I’ve written about empathy before – the consequences of having no empathy and why empathy is the ultimate game changer.
Why is A Lack of Empathy in Relationships so Hard?
Empathy is the ultimate game changer because the level of happiness, understanding, fulfillment, security, appreciation and CONNECTION that you feel in your relationships will always be directly linked to the level of empathy that both you and the other person have.
Same goes for the relationship that you have with yourself. The level of self esteem, gratitude, love, connectedness, relationship luck and confidence that you feel is 100% 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 after the love, acceptance and validation of those that cannot empathize with you either (but that you somehow, despite their disconnectivity, continue to have an abundance of empathy for).
Friendships and relationships are always built upon a foundation of empathetic bankruptcy.
Where there is no empathy, there is no connection, depth or understanding.
Okay so CLEARLY, empathy is integral in having a healthy relationship, but what do you do when you’re in a relationship with someone that has no empathy?
How do you deal?
Is it even POSSIBLE to date (or have any kind of relationship with) someone that 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.”
In the past, I would always overly empathize (read: people-pleasing-doormat myself) with others, but continued to find myself in relationships where the other person had zero empathy for me.
As I always say, we will only tolerate relationships with people that treat us no worse than we treat ourselves and 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, making it all about me needing to “be good enough” & “save the day,” and then tying my worth to impossibility of ever being able to do so.
Empathy is when you feel with someone, not for someone. – Click to Tweet
I used to find myself in relationships and friendships where I felt more alone, judged and misunderstood than if I were to be physically alone in a jail cell. This is because there was no empathy.
If you’re involved in a relationship where you feel as though there’s a lack of empathy and you notice yourself tying your worth to the fact that the person who you always emotionally cater to has no empathy for you, 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. I used to get down on myself because I would struggle so hard to extract one DROP of empathy from someone and that would literally JUMP at a mere text message and cancel all of their plans to go help out to the cousin of the sister of the uncle of the brother of their friend/acquaintance/coworker, whatever.. that “needed” them. They would volunteer, play Bingo with their grandmother, rescue animals, be a shoulder to cry on, etc., for others but have no empathy for me – the one person that got a f*cking PhD in seeing everything from their point of view.
This is what I’ve learned about that scenario: The reason that some people seem to “withhold”/have no empathy for you and so readily give it out to others isn’t because you’re not 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’re “good enough,” they will do the same for you. This is what makes you oversee red flags and stay in relationships way past their expiration date. You’re constantly trying to “be better” for them.
What I learned and what you need to know: 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.” This disintegrates the self worth of the other person so that the un-empathetic can weaken them enough to ultimately push their agenda further along and get what they want.
- Empathy is the most vulnerable decision you can make. If someone can’t be vulnerable, they have no empathy to give. In order to connect and empathize with you, they will have to be vulnerable enough to connect with something within themselves that can feel, remember and recognize what you’re going through.
- Just like empathy cannot be selective, it also can’t be conditional. There can’t be conditions on empathy and if anyone tries to do so with you, it’s not empathy it’s “let’s see how far I can push my agenda and 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 as spiritual beings having a human experience.
How do you deal with people who lack empathy?
Understand and accept 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 deep, genuine and mutual connection in which you feel safe, secure and understood cannot ever exist.
Yes, this can be very painful to acknowledge and accept but I promise you, the pain you that feel in that acceptance will be short-lived and will ultimately translate into a lifetime of (finally!!) feeling valid, understood, respected and cared for – from yourself first and foremost.
Accepting people for who they are is scary as f*ck. 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 YOU for who you’ve become.
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 and building empathy for yourself. And the only way to do that is through vulnerability.
Consistently strive to be the adult that your younger self needed and didn’t have.
Lastly, if you’re involved with someone that has no empathy, let go of the expectation that they’ll one day “magically empathize” for someone better. Let go of ALL expectations and remember – once you know that they have no empathy, 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 and understand that you wouldn’t be in this situation if you had more empathy for yourself.
People that have no empathy are all about themselves and this is why they’re so impactful on you and your emotions. Because they withhold from you and keep you in the emotional desert, 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 your worth a drop (or that the gallons they’re giving aren’t contaminated).