Monday, February 18, 2013

Empathy Now!


I grew up with three older brothers which is to say: I spent my entire childhood playing the part of Victim.  I always screamed louder than I needed to in order to attract the attention of my parents, and I always made sure my theatrical retelling of events was embellished with words like:
so so SO!

Nothing was ever bad.  It was only ever SUPER bad.  REALLY bad.  HORRIBLY bad! 
No pain was ever uncomfortable... it was only ever UNBEARABLE.
Mild irritations were actually volatile explosions of crap and bad hair days were so far beyond inconvenient... they were debilitating.

A few months ago, I realized I've been using this developed character trait to force my husband to have empathy for me.  His lack of empathy was something I was going to train out of him.  I knew I could convince him to feel empathy for me.
"How was your day?" He would ask.
"The WORST thing happened... I went to Wal-Mart and your daughter SCREAMED like a banshee the ENTIRE time and I'm SO EXHAUSTED that I can HARDLY function.  I'm seriously SO tired right now."
Groan, moan... sigh.

Surely with a speech like that, the empathy would come.  Right?  I mean, how could it NOT?

Addiction trumps acting.  I think my acting skills are fairly fabulous *insert exaggerated bow*  but addiction trumps them.
How many times did I put myself through the Empathy NOW cycle?  Countless.  Something would upset me.  I'd share my upset with my husband in such a way as to really DRIVE my point home about just how upset I was... he never seemed to understand, so I had to be really articulate about the whole thing... and then?  Inevitably, I'd hunker down in Victim Land.
He NEVER really understood.  It wasn't FAIR.

When I was pregnant this time around, I decided to try something new.  I decided to take my upsets to my Father in Heaven first.  I could lay it all on the line with Heavenly Father.  I could tell him every. little. thing.
He knows about the broken dish, the laundry (stupid stuff keeps coming undone.  SUPER rude), the pain in my knee, the pain in my back, the endless streams of pregnant emotions that overtook me at any and almost all given moments :)

And when I quit talking to him, when I quit laying it all on him, I would just sit quietly on my knees with my eyes closed and FEEL.
I could FEEL empathy.  It was wonderful, pure, loving, and FAIR!

Now I'm working on catching myself when I'm inserting unnecessary adjectives while talking things over with my husband.
The thing is: I can't manipulate him into feeling empathy.  I can't force him to hurt like I do, feel what I feel, KNOW EXACTLY what I'm going through.  I can't.  And that's what I was trying to do.

I didn't realize I was being dishonest in my own way, and I wasn't being malicious.
When the word "manipulation" is used, it conjurs up mental images of soap-opera villians rubbing manicured nails together and raising one single, solitary eyebrow... but it wasn't like that for me (I can't raise just one eyebrow anyway).  It was just me.  being a confused girl.  not knowing how to train a husband the way I wanted to.

It's really interesting trying to catch myself in the habitual act of exaggeration.
When my husband asks how my day was, I now have to focus on what I'm saying, making sure I give him the honest truth and not blown up story embellished for the purpose of forcing empathy out of the man.

It's getting easier.
As time goes by, it is getting easier.

I've discovered an untapped mine of Empathy in my Father in Heaven.  It's mine for the taking.  It's free.
It's saving and grace and wonderful and love all rolled into one beautiful experience waiting for me to tap into it.
Heavenly Father is so loving.  Jesus is so loving.

I am so lucky.


  1. I love this post. Thank-you! I think I've been doing the same thing for years. If I could just get my husband to feel how I feel, he'd know how hurt, scared and overwhelmed I am and then he'll help me, he'll fix everything. I think the lack of empathy is one of the hardest consequences of addiction I have to deal with, but like you so eloquently said, I can't force it to be any different. But I can look to a loving and ever empathizing Heavenly Father. He can mend any broken heart.

  2. Thank you Alicia:) I can always relate to your posts! I, too wish our husband's had empathy. It's so true Heavenly Father has empathy for us. Hopefully our husband's can tap into that power one day.

  3. You wrote this for me. I just wanted you to know. :)

  4. SO GLAD I'm not alone, ladies! So so glad!

  5. this is brilliant. Wow, I do the exact same thing!