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To ask if lack of reaction/empathy is a common thing in certain men?

101 replies

BeautifulBenji · 04/10/2022 14:09

When I was younger I lived in a house share with a couple - the girl once fell over and hit her chin on the floor, blood everywhere, chin split open. And her boyfriend didn't get off his chair. Everyone in the room was around her, and then he stood up and took her to hospital. But I always remember that he sat there for 3 mins not doing anything.

My DH is a difficult man. He can be brilliant, but I'm finding his behaviour increasingly unacceptable.

There have been a few incidents where I've been really shocked at DH's lack of reaction. Cutting myself with a kitchen knife when making dinner - he finished his game on his phone, barely looked up. Our DS fell into the fire guard, he didn't move. Our DS wandered towards some concrete stairs when he was 2, DH moved so slowly I got there before he did. This morning, I smashed my head in the shower really hard in the ensuite and let out an almighty cry, you know that shock of hitting your head and you really shout out. He didn't move from his bed or say anything

When I questioned it - he said 'Oh love. Of course I care if you're OK just knew you weren't dead or anything' When I said his lack of reaction was weird he said 'don't fucking take it out on me'

Is this something anyone else recognises? It's not that he doesn't care about me or DS. He does then come to our aid. But in the moment, he doesn't bloody move. at all. Just like that other bloke. It's like the natural reaction of moving or saying something or doing anything doesn't happen in their brain.

I didn't know to put this AIBU or relationships - I'm just interested in whether this is a thing other people have seen in partners.

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coffeeandpoetry · 04/10/2022 14:36

It will be controversial because people on here like to insist there's no difference psychologically between men and women. I agree with you, I think men in general tend to lack a certain level of empathy, we see it everywhere.

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OneTC · 04/10/2022 14:41

I don't think it's anything to do with sex but I am incapable of panicking under stress, it has the exact opposite effect on me. This might make me seem cool in some situations where others are excited.

The examples of your OH do sound pretty cold though but it's hard to tell

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BeautifulBenji · 04/10/2022 14:41

It's lack of empathy but also it's lack of reaction.

Like if I saw someone fall over in front of me, or hurt themselves, I would move towards them. Without thinking. Just a natural reaction.

My DH doesn't react like this. I find it really disconcerting. As I say, I've seen other examples of men just being so slow to react to something in front of them. I wondered if other have seen the same?

It's like it doesn't occur to DH to react.

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RoseslnTheHospital · 04/10/2022 14:41

Your sample size is too small to make any conclusions. Also, lack of reaction is very different to a lack of empathy in general. Your example of hitting your head in the shower and your DH not reacting showed a lack of instant reaction. His comment afterwards showed he did empathise/care, but chose not to demonstrate it immediately.

I have no idea if a lack of reaction to urgent situations/injury to people is heavily skewed by sex. I'd have to do some investigation into what research there might be in this field. But men react in situations all the time, in their jobs such as police, firefighters, paramedics, teachers, etc etc. And also as bystanders when there are accidents or incidents.

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BeautifulBenji · 04/10/2022 14:44

Yes, so of course plenty of men react - as you say @RoseslnTheHospital - police, army, medics and plenty of other men of course.

I really really disliked that bloke I lived with before. And his lack of empathy creeped me out. But I swear my DH has the same non-plussed expression on his face.

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BeautifulBenji · 04/10/2022 14:46

@coffeeandpoetry Certainly all the men I've been with lack empathy that i see all the time in my female friends. Just a natural way of listening, asking questions, expressing concern when someone is upset. My DH reacts to me crying with anger or indifference - afterwards he says it makes him uncomfortalble and he's "not sure what I want him to do" whereas my female friends would just give me a hug without a second thought

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coffeeandpoetry · 04/10/2022 14:48

But men react in situations all the time, in their jobs such as police, firefighters, paramedics, teachers, etc etc.
Because it's their job? Doesn't mean they genuinely care or feel empathy. This isn't really the point OP is trying to make.

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MrsTerryPratchett · 04/10/2022 14:50

Certainly all the men I've been with lack empathy that i see all the time in my female friends.

You're choosing them. I chose one who runs if someone screams. Maybe think about your relationships and why that's the case.

Men do score lower on empathy scales (psychology) but they aren't lacking in it. They just score a bit lower than women. Which makes sense because women are trained from birth. Not having almost any isn't normal though.

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Nightynightnight · 04/10/2022 14:51

Some men do not react emotionally in the moment of a crisis. Some women do not react emotionally in the moment of a crisis. That is a good thing. Otherwise surgeons, paramedics, nurses, etc would be shit at helping people.

I might be seen as cold but when accidents happen, I take a couple of minutes to assess what is happening and make sure that any injuries are not serious before I administer hugs and reassurance. I am very empathetic and work in a field where it is an essential skill.

However, I would draw the line at someone finishing a game before looking up. This demonstrates lack of care and love OR someone who can not transition easily due to neurodiversity.

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RoseslnTheHospital · 04/10/2022 14:51

As part of their job, which is pretty hard to continually fake if you genuinely have no empathy. And you're ignoring the second part of my comment which was about bystanders at the scene of accidents or incidents. Plenty of men react just as much as women in those situations.

What the Op is describing is a lack of emotional intelligence, probably due to a stunted emotional upbringing where stereotypical "masculine" behaviour was emphasised and any talk of emotions shut down.

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HotDogKetchup · 04/10/2022 14:53

coffeeandpoetry · 04/10/2022 14:36

It will be controversial because people on here like to insist there's no difference psychologically between men and women. I agree with you, I think men in general tend to lack a certain level of empathy, we see it everywhere.

Yup. My DH is similar OP. He mostly convinces me it’s all in my head. When I was pregnant and puking my guts up, he suggested it was the expectation Id feel sick making me sick. Basically I was just faking it.

More recently, I’ve had an ongoing health problem. Told me it’s fine, doctor referred me under the two week wait, fine. Consultant said might be cancer…. Fine. Even going as far as suggesting I don’t need a check up as consultant has suggested (still not ruled out cancer) cause I’m fine.

Does my head in. He is the same with the DC when they hurt themselves. Tells them they’re FINE.

When he’s ill we all bloody know about it.

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Pandor · 04/10/2022 14:55

Perhaps it is from being taught as a child that if you hurt yourself you mustn’t make a fuss, hold in the tears, suck it up and get on with it that teaches some men that that is the appropriate way to behave when anyone else hurts themselves, ie unless it looks incredibly serious you should leave them to deal with it (except if they specifically ask for help).

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SallyWD · 04/10/2022 14:57

Hmm.. Interesting. I certainly think that women can be more empathetic. Obviously it's a generalisation but it's just something I've observed over the years.
As for men having a lack of reaction, no I've never noticed this. My DH has strong reactions and reacts more quickly than me. For example if our child fell over and grazed their knee he'd be over there in a millisecond whereas I'd be more laid back and like "Oh don't fuss, it's only a little scratch" etc.

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Waitingfordecember · 04/10/2022 15:11

I’m not sure. When I think of times I’ve needed help, it’s almost always men who have rushed forward (e.g. I’ve fallen over/ struggling to manoeuvre pram and baby/ carrying something awkward/ fainted in public). I’ve always seen it as a result of the cultural expectation of ‘chivalry’.

Some of it is personality too. For example, both my DH and my mum have form for pausing before they react to an emergency whereas I (and a few male relatives I can think of) rush in. They say it takes them a few seconds to process what’s going on and decide how to help, I respond mostly on instinct.

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newsaint · 04/10/2022 15:13

OP, I think I am similar to your DH in this way.

I would describe this as being the difference between logic-driven and emotion-driven responses.

Emotion-driven responses happen automatically and can be quite emotive, whereas logic-driven responses occur after a slight processing (thinking) period and tend to be more muted.

I can well appreciate why you may feel DHs responses might seem cold or aloof.

I often feel I come across in this way to others, but I do not mean to.

I often wish I was more emotional as I think it seems more "human" (though in reality any response is valid), but then there are things about being logic-driven which I like, such as its very hard for me to lose my temper / get upset or to be provoked.

I guess what matters at the end of the day is that DH still acts to help you / others, even if he doesn't make a lot of drama surrounding it lol

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Waitingfordecember · 04/10/2022 15:15

BeautifulBenji · 04/10/2022 14:46

@coffeeandpoetry Certainly all the men I've been with lack empathy that i see all the time in my female friends. Just a natural way of listening, asking questions, expressing concern when someone is upset. My DH reacts to me crying with anger or indifference - afterwards he says it makes him uncomfortalble and he's "not sure what I want him to do" whereas my female friends would just give me a hug without a second thought

I don’t mean to be goady, but why are you with him? Responding in anger when you’re upset is horrible and not something I could love with.

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AtrociousCircumstance · 04/10/2022 15:18

Wow, he can’t even give you a hug when you’re upset. And he didn’t spring into action to possibly save your child from injury.

Doesn’t sound like someone who has much to offer in terms of actual love and intimacy. Whatever the reason for his detachment, his inaction and seeming indifference would wound anyone.

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AtrociousCircumstance · 04/10/2022 15:20

I mean your kid will grow up seeing his dad’s reactions, especially in comparison to yours. Your DC on some level will know that your DH wouldn’t do anything to save or comfort them.

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BeautifulBenji · 04/10/2022 15:35

@Waitingfordecember because he is loving and supportive. But sometimes in the moment he's robot. And if I pull him on it then he can be horrible. The crying thing he says when I cry about something it makes him feel like I'm blaming him or doing it to make him feel bad. Which I'm not. Basically when he doesn't know what to do he gets angry.

And also because pragmatically I think it's the better option for my kids and life

Thou I do often change my mind when he is v cold or says horrible words.

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BeautifulBenji · 04/10/2022 15:37

@MrsTerryPratchett yeah I have never managed to do that. Sounds nice for you.

I think I've found someone different and then the dynamics become the same as before. It feels like I'm changing them to be less empathetic and more mean.

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Badgirlriri · 04/10/2022 15:37

I disagree. My DP is the more reactive of us. He worries all the time.

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WhiskeyMakesMeFrisky · 04/10/2022 15:38

Some men lack empathy. Some women lack empathy. Basically all PEOPLE have varying levels of empathy!

Just putting out there .... some people are over-dramatic, which might lead to someone else getting fed up of the drama and therefore ending up appearing to lack empathy!

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RoseslnTheHospital · 04/10/2022 15:39

@BeautifulBenji I doubt you're changing them. It's more likely that they are making more of an effort at the start of a relationship and then get complacent and revert to their typical behaviour once the relationship is established.

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2bazookas · 04/10/2022 15:39

DH is a Virgo technical design engineer; an every-detail-immaculate perfectionist. After he's had a calm think about it. Had time to make a spreadsheet and a few technical drawings.

In any unplanned event (like a domestic accident or sudden shock) he's like a rabbit caught in the headlights; either freezes, or panics and runs completely the wrong way. Its just the way he's wired.

Nothing to do with emotional coldness at all. Its rather the opposite; too much passion :-)

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MrsTerryPratchett · 04/10/2022 15:40

I think I've found someone different and then the dynamics become the same as before. It feels like I'm changing them to be less empathetic and more mean.

That's an interesting take. It actually sounds like you maybe both have some childhood stuff to look at. The blame thing is interesting; does he have a judgemental father?

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