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#176035 - 08/26/07 03:07 PM Can you learn empathy?
Wife Supporter Offline
New Here

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 23
Loc: UK
I would like some advise on a longstanding problem between me & my husband.
He began to get therapy for CSA ealier this year and its obviously slow going, we generally get by okay with only hickups from time to time.
A recurrent problem is his seeming inability to feel empathy for me when Im upset, this has always been an issue and we haven't quite worked out whether it is him or problems from his CSA. Does anybody on this board have problems with empathy in particular with their wives?.
Basically it goes like this, something happens to upset me (I'd like to throw in at this point that Im not a big cryer, so it's not happening all the time) I cry, he completely ignors me, goes off to do DIY ect.. walks past me crying, basically looking as though he couldn't care less ( which I know is not the case ), I get more upset and we almost always end up having a big row before it settles down.
The big problems is that although now whilst I'm rational I can talk through things with him when Im upset and he ignores me it brings up all sorts of rubbish and bad feelings in me from when I was young and had a disturbed children, he knows this and still apparently can't do anything about it.
He says when he see's me upset he feels really angry with himself and just can't approach me, he says he doesn't want to console me but knows he should so therefore gets angry with himself - can anybody relate to this.
To be honest at times I feel like I know what pushes him over the edge and so do my very best not to do that, but he knows my issues and doesn't make the effort, am I bad for feeling that.
Can anybody offer any advice or strategies?
Would you expect this to improve with therapy or is it just part of him?
It is such a major problem that we just can't get over, why can't he show that he cares, I have said that Im fine with no physical contact, but just to know that he is bothered, is it fair to me that I just have to think to myself - he is bothered he just can't approach you at this point when you really need him.
He says he would walk around the world to get me something I needed (which I believe) but he just can't show me that he cares when I am upset, it just isn't there, his mind is blank and although we have been through step by step what to do he just can't do it.
Help and Thx
WS


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#176065 - 08/26/07 05:23 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: Wife Supporter]
Kathryn Offline
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Registered: 02/08/07
Posts: 303


This is a continuing theme and deserving of a lot of discussion, but the simple answer to your general question is that some can, some can't, depends on too many variables. But I'd like to think that the vast number of humans can, and think that attachment theory is a better lense through which to think about empathy than personality disorders.

You might check out the link Selene sent about attachment in Friends and Family under the thread "nature/nurture".

I would imagine a lot of people here could tell you about the developing sense of greater empathy both in regards to themselves and others. I know I can, my empathic capacity has certainly been streched, but I'm learning to strech along with it.

Of course environmental falure is the only cause of empathic failure, there's also things like autism and asperger's, but even then environmental responsiveness can create great changes.

Take care,
Katie


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#176107 - 08/26/07 07:39 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: Kathryn]
Kathryn Offline
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Registered: 02/08/07
Posts: 303


meant to say that environmental failure is not the only cause of empathic failure, but even in cases of a more biologically based deficit, positive environmental stuff can really help.


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#176113 - 08/26/07 08:06 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? *DELETED* [Re: Kathryn]
ttoon Offline
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Registered: 06/19/07
Posts: 977
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#176119 - 08/26/07 08:28 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: ttoon]
Kathryn Offline
Guest

Registered: 02/08/07
Posts: 303


Yep, the hypersensitivity thing often gets confused with the lack of emotions/empathy, but it also seems to me that it can become a vicious cycle (in some people) -- lack of response causes self doubt/hatred, self doubt causes resentment over being called to respond, self doubt and resentment reinforces an unconscious need to punish in passive ways (not responding), failure to respond causes self doubt....

And how the other partner responds or reacts to this cycle sometimes only reinforces the whole thing.

Like for instance, in my first marriage I sort of like the cycle cuz it kept me out of the relationship.

K.


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#176122 - 08/26/07 08:33 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? *DELETED* [Re: Kathryn]
ttoon Offline
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#176131 - 08/26/07 08:55 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: ttoon]
selene Offline
Member

Registered: 11/10/06
Posts: 221
Loc: midwest
Quote:
when Im upset and he ignores me it brings up all sorts of rubbish and bad feelings in me from when I was young


... wifesupporter ... i've been in the exact situation you've described above with my husband (we're both survivors) ... and i've learned that it takes two to get into the situation and also two to get out ...

... he's reverting to childhood feelings and patterns and so are you ... so for all intents and purposes, you're two scared and hurt little children when this situation happens ... he's feeling too inadequate to try and comfort you and you're feeling too abandoned to try to help him learn anything at all ... and i don't think this is a problem of him not having empathy ... i think this may be more a problem with how confident each of you are about acting on what you really feel ...

... if you talk about this at a time when you're not upset with each other maybe you can find some common ground ... if it's abandonment (or whatever it is) that you have issues with and that are brought out when this happens ... tell him ... he probably has no clue ... ask him how HE'S feeling when you're upset and he *seems* not to care ...

... it's all a two way street and no one person is ever entirely to blame ... although it's easy to say, "well, he just needs to learn empathy" or whatever ... but you BOTH need to learn some communication skills ... what works for you will be different from what has worked for us ... but here, the magic words were me saying - during a huge fight - "i do love you and want to stay with you" ... his fear had always been that i would leave and that made it even more difficult for him to feel he was able to comfort me ... now, he's much more able to be confident enough to take that leap and reach out to me when i'm upset ... and vice versa ...

_________________________
"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye." ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery from The Little Prince

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#176152 - 08/26/07 10:29 PM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: selene]
Brokenhearted Offline
Member

Registered: 08/07/06
Posts: 644
Loc: TX
This is interesting b/c it is the first time I've heard it could be "hypersensitivity" rather than "lack of empathy." It makes sense.

My H often gets angry if I cry about something, I think b/c he A) feels powerless to help me and B) is intimidated by sad emotions -- he does not want to feel them, so he doesn't want to be around someone else feeling them. I believe he works hard at walling himself off from them, so it is a threat to his wall if someone close to him is hurting.

I think it can improve. It is just another side effect of csa.

_________________________
Brokenhearted

It were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
Luke 17:2

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#176205 - 08/27/07 04:28 AM Re: Can you learn empathy? [Re: Wife Supporter]
Wife Supporter Offline
New Here

Registered: 07/26/07
Posts: 23
Loc: UK
Thanks for all your replies, I'm going to print them and show to Husband.

Unfortunately we are right in the middle of another crisis due to us not communicating again, it's so hard, I wish we had done this years ago before we had children, jobs ect... but I suppose thats just the way it is.

A lot makes sense, Thanks Selene, I think it may help if I say to him that I love him or something similar, it's so hard to do when you are in the middle of it.

I feel so hurt and yet I love him so much I don't want to hurt him anymore.

I will respond more later when I have had time to digest the info properly.

Thx WS


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#176209 - 08/27/07 06:31 AM Re: Can you learn empathy? *DELETED* [Re: Wife Supporter]
ttoon Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 06/19/07
Posts: 977
Post deleted by ttoon

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