Why is A Lack of Empathy in Relationships so Hard?
The level of happiness, intimacy and connection that you feel in your relationships will always be directly linked to the level of empathy that both you and your partner have.
The same goes for the relationship that you have with yourself. The level of confidence, self-love, and power that you feel is, one-hundred percent of the time, linked to the level of empathy that you have for yourself.
If you have no empathy for yourself, you’ll keep chasing love, acceptance, and validation from those who cannot empathize with you either (but that you somehow, continue to have an abundance of empathy for).
Empathetic bankruptcy is the common denominator of all toxic relationships.
So, what do you do when you’re in love with someone who lacks empathy? How do you deal with an unempathetic partner?
Is it even possible to date (or have any kind of relationship with) someone who has a lack of empathy?
What is Empathy?
Wikipedia defines empathy as “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.”
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s about feeling and being there with someone – even if you haven’t been through exactly what they are going through. It’s also about being self-aware.
If there is a lack of empathy in your relationship, you don’t have a mutual and healthy relationship. You have a very painful transaction.
In the past, I would overly empathize with others but continued to find myself in relationships where the other person had zero empathy for me.
We will only tolerate relationships with people who treat us no worse than we treat ourselves. You can’t give a dollar that you don’t have. I didn’t have any true empathy to give others because I had no empathy for myself. The “empathy” that I felt for others was nothing more than me feeling for them. I would make it all about me needing to “be good enough,” and then tie my worth to the impossibility of ever being able to do so. For me, empathy meant giving second chances that were never earned and excusing sh*tty behavior from toxic people. That’s not what empathy is about.
Empathy is when you can be there and feel with someone, not just for them.
I used to find myself in relationships and friendships where I felt more alone than if I were to be physically alone in a jail cell. This is because there was a lack of empathy.
If you’re involved in a relationship where you feel as though there is a lack of empathy, here’s what you need to know:
- Just like you can’t be a millionaire and claim poverty when it suits you, you cannot be selectively empathetic. You can’t.
The reason why some people seem to “withhold”/have no empathy for you and so readily give it out to others is NOT that you aren’t good enough. They do this because, as long as they can prove to you that they have the capacity to “empathize” with others, they can keep you in a state of fear-based hopefulness that one day, if you are “good enough,” they will do the same for you. This is what makes you ignore red flags and stay in toxic relationships. You’re constantly trying to “be better” for and understand them on a deeper level.
These people aren’t truly empathizing because selective empathy is impossible. They have no empathy for themselves and therefore, give out selective validation wrapped in a cloak of pseudo “empathy.”
- Empathy and vulnerability go hand-in-hand. If someone can’t be vulnerable, they have no empathy to give. In order to connect and empathize with you, they would have to be vulnerable enough to connect to something within themselves.
- Just like empathy cannot be selective, it also can’t be conditional. If anyone puts conditions around their empathy, that’s not empathy. It’s “let’s see how desperate you are for my validation/approval.”
- Judgment and empathy cannot coexist. To judge is to pedestal yourself while failing to see the very connectedness that empathy is defined by – the connectedness that we all share.
How do you deal with people who lack empathy?
Understand that without the other person being able to put themselves in your shoes, feel with you, and see themselves within you and your experience… a healthy relationship will never exist. Your love and devotion will never be enough to extract empathy from unempathetic people.
Yes, this can be very painful to acknowledge and accept but I promise you, the pain you feel in that acceptance will be short-lived and will ultimately, translate into a lifetime of peace.
Accepting people for who they are is scary. It’s scary because the moment that you stop fighting it, tying your worth to it, and trying to make sense out of nonsense, you have to do the one thing that you’ve been avoiding at all costs…
Accept yourself for who you’ve become and use that acceptance as motivation to rise above your triggers.
If you find that you keep getting involved with people who have no empathy, the best thing you can do is start to work on empathizing with yourself.
And the only way to do that is through vulnerability. Be the advocate, best friend, and hero you needed when you were a child. Be vulnerable enough to acknowledge what your younger self needed and tied his/her worth to not receiving.
If you’re involved with someone who lacks empathy, let go of the expectation that one day, they will magically empathize for someone better. Let go of ALL expectations and remember…
Once you know that you’re dealing with an unempathetic person, if you keep re-engaging, that’s not them hurting you, that’s you continuing to immerse your head in the toilet and then cry because you’re sick and smelly. Keep your boundaries intact, enforce your standards, and understand that you wouldn’t be in this situation if you had more empathy for yourself.
Unempathetic people are all about themselves. This is why they’re so impactful on you and your emotions. They withhold from you and keep you in the emotional desert. And then, when they do give you a little drop, you overvalue it and mistake it for a gallon. It’s just a dirty drop.
And just because they appear to give gallons to others, that doesn’t mean that you’re only worth a drop (or that the gallons they’re giving out aren’t contaminated).
Written by: Natasha Adamo