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Partner has little empathy: can this work?

(23 Posts)
chakachumchom Sun 22-May-16 08:19:53

When I first met DP, I was taken by his sensitive nature, the amount of empathy he seemed to have, by how helpful he can be.

Fast forward 3 years, we were expecting DS1 and I was dreadfully ill all the way through the pregnancy. DP didn't seem to want to acknowledge the fact and would give me the silent treatment for having time off work for exhaustion and sickness. This made me feel immensely guilty for being ill.
During the pregnancy I was also bullied at work, due to having time off for constant pregnancy related illness. My colleagues' workloads increased because of this and I took the brunt of it. They blatantly ignored me for 6 months and alienated me from meetings, work emails etc etc. During this time, I was often in floods of tears at home, DP would sit silently, not offering any form of support and say things like 'just try to go in.' I've since had counselling and been told that I deserve a medal for sticking it out as long as I have (I still work at the same place and largely down to not wanting to upset DP).
When DS was born, I remember tidying up my room at the hospital 2 hours after giving birth whilst DP sat with DS. At the time, I did it without thinking and the midwife burst in and shouted at us both, me for bending and doing too much straight after birth and DP for letting me. At the time, I didn't see it, but why didn't DP stop me?
My pregnancy with DS2 was much easier, but I struggled with his overbearing DM. She retired and me and my boys suddenly became her little 'project' she expected to spend my maternity leave with me, turned up unexpectedly and made constant criticisms at me.
I am not in speaking terms with her after I was honest with her and she turned it all around on me all because I wasn't fulfilling her expectations of being a grandmother! DP again, seems to show no empathy for how she's made me feel or appreciates my need for boundaries with her.
This lack of empathy seems an ongoing theme and there are more examples of it but far too many to mention. We're not married because I've told him I'm not sure I want to marry someone who has no empathy or regard for my needs and feelings. He tells me I'm just too intolerant and sensitive! Is there a way for this relationship to work when DP appears to lack so much empathy towards me? He seems to be able to empathise with his DM, his sisters when they have troubles but never with me...

TheoriginalLEM Sun 22-May-16 08:26:54

picture yourself stuck in a loveless relationshipmin 20 years time.

cut your losses. he doesn't love you

Confusednc Sun 22-May-16 08:30:46

My exh has no empathy. I actually now realise he's very damaged and undoubtedly has a personality disorder.

He would also appear sympathetic to his overbearing mother but it's not real. It was conditioning. He was afraid of his mother really who has right royally screwed him up.

I'm sorry this has come to a head after having yr child. Mine did too. But you sound clear. Don't stay hoping he'll change. I stayed way too long and his behaviour became increasingly abusive.

SpuriouserAndSpuriouser Sun 22-May-16 08:39:37

I would get out OP. Do you really want to be stuck with him for the rest of your life? His treatment of you sounds awful. You are not being intolerant or too sensitive or anything else he will say to try to make you feel like it's your fault. You are right that you shouldn't marry someone with, in your words, no empathy or regards for your feelings and needs.

Myinlawsdidthisthebastards Sun 22-May-16 08:42:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Boolovessulley Sun 22-May-16 09:02:04

He's a product of his childhood.
What's his dad like?

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 22-May-16 09:05:42

What do you get out of this relationship now?.

The rotten apple that is your DP did not fall far from the rotten tree; she is also without empathy and self absorbed and I would agree that his behaviour during the dating phase was just an act to draw you further in. He will put his mother and family of origin first and always; you (and in turn your children) will not get a look in.

Emotionally well adjusted people do not behave as either he or his mother have done either.

I would also look for alternative employment; the fact that you are still there as to not upset your DP speaks volumes. Is his needs more important than yours?. It makes me wonder what you also learnt about relationships when growing up. He has not really at all cared about upsetting you has he; he has given you no real consideration either.

I think he is also projecting; he is really the one who is too intolerant here. The accusation of "sensitive" is often chucked around by such people as well with no foundation, he really cannot back that up.

Is this really what you want to teach your children about relationships; I should hope not.

Joysmum Sun 22-May-16 09:06:05

I couldn't be with a man who doesn't have my back and isn't affected if I'm upset. I'd hurt if he was hurting.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 22-May-16 09:07:35

BTW never do any form of joint counselling with him. I doubt very much he would attend any such sessions anyway but joint counselling is never advised when there is abuse of any type within the relationship.

chakachumchom Sun 22-May-16 10:09:32

Thankyou for all of th responses. DP does have his good points too, he's a great DF and a very gentle man (aside from his lack of empathy for me) but my SILs situation recently brought all of this to my attention.

SIL- DBs wife has recently been going through a tough time at work, my DB and his wife have been going through a rocky patch too. However, as soon as SILs situation at work brought her to tears at home, it was my DB that declared she wasn't to return there again and called her boss to explain why and with harsh words for him. I thought " wow, they have a much rockier marriage than our relationship and yet my DB still has her back."

It's given DPS lack of empathy some perspective. I'm nervous about leaving DP as I'm not sure how I'll cope financially, plus MIL will have more input over DCs than I wish her to have when in DPs care because DP has no boundaries with her.

chakachumchom Sun 22-May-16 10:19:55

DPS father is as pragmatic as DP and his DM; they don't do feelings, any of them. They have accumulated a lot of wealth over the years through various endeavours- they see material things and holidays as successes and causes for happiness. Although DPS parents do not seem very happy at all, their marriage seems rather loveless.

Stormyrainbow Sun 22-May-16 10:25:04

My ex partner was like this. I could be crying and really upset about something and he would just stare at me. He would call me emotionally unstable and rarely knew how to behave if I was feeling sad. It only got worse and I blamed myself. I'd try not to be emotional infront of him. He'd been raised to think crying and showing emotion was weak. When I was out of work for a couple of months and miserable he made me leave the house for a week as I was making him miserable! Selfish

It's exhausting to not be able to be yourself. I'd seriously consider if you want to spend a lifetime with someone who probably won't change.

chakachumchom Sun 22-May-16 10:26:09

TheMeerkat: You are right in thinking that there were issues in my own childhood. I was born to parents of alcoholics so my feelings and needs were often neglected as a result. I guess people would say that this is history repeating itself.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 22-May-16 10:28:36


re your comment:-
"DP does have his good points too, he's a great DF and a very gentle man"

Was waiting actually for you to write something like the above and there it is. Women in similar situations often write such self denying guff when they can think of nothing positive themselves to write about their man.

Also you have not answered what it is you get from this relationship so I presume its pretty much nil.

He probably is very plausible to those in the outside world but they do not see what he is like day to day, after all you live with him. You see his complete and utter lack of empathy or even care for you when you are upset. His mother is undoubtedly the same.

Re your comment:-
"I'm nervous about leaving DP as I'm not sure how I'll cope financially, plus MIL will have more input over DCs than I wish her to have when in DPs care because DP has no boundaries with her".

Neither are at all good reasons to therefore stay with him. He after all is still financially responsible for his children. I would also suggest you go down the legal route and formalise all access re these children as well rather than have an informal arrangement (this is also because of his overbearing toxic mother).

chakachumchom Sun 22-May-16 10:29:38

Stormy: that sounds awful. I'm guessing, he became the source of your unhappiness in the end and in turn, was making himself miserable. It's hard keeping it all in.

Its very rare that I cry but I do tend to have a 'rant' about things that get me down. DP hates this and considers it moaning. When I do cry, he either ignores me and looks sad or will give me a hug and then walk away!

Some of us are talkers and not being able to talk is soul destroying

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 22-May-16 10:35:32

You were taught by your alcoholic parents to put your own needs and wants last. You stay in a job where you've been badly treated purely to keep your man happy. Do you see how mixed up that is?. This man was not at all empathetic then and he is not now.

What do you want to teach your children about relationships here?.
You do not have to teach your children similarly damaging lessons as you yourself were. I would seriously consider seeing a therapist to talk through your people pleasing behaviours or at the very least talk to an organisation like NACOA.

chakachumchom Sun 22-May-16 10:39:29

TheMeerkat: There is one thing that I really do get from this relationship and to others it probably sounds absolutely ridiculous but I'll come out and say it anyway.

My own parents never took us on day trips, outings, holidays because they were far too busy in the pub. DP brings me a lot of joy in terms of organising and going on trips as a couple and as a family. He's fantastic company during these times and he has a lot of knowledge in the best places to go and organising itineries etc. This probably sounds silly to other people, but for me it's huge.

If we were to separate, it would be him and his PILS having these lovely times and days out with the boys, making memories with them. With me, it would just be me and I would probably get stressed on my own with both boys and not have a good time.
DP also surprises me and takes us on wonderful 'dates' as a couple, places I never knew existed. It would be quite a big deal for me if all this came to an end as my parents never took us anywhere. I feel I'm finally getting to chance to enjoy the things I didn't as a child.

chakachumchom Sun 22-May-16 10:40:55

Not PILS, parents.

HermioneJeanGranger Sun 22-May-16 10:48:39

My ex was like this. Never did empathy and he never thought to give me a hug or some form of comfort if I was upset.

On the one-year anniversary of my grandma's death, I got (naturally) a bit upset and he just said "But she's dead. She died a year ago, why are you upset?". hmm

His lack of empathy went WAY beyond me. It extended to his children (that he lied about/denied), to his relatives when they passed, to people going through tough times at work. He just didn't care if people were upset. He had to be told to hug me when my grandma died, but it was like being hugged by a robot.

Strangely he had a lot of empathy for animals, but sympathy for other humans was something that bypassed him completely! Please think long and hard about staying with him - it won't get better and you'll grow to resent the lack of sympathy and support over time.

chakachumchom Sun 22-May-16 11:02:57

Hermione: your ex sounds like he has aspergers! You often find that they struggle to relate to humans but relate better to animals! My DP has a few traits I feel, but I think me trying to label him was a way of me trying to excuse his behaviour towards me.

mssmithsona Sun 22-May-16 11:11:03

Perhaps think about what you would do if your DS or a friend was saying the same things about a partner. How would you feel? What would you suggest?
It's definitely tough, but the wonderful trips out and dates could happen with someone else, who does have wonderful empathy and makes you feel great. Or you could try to do these things yourself?
Do you have support from friends/family to help you?

HermioneJeanGranger Sun 22-May-16 11:12:15

No, he was just very selfish. He expected people to react to things the same way he reacted - when they didn't, he either didn't care, so told them they had no reason to be upset because he wouldn't be upset in that situation, or got angry because they were responding in a way he disagreed with.

That doesn't mean he has aspergers, it means he's an insensitive, selfish person. The two are not syonymous.

chakachumchom Sun 22-May-16 13:15:32

I have no family to help me if we were to separate, but I do have a few friends. I think I've gotten to a point where even I think I'm intolerant and overly sensitive and my confidence is pretty low as a result. I'm going back to my therapist in a week, so hopefully she can help bring me back up again and make me feel strong enough to tackle this properly. At the moment, I don't feel strong enough to leave him.

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