand - either way it's a lost cause unless he suddenly sees the light.

littlemisssunny Sat 19-Jan-13 17:11:30

turnip nothing's changed, but I can't afford to leave him, and just know he would make things awkward and difficult for me sad

I have this year told my mum about how I feel and she knows I am unhappy but don't feel I can leave.

I only work one day a week and don't earn much.

I just want the best for my kids, I suffer from anxiety and the thought of leaving terrifies me.

I just wish I was brave enough to argue my point more, mind you it prob wouldn't make any difference!

I always tried to make him happy and I should have maybe been more strong from the start and made it clear I wasn't going to put up with his selfish behaviour, I guess I feel this is somehow my fault and I have let myself be walked over?

tribpot Sat 19-Jan-13 17:17:19

I think your anxiety would improve immeasurably if you weren't living with this. I honestly can't imagine he would be that much worse if you were apart - you might have peaks of higher stress but you would also have the troughs of calm in between.

What you want can't happen - for your DH to magically become another person.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 19-Jan-13 17:18:13

It's not your fault that you married a bully. Bullies are never happy... suits them to keep it that way.... keep you constantly striving to please. It would be a mistake, however, to think that money is a good reason for staying with a bully. By the sound of it your life is quite nice as long as you toe the line?... The proverbial 'cardboard box in't'middle o't'road' is better than a gilded cage.

littlemisssunny Sat 19-Jan-13 17:40:08

I know you are right in my heart but I just can't bring myself to leave, I wish I had the strength I really do!

I just wonder where I went so wrong?

Screaminabdabs Sat 19-Jan-13 17:41:26

Don't blame yourself, littlemisssunny. I've sent you a PM btw. smile

littlemisssunny Sat 19-Jan-13 17:44:28

Thanks I shall have a look after I've done tea smile

tribpot Sat 19-Jan-13 17:47:44

Why do you think this is your fault? He is fundamentally unsuited to marriage. You didn't force him down the aisle - he committed to something he couldn't do.

Arisbottle Sat 19-Jan-13 17:54:55

My husband is not big on empathy and it is something we struggled with in our early days. I an cope with the lack of empathy because it is something he can't help and he does try to understand others, he is just a bit shit at it. I suspect it was years before he apologized and I can see now that when he does apologize he is often confused as to why he should be.

However he doesn't sulk, I could not cope with that.

However I knowingly married a man who lacked empathy, it is his only flaw and therefore on balance an acceptable one, that I have accepted is not going to fundamentally change,

garlicblocks Sat 19-Jan-13 18:47:14

This is the obligatory post saying oh, the poor love, he's just a bloke, you have to accept their funny little ways, he sounds like he has Asperger's, think about how he shows his love for you, you need to get your emotional support elsewhere, have you tried explaining?

And this is me saying Bull Shit! I don't care if he has Asparagus Syndrome - the point is you're living with a so-called partner who totally discounts any wishes or feelings you may have, considers himself overwhelmingly important and makes you feel scared. This is not good; it must be soul-destroying.

I don't think you should blame yourself. Normally, when we start going out with a bully, we stand up to them and make sure they take account of our needs. Because we are strong, they give into us just enough. They're afraid - quite rightly - we'll walk away if they don't make some concessions. This convinces us they're all right really, underneath the bluster, and we'll be able to hammer out a workable relationship together. We don't notice that we have now begun to think of our relationship in terms of a challenge - a long-running argument - and that we have let down our guard. This is when our bully realises he's got us where he wanted ... he's won, beaten us, and now we are compliant sad

Over the years, living in a constant state of war wears us down. Worse, the aggressor now feels he has the upper hand so no longer needs to make a pretence of consideration. He makes it as clear as possible that he is the victor; he may as well be standing over you, crowing, with one foot on your throat.

You weren't wrong. You were misled!

How do you think it's affecting your children, growing up in a house where one man is boss and nobody else really matters?

littlemisssunny Sat 19-Jan-13 19:13:41

garlic this is what people say, about how it's just him and how he is, like its acceptable which makes me wonder if its me?

HotDAMNlifeisgood Sat 19-Jan-13 19:14:03

So how do I have a conversation with him and get my point across and get him to understand?

If he lacks empathy then that is doomed to failure, don't you see that? There are no magic steps you can take to make another person take your feelings on board. The problem does not lie with your communication skills.

If he can't/won't see your pov, then he can't/won't see your pov. Nothing you can do to change that. All you can do is decide for yourself whether this is a satisfactory relationship for you.

AThingInYourLife Sat 19-Jan-13 19:22:10

Are you sure it's empathy he lacks?

My husband lacks empathy, so he sometimes struggles to understand why people care about stuff.

But he's not a prick about it.

He is prepared to listen to what people say, and be wrong and apologise, but just quite shit at anticipating their feelings.

Springdiva Sat 19-Jan-13 20:11:59

I would get stuff into place in case you did decide to leave just to see how you would stand. Speak to a solicitor and find out what you would be entitled to. Check you finances. Check you DM, would she be able to childmind. Would you get the house etc etc etc.
If you KNOW what would happen, rather than being scared of what you think might happen, you can make sensible decisions.

I give my DH some of his own treatment if he is being inconsiderate or grumpy, turns out he hates it if I blank him or stomp around (like he does when annoyed).

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