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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

Arisbottle Sat 19-Jan-13 20:14:11

My husband lacks empathy and does sometimes say shitty things, but if I tell him that what he has just said or done was hurtful we will apologize. He may not have an insight into my feelings but he does not want to hurt me.

garlicblocks Sat 19-Jan-13 20:28:05

Yep, Aris and AThing, this is why I get so exasperated with the "It must be Asperger's" brigade. It is perfectly possible for somebody with faulty interpersonal skills - whether part of a known condition, or not - to be aware of their failing and, wanting not to hurt other people, to listen to feedback and make amends.

Sunny, there are people who genuinely like being un-involved with their spouses. They don't care where the other is, what they're doing, or how they feel about things. They run their lives according to the kitchen calendar (or each other's secretary), living in tandem rather than together. I don't comprehend why they prefer this kind of marriage, but I've known people who have them and must respect their choice to do what works for them.

Thing is, you can't make yourself be a different kind of person from what you are. If you want togetherness in your marriage - mutual care and consideration; some understanding of each other's feelings - then you want what most people want. You're normal, if you like. Your husband - in this respect, at least - isn't.

ladyWordy Sat 19-Jan-13 20:32:49

Garlic, you hit the nail on the head (as usual). smile

Littlemiss, don't fall for the 'can't help it' story. He can help it when he needs to. There is a huge gulf between an ASD person who lacks empathy and a bully/narcissist/ abuser who lacks empathy.

Generalising shamelessly, an ASD person has no side and doesn't mean to be brutally honest, or tactless, though it can be surprising if you're on the receiving end. They are often bewildered and mystified if they upset you, and will try to correct the situation if you are in a relationship with them.

A bully likes to upset you and can't see the point in bothering with your point of view. They see the world only from their perspective, and their impaired conscience means they cannot be made to improve (why should they?).

In your position I would take steps, however tentative, to see how you might cope without him. I'm quite sure your anxiety would decrease straight away.

littlemisssunny Sat 19-Jan-13 23:03:26

It does feel like this is very much on his terms and if he doesn't want to do something he won't do it.

His mother is very like him in that way, and his sisters, yet all their partners manage so why can't I?

I just wish I could accept this is how it is and I know he is never going to change. It would be so nice to be with someone who I felt an equal too, but I don't feel like that.

Because I never really had a serious relationship before I met him, and he is the only person I have been with, I just think no one else is going to want me and maybe it's better the devil you know?

garlicblocks Sat 19-Jan-13 23:34:03

Blimey sad

You are an excellent candidate for counselling, and also assertiveness training. If I were your best friend, I'd book you in for the assertiveness before the counselling. I'd also recommend NLP-based counselling with Transactional Analysis - more "training" than "ruminating", but with plenty of insight thrown in smile

garlicblocks Sat 19-Jan-13 23:35:31

My favourite assertiveness primer.

tribpot Sun 20-Jan-13 00:10:11

Are his sisters' partners financially dependent on them? This may make a significant difference to their confidence and willingness to stand up for themselves.

lovemenot Sun 20-Jan-13 01:14:41

Goodness littlemiss, you could be married to my husband! Superior opinion, superior knowledge, doesn't listen, slags off other people all the time etc etc.

I thought it was me too. Knowing that I'd accepted his little criticisms without calling him on it gave him permission to continue. And so I blamed myself. Until the day I realised that he does everything on his own terms to get the best outcome for himself. There is no "we" - unless it suits him.

So I started calling him on his shit, he didn't like it. 39 days of the silent treatment now. (He was away all last week - it was bliss! I got to watch whatever tv I wanted, dd got to eat a packet of crisps without being told she'd get spots.)

I'm done, it's just a matter of sorting out the details now.

So no, this is not your fault. Stand back and disconnect a little, and just watch him with a different point of view.

littlemisssunny Sun 20-Jan-13 17:37:14

I think you're right about assertiveness training garlic I could use some of that!

I know in reality I can never have what I want in a relationship with him but we've been together for 15 years and its hard to imagine being on my own with the kids.

Sorry you are feeling the same lovemenot I think I am detaching myself without even realizing, I like it when he works lates as I get the evening to myself! I used to miss him when he was away or if I was away with the boys without him and be counting down the days till we saw him, now I look forward to the time away!

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