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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

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!

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.

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.

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

My favourite assertiveness primer.

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

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?

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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?

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?

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,

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.

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

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

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 17:40:08

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?

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.

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.

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?

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.

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?

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

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