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Lack of Empathy – How To Handle No Empathy in Relationship

When a person lacks empathy, they are unable to put themselves in another person’s shoes, aren’t able or willing to see things from a different perspective, and usually find it difficult to put their views, wants, and needs aside to take on board someone else’s feelings. As a relationship counselor and life coach, I have clients who come to me because their partner’s lack of empathy negatively impacts their relationship.

In order to have empathy, a person needs to be considerate of other people’s feelings, have patience when discussing difficult topics with others and listen actively to come to a mutual agreement, rather than dismissing or ignoring the needs of the other. 

Having empathy allows us to really connect with others on a deeper level. It shows you care when you are able to listen, support, and understand someone struggling. Empathy for others also encourages us to expand our love for ourselves and to be kind to our minds and body. When men and women come to me to work on their lack of empathy, I often notice a pattern of being highly critical towards themselves. They were not often given empathy as a child and are strict with themselves; for example, when they are sick, they will tell themselves to get on with it, even be harsh and critical towards themselves rather than gentle and reassuring. I used to be like that, so I know it well. I could give empathy to others, but to myself, I would push and push myself until I collapsed and would criticize myself when not doing my best or wasting time being ill. When I released the self-judgment and fear through an intensive 3 day breakthrough session 12 years ago, I finally managed to release that critical voice, and my food issues and alcohol consumption went with it…

 So whilst this article is focused on lack of empathy towards others, it is important to change a lack of empathy towards yourself, as constantly judging yourself, comparing yourself to others, and analyzing your body, where you are in life, etc. will make you miserable. So reach out if you want to know more. 

So now I will share about a lack of empathy in marriage. 

Empathy is so important when it comes to romantic relationships. As a relationship counselor and marriage counselling expert Dubai and online, my experience have shown that in order to have a successful and thriving relationship, both partners have to show empathy to one another because it helps couples feel like they can be vulnerable and honest – building on their intimacy and closeness. When someone shows empathy, you feel like they have your back. 

Today, I want to cover the issues that can arise when a partner lacks empathy, causes of no empathy in marriage, and what couples can do when a partner doesn’t show any empathy. I will also share the techniques I incorporate into my life coaching sessions and couples counseling with couples who turn to me for support when empathy is an issue between the two.

There are many possible issues that can come up between a couple when one partner lacks empathy – 

  • Conflicts and arguments can escalate quickly because there is no consideration for their partner’s feelings.
  • You are not able to fully connect with one another on a deeper level because the person who lacks empathy might make it difficult for their partner to be open and vulnerable around them, which creates distance between the couple. They may avoid conversations, shut them down, or get frustrated. 
  • There is less compassion and more judgment between both partners.
  • The person who lacks empathy can make their partner feel alone as they are not able to share their feelings or views without feeling like they will be blamed or misunderstood.
  • The person who has empathy may feel like they are doing more to keep the romance or connection alive in a relationship which can be draining. They also make me feel like they are just not loved enough.  
  • Lastly, a lack of empathy creates issues when it comes to how to bring up children, as the parent who lacks empathy might not understand the need to talk through emotions with their children.

Earlier I touched on the inner critic I help people release in my breakthrough sessions that can cause a lack of empathy in a person. Here are some more reasons why people struggle to show empathy. 

Other reasons for lack of empathy – 
  • They haven’t had positive experiences of sharing emotions, being open in relationships, and having compassion towards others. Often they have learned hiding themselves makes people love them, and so they adopt a people pleaser personality trait. 
  • Their parents chose the “tough love” approach to parenting which made them feel like you don’t need to be empathetic to show love, that you can love without it. 
  • They may have adopted a belief that being kind and showing compassion doesn’t help people, and it is better to be strict and harsh to help them change. Stick not carrot motivation approach. 
  • They have never learned to understand their own emotions and feelings, so how can they possibly show it to others. 
  • They are extremely detached from their own and others emotions – a black and white kind of person, no shades of grey. They are practical, logical, and upfront, often without thinking how it could affect their partner.
  • Suffering from extreme stress, anxiety, or depression themselves and are consumed with their own feelings and world 

What happens though, when your partner is capable of showing empathy to others, like their children, parents, friends, and not you? 

I see this frequently when I work with a couple to recreate a new relationship. This is where the person has basically made an often unconscious decision that their partner is either 

  • Moaning, nagging again 
  • That they are never happy, so no point in listening 
  • That they are capable of handling life themselves
  • Too negative, so they switch off 
  • Their partner’s unhappiness makes them feel like they are somehow failing and not good enough, so they go into themselves 

When you have decided that your partner is “always” or “never” doing something for sure, you are not going to listen carefully to their challenges, and when you don’t listen properly, how can you show empathy right? 

It’s difficult to be in a relationship with someone who lacks empathy, so here are a few tips to help you – 
  • Remember, it isn’t personal
The way your partner is behaving is not a reflection of you; in fact, it is a reflection of them and their upbringing and experiences. Even though their words may hurt you, it is important to ask yourself whether you really believe that they are trying to harm you or just ill-equipped.  Maybe they need some life coaching or relationship counseling to get there. 
  • Set healthy boundaries
If you notice a pattern of behavior that is not working for you, for example, when you need them to be there for you and they are harsh with you or avoid you altogether, ask for what you need. List your expectations; do not expect them to mind read. 

Create a support network  So that you are not solely relying on your partner. Understand that they may not be able to meet your emotional needs at this moment in time, ask them to work on it, and in the meantime, turn to others that you trust. 

Remember to love yourself Take time to show love to yourself so that you can remind yourself that you are worthy of love and compassion, even if your partner is not able to show you this. You can repeat positive affirmations to yourself to counteract the dismissive comments you may hear from your partner. I also have a self-love meditation free on my website or in one of my two Facebook groups links Vinana and Relationship tips and advice with Nicola Beer 

I want to end with some practical advice for anyone who has been told that they lack empathy. 

Remember empathy can always be learned, and by implementing my tips below, you can work towards a healthier relationship with your loved ones – 

  • Practice reassurance and confirmation of your support
Remember that we all seek to be loved and understood. When we communicate in a relationship, we want to be heard, made to feel important, respected, and cared for. Give this by affirming your love. 
  • Listen carefully to your partner’s feelings or anxieties
When your partner is expressing themselves to you, stop yourself from dismissing them and genuinely listen. Understand that your partner is turning to you because of their love for you and the fact that they trust you with their feelings and emotions, which is such a big thing for many to do. If your partner is experiencing anxiety, depression, or ill-health, recognize that they are likely to find it difficult to control their thoughts and feelings; dismissing them will not help bring them out of it. Instead, patience, kindness, and empathy will. 

Accept the way they feel rather than become defensive When you’ve listened to how your partner is feeling, make sure you are aware of your own reactions. If they say something that you don’t agree with, you don’t need to be defensive or dismissive; just accept how they feel and share how you feel in a similar manner – open, clear, and without judgment.
  • Talk through your wants and needs
Both partners should write up a list of things or actions you need from your partner to feel safe, secure, and happy. When you are both able to communicate your needs, you know clearly what is expected from you. Hopefully, this helps you to overcome the lack of empathy in your relationship. This is part of my 4 step process with couples – sharing needs, expectations and actions desired to bring them closer in a forward-focused positive way. 
  • Incorporate more physical connection
When arguments or conflicts arise as a result of a lack of empathy, sometimes a hug or holding hands or even a kiss can bring you closer and stop arguments. Thus, bringing someone in towards you. If you have been told you lack empathy, this is a great practical tip to incorporate as it also gives you time to choose how to respond verbally and avoid defensiveness. 

Seek professional support There are times when you might need that extra bit of support to make real, long-lasting changes to how you behave and respond. Having someone who can help you break free from the old patterns will add massive benefits to your life.  I do this all the time, and it makes such a difference not only to the relationship. When someone learns how to turn off the critical voice, be more compassionate, articulate how they feel, and take action, many areas of their life can improve at once. 

Remember that you can change all behaviors when working with the subconscious and conscious mind together. You can remove any barriers and release unhelpful thoughts, past events, and feelings. 

When you remove these blocks, you are free to be who you really are and express yourself and love in any way you like. 

If you want to discuss how I can support you or your partner further, feel free to book a free introduction 20 minute call here.

Another way to improve your life and relationship is to take our relationship coach training. When you complete the relationship coach certification course you will receive 3 internally accredited certifications in NLP coaching, NLP Practitioner and Time Line Therarpy(r) and get a relationship coaching certification.