Forum Archives

Return to Forum List

Need help with empathy

You are not logged in. Login here or register.

Pages: 1 · 2

qwerty2012 posted 11/11/2013 15:36 PM

Hi All,
New WS here - long time reader, first time poster.
D-Days - Aug 2012 but didn't come completely clean until Jan 2013 - after extensive deception upon deception.

I have taken full responsibility - my EMA, PA, addictions.
I have gone to IC - which greatly helped.
I am now a recovering SA and AA - sober for 9 months now.
I know i don't deserve to live nor do i deserve her for my pathetic existence - but i do want to live and i do want her in my life, and i am trying to make amends.

It's been a rough 15 months to say the least.
W is struggling with the hurt. While IC has helped me, counseling hasn't helped her. So, at this time we are trying to recover on our own.

I struggle with being empathetic - on the one side, i am asked to express myself. So, when i am attacked/berated/humiliated based on my horrible past - i try to explain myself - but i am not heard - and the cycle continues. No matter what i do to try to have a conversation, W's pain and hurt is just too much.

Furthermore, i try to do everything she requests - she says it helps her, but the counselors have warned me that the information is detrimental. So, suffice to say - we seem to be doing a lot of additional damage.

We have had a good couple of weeks - but last night got completely blindsided by a trigger. I know that i cannot control them - and i have created this horrible life for her. I am prepared t for them - prepared to reassure her the best way i know how. What i am struggling with is how we can have a good couple of weeks with a lot of positives - and in one minute, i haven't done anything right.

I try to talk to her - but in a calm way without anger, but 3 hours into a heated yelling conversation (if you can call it that) . just too much. I know i am making a mistake by walking out of the room - but we are now just yelling stuff that don't make sense and are more hurtful than anything.

I love her more than anything. I am doing whatever i can to let her know that she is the most important person in my life - but she doesn't see it. She doesn't believe it. I intend to keep showing her for however long it takes.

My question . how do i be empathetic and take care of myself at the same time. When she is hurting and saying horrible things, questioning everything, etc. - i answer honestly, but then she doesn't listen or refuses to accept. One or two hours into - i lose my calm . i can't hold it anymore

I have created so much damage to my marriage and life. I want to reverse it and make amends - how does one do it if it feels like the other doesn't want to. How am i supposed to do it alone?

Sorry - for the vent .
Drowning here.

Deeply Scared posted 11/11/2013 16:20 PM


I want to reverse it and make amends - how does one do it if it feels like the other doesn't want to. How am i supposed to do it alone?

You can't reverse it...its there and now part of your marital history. There are something that you as the WS will have to shoulder and carry for the time being. I know it feels like you're doing everything alone, but I believe your wife is taking in all your actions...good and bad.

She's too hurt right not to participate in anything besides anger and pain. Be patient and be loving, even when it feels like she's being anything but those two things. It's hard...I know. It can feel as if you're up against the entire world and no one cares about you. You're just under a year from D-day, it's a huge rollercoaster of a ride for a couple years but things will smooth out, little by little.

Stay honest, stay focused and above all be patient with her. She needs that from you.

Aubrie posted 11/11/2013 16:29 PM

Welcome to SI.

What i am struggling with is how we can have a good couple of weeks with a lot of positives - and in one minute, i haven't done anything right.
Boy can I relate. Everything's peachy keen and then BOOM. The sky is blue? F*ck you for cheating. It rained today? Your fault! You cheated. I totally understand that. I think in those times, it's important to just be stable, consistent, and incredibly patient.

When she is hurting and saying horrible things, questioning everything, etc. - i answer honestly, but then she doesn't listen or refuses to accept. One or two hours into - i lose my calm
Make appointments with your wife to talk about the A. Give yourself a time limit. 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour. Whatever you two can agree on. I completely understand a BS's need to tear into the A, us, our whys, and all the insanity surrounding it. At the same time, we're not a punching bag. After 2 hours of going over everything, everyone's emotions are going to be high and it's just going to escalate the entire situation.

You stated that IC is not helping her. Maybe she needs a new one.

I agree with DS. You can't reverse this or get around it. You gotta go thru it.

Good luck and again, welcome.

StrongerOne posted 11/11/2013 20:19 PM

BS here -- since this is your first post, not sure you know that you don't have the stop sign up.

I'm curious about IC not working for your wife. Is that her perception, or yours? Maybe she needs a different IC. It's got to be hard for her to be working through everything with just you, since you are the person who hurt her and can't really give her an objective view.

Counselors (yours? Hers? Have you spoken with her counselor?) say the info is detrimental, but your BW says it's helpful. If she says she needs to hear it, then tell her. Who is the info detrimental to?

Aubrie's suggestion about setting appointments for talkng about the As is a good one, but you need to suggest it in the spirit of working through this together, doing what will be helpful to both of you and to your marriage. It can easily sound like you avoiding or weaseling.

I have to say that walking out is seriously counterproductive. My H did this for years after we were first together. OMG, it infuriated me. Regardless of your intent or your reasons for doing this, it is likely to be understand as disrespect, disinterest in what your BW has to say, avoidance, maybe even weakness. Try really really hard not to do it. Try suggesting a break for both of you to cool off.

It may be also that you are aiming at "conversation", but your BW just wants you to listen. You want to explain yourself, but your BW may be taking this as you belong defensive, or trying to explain something that makes no sense.

I do think that having a good couple of weeks is nothing to sneeze at, particularly since it has been less than a year since the last DDay (not 15 months, since you say you didnt come clean until Jan, of this year) and because there was a long time of deception. How long did you cheat on your BW and lie to her? More than a year? I'll tell you, at less than a year, we were fortunate to have a good couple of days. Weeks would have been nice. And while I didn't scream at my H, we had marathon exhausting sessions in which I know he felt really beat up. Hours. Because I had to get it out. Because he had to see and hear just how much pain I was in, how much pain he had caused -- it took that time for him to really start to get it. When he started yelling, I assure you it was a real set back. Because to my mind and heart, I didn't think he had any right to yell at me, to be angry at me.

Anyway, that's my perspective on what may be happening. It's good that you're posting here and looking for insight. Keep it up!

qwerty2012 posted 11/12/2013 09:46 AM

Thank you all.
I understand what I need to do - i just don't know how to do it.
Walking out - i completely understand. I try so hard - because emotions run so hot, nothing comes out of it - but more damage. I know myself enough that when i get frustrated and angry, i don't make sense and when i open my mouth i cause more damage with my irrational thoughts - just talking out of anger than anything. But i cannot keep quiet either - she wants a response and before i start a response, she is off to another question or topic.

BW has a checklist that i need to do - and i need to do it without expectations of a response. Furthermore, it is an all inclusive checklist . i have failed a number of times, and i keep getting another chance. If i don't do something, i automatically don't care or love her enough. I struggle with that everyday - because i love her like crazy - but just sometimes, the days run on auto-pilot and i prioritize her in other ways. Suffice to say, i have failed over and over again.

Regarding counseling we have a co-dependent relationship. I being the enabler - counselors have tried to correct my communication style. However, in this situation, that doesn't apply. Furthermore, both my counselor and 'our' counselor have said that going into details just create more clarity to the mental images - it becomes a playback in their mind. I have shared details - i have acted out details . in spite of them saying no, she says to screw them - they don't know her Because she knows what is best for her, she doesn't want counseling. She picks and choses what she wants and thinks that works for her.

I am being honest - i am focused on her - i am also being patient with her. I know what i have done - i regret and remorseful. I know i will have to carry this burden for the rest of my life . i know i can never set this right. However, i do know that our life together can be great - better than it ever was - provided we don't do additional damage with our words in our recovery.

What do you with words like
"Tell me . - or we are done"
"Tell them (kids) - or move out"
"Do it - or move out" .
. and then later tell me i had a choice.

I am sorry for the vent.
I know i deserve this - i accept it.
But after a marathon session of the same - over and over again - she still thinks i don't get it ..
I know the hurt i caused, i see it, i hear it, i feel it .
How do i be empathetic through all the hurt that i caused, and all the hurt we are causing each other .
She says my feelings don't matter . when she is hurting - but then she wants to know what i am feeling (because i have a problem with sharing) but that is another can of worms

If it feels like i am at wits end . i am .

StrongerOne - i think you nailed it when you said that i was wanting a conversation. Yes, i do want a conversation. BW obviously doesn't want one - she doesn't want me to just listen - she wants me to believe what she sees in me - that i don't love her or care for her. I do - but that is not how i have behaved .

Deeply Scared posted 11/12/2013 10:05 AM

But after a marathon session of the same - over and over again - she still thinks i don't get it

I remember the marathon sessions of endless questions and repeated can really wear you down.

What I would suggest is for your W to write out a list of questions. You then can both sit down together and you can answer her questions, one by one...not moving on to the next one until she feels satisfied with the answers you provided. After each question is answered, you both can time and date stamp that particular question. This comes in very handy later down the road because emotions are so high and volatile, that we tend to forget what's already been asked/answered.

I'm not suggesting that your wife can't revisit those questions...only giving you a tool so you both know it really has been talked about and that your answers haven't changed.

I know a lot of people suggest setting up specific times to only talk about the A. We never did wasn't even on my husbands radar because every day, all day and night was focused on my cheating. If you can work it with set times, that's just never happened for us. I wish it had

Dance4Me posted 11/12/2013 11:04 AM

Hi Q - wow - your post dday dynamics sound pretty similar to me and my FWH - even down to me not wanting IC for the same reasons as your wife.

You have been given a lot of great advice. I just wanted to add that your wife sounds so much like me. I had that initial dday too - but it took about four months of TT to get it all out - and it was me that snooped and found out additional information...what a hellish time!

The questioning, rehashing and anger stayed with me for such a long time. I can't give an exact time frame because these episodes got less and less over a few years (and for us - my then 14 year old daughter got very ill right after our first anti-versary, which side tract our healing.).

I just wanted to put it out there, that your wife, if she is like me, keeps going over all if it and getting angry with your answers or lack of empathy because deep down, she just wants your horrible past to just go away. I just wanted him to tell me that none of it truly happened - and that he never cheated.....but those words never came! By rehashing the pain and anger, I think it was my way to process it order to get to acceptance. Once I accepted that he had it it him to cheat - those hour long episodes became less and less, and we were able to move forward in a more positive direction.

I also believe that the more betrayal you inflict, the longer this whole healing process takes. You don't give specifics about your adultery, so I am assuming there were multiple women. One day I would be angry at his EAs, the next time I would be angry at his was all too much!

[This message edited by Dance4Me at 11:05 AM, November 12th (Tuesday)]

20WrongsVs1 posted 11/12/2013 17:35 PM

You need help with empathy? Boy howdy, can I relate! To say I was empathy challenged is a massive understatement.

This is the best nine bucks you'll ever spend.

Nonviolent Communication
by Rosenberg. It is a step-by-step empathy primer.

Card posted 11/12/2013 19:16 PM

But after a marathon session of the same - over and over again - she still thinks i don't get it ..
I know the hurt i caused, i see it, i hear it, i feel it .
How do i be empathetic through all the hurt that i caused, and all the hurt we are causing each other .

Do you know why AA is successful for helping alcoholics?

Because it's one drunk helping another! They get it when it comes to the inability to stay sober. They understand each other because they've walked in the same shoes. They have empathy for each other! I know, I've been a clean and sober member of AA for 31 years now....

Why does your wife say you don't get it when she's talking to you? Because you don't. You've never been betrayed! Your not a member of that club, because you're actually the perpetrator. Make sense? Its like AA, you don't know unless you've walked in those shoes....

Look, this is a process much like working the 12 steps. You work at cleaning up the mess that you've created by working a recovery program. The solution for you is you must work the steps... All 12! In quick order too.... And you must find a marital recovery program similar to the AA program to help with the marital recovery.

I only know what worked for my marriage, and we used the Marriage Builders Program for recovering our marriage.

I highly recommend you STOP defending yourself or you will never find empathy.

Do you defend why you drank? Of course not, there is no excuse.

Do you examine and answer questions? Yes!

If you are defensive, then you still are rationalizing why you did what you did. And there is no rationalization for it.... Find a way to stop your defensiveness....

When questions arise,,,,,Answer sincerely, being rigorously honest with yourself and with your wife, just like AA teaches. No defense, no excuses. With one caveat, when done answering questions, remind your wife that your not that same person today.... You might not get it all yet, but your still not that same person....

As has already been mentioned, be very patient with her. She has been deeply wounded.

*Empathy starts when you realize YOU are currently one of her greatest sources of pain and yet she stays with you hoping you will again become one of her greatest sources of love.

*Empathy starts when you are aware that the only time she doesn't think about the adultery, during the first two years, is when she's asleep.....

Stay the course, One day at a time!

Taurus517 posted 11/13/2013 01:05 AM

Qwerty, great post because its the same way I feel just didnt know how to put it into words. If I didnt know any better I thought wrote this myself. This post is really helping me understand this as well and I can say just take the positive and apply and definitely dont walk out and get angry afterwards. I have been doing that previously then started getting better at it then recently relapsed back into getting angry after awhile. It makes it worst, if you have to make point or state your opinion it can wait till your wife calms down. You can write it down as well and then give your explanation or opinion the next day when everything is calmer. I need to apply this myself more often as well, like I said I think we are on the same boat.

We caused this mess and we have to be patient and strong to handle the anger that our BW is going through. To truly fully understand we have to allow them to vent no matter if our feelings get hurt by what they say out of anger. Once its out, they will calm down from it and then the discussion can start over again. It will be a cycle. We put ourselves in this position so we have to take responsibilities for our actions no matter how big or small.

In this situation there is only one option and that is take it day by day. With us doing the A, the triggers will be there and you cant predict it so have to live it at the moment.

You get past this and slowly it will get better. So you are not alone I'm in the same position as you are right and everything you said I can relate. Wish you the best.

JustDesserts posted 11/13/2013 09:42 AM

@Card: 31 years sober? You're making me feel like a pup with my 18. But wait, I did drugs, too! Congrats, is what I'm trying to say.

End t/j.

To our poster: welcome. You are showing guts and willingness. A great start. If you do storm out again during an argument (and trying not to is optimal) please go to a meeting. Bring up acceptance as a topic. Or resentments (a huge one for me) as I HATED not getting my way and not being able to be selfish. Still do, to an extent.

You're in the swamp, chest deep, and it's gonna be rough for the foreseeable future. Help is right here. It takes guts to ask for it. Keep coming back.


[This message edited by JustDesserts at 9:43 AM, November 13th (Wednesday)]

Bikingguy posted 11/13/2013 12:27 PM

Have you read "The power of empathy" by AR Maslow?

BS here, but I also lack empathy. I just thought it was because I was analytical, and not very emotional. The book was a really good read. Taught me new technics to express myself without being defensive. I have read many books this year and to be honest they start to blend into one, but I do recall this being a fairly easy read and helpful.

qwerty2012 posted 11/18/2013 10:54 AM

Thank you all.
Started on 'Nonviolent Communication' - good read so far.
Still waiting on how to communicate 'through' the anger and hate ...

I am logical - very black and white - and very methodical. Even my communication skills are very methodical - if this, then do that ....
There is no logic to the devastation i created ...

I think my BS said it correctly .... when she is feeling the hurt, my feelings don't matter .... no matter what is said (nothing she says is comparable to what i did anyway).

Fundamentally i need to suppress my own anger and feelings during the emotional talks - and focus on her feelings ....
(she has been saying that for a long time now .... another epic fail on my part for not listening to her).

20WrongsVs1 posted 11/18/2013 12:57 PM

Have you read Taurus517's recent post Feelings?

You two are going through a very similar experience.

heartache101 posted 11/18/2013 14:04 PM


Look I tore my husband up with yelling screaming threw a few things etc. etc. etc.

His counselor told him to suck it up and take it.
Now my take is have her journal her anger. What is it that makes her angry? Then sit aside x amount of hours a week to hash it out yell it out. I wish my spouse would of enrolled me in kick boxing I would of tore that up! So get her active...Running a treadmill bike something that she can burn that anger out on. Is she mad you bet. She has to get this out of her system now. In a healthy way.

Learn to communicate. When she journals she can see if it is a constant anger or maybe something is setting it off.. Maybe she will allow you to read her journal?? I wanted my spouse to see how pissed I was and what he did.

I am glad you are 9 months sober!! YaY!! A positive step. Keep moving forward positive you will get there!

cantaccept posted 12/6/2013 04:17 AM


qwerty2012 posted 12/6/2013 14:04 PM

((cantaccept)) Thank you for the timely bump.

Rosenberg's book has been very helpful. I've been told by counselors never to address the content / personalize the content of what is said in anger - but dig into the level underneath .... but i was never given the tools to do it. The book provides some tools - and more importantly has been helping me communicate my feelings better.

Now, I know she is hurting - i know she is wanting reassurance, wanting to know she is the one for me, wanting to know that i am committed to getting better, wanting to know that she is my priority, etc. I fail at showing her consistently ...

Anger is still there. She hasn't been able to do stuff for herself - hurt/pain is making it too hard for her. I am being supportive and present for her ... but "my presence is a trigger" for her. I still communicate to her - and convey my remorse .... but i must be missing something, as i don't know if the message getting across. I keep at it ....

Letting go off expectations and building on doing things selflessly has been a challenge .... i keep tripping. I feel like the frog climbing the well sometimes - 1 step forward, 10 steps back ...

[This message edited by qwerty2012 at 2:49 PM, December 6th (Friday)]

womaninflux posted 12/6/2013 14:51 PM

I'm married to a recently dx SAWH. It's been tough. Has your BS gotten therapy? Has she read up on SA? It's important that she realizes that she is not the cause of what you chose to do. Therapy and reading about SA will help her understand this.

Aubrie gave good advice. I will add that if things get contentious and heated, agree before hand that you will take a break and agree on a time to reconvene. Things need to be processed and understood. It all needs to come out. I felt that I did not know what I needed to heal from because my husband was TT from April til about a month ago. I only recently got a timeline of the A. And that timeline doesn't even include the porn addiction component of his issues. I think it played a significant role in behaviors that led to the affair (AP certainly looks like a porn star).

And, at a certain point, she is going to have to make a choice - live in the past or live in the present. Unfortunately, with your past behavior, you have taught her that she can't trust you and she has to re-learn to trust you - under the worst circumstances possible.

astudentoflife posted 12/6/2013 19:53 PM

As a formerly abusive man (I guess one can never be a formerly abusive man, I can only be mindful of myself at all times.) I can relate to your emotional discussions.

Here is some practical advice to you, to limit the damage and maybe start to heal. First thing, listen when your wife is speaking. Do not try to defend yourself, if you are like me you have done the indefensible. Listen and then take your turn to speak when your wife is done talking. While she is talking LISTEN to what she says and "suck it up", I don't like that phrase really. It is really listening to pain and trying to feel her pain. Sometimes it may help if you simply hug her, take her hand and say "I know that was a terrible thing I did." Sometimes that is what it takes, a simple recognition of your horrible behavior.

If you do respond, use your words carefully. Think about how they sound and always ask yourself if you are defending the indefensible. You are not a horrible person. You may have FOO issues or any other number of issues. Your wife is not ready to hear that. She needs respite from her own pain. When she starts to feel safe venting her feelings to you and knowing that you are listening, things change very rapidly.

Most importantly. When you have been going at it for hours and you are starting to feel like the worst shit in the world, there is an option, rather than walking out, say "I need a time out. I am beginning to feel not in control of myself and I need a break." Give her a time frame. Say twenty minutes and check back in with her. If you still feel that way, let her know. Let her know that to be productive and not to inflict more damage, that you need more time. Do not abuse this. Do not use it simply because you don't want to hear what she has to say. Use it wisely and respectfully. Always let her know that you are willing to come back to the discussion when you are able to be helpful.

Realize that the above can be met with derision and maybe even some contempt. That is natural and unavoidable at times. Just know that you are doing the right thing and continue to do that. Do not lose hope, the respect and caring that you show in doing these things will have an impact on your wife and help her to feel safe talking to you.

I have learned these lessons the hard way. I have learned though that in doing these things, even if my wife stops talking, curses me and goes off to another room for the night, I will not feel the guilt that I felt in the past and that stacked up on itself until I had a major blowout and caused more horrible damage to our relationship. This is the start of having integrity. By doing these things you will begin to show your wife that you have self control and that is something I suspect your wife does not feel right at this moment.

Believe me when I say that when you start to have a different view of yourself, the results will compound and give you more strength and courage. You will only start to have different view of yourself when you change your behavior.

I don't think you lack empathy. You lack the ability to hear things about yourself that you don't like, the truth. To have empathy, simply put yourself in your wife's shoes and imagine what it is like. Don't think about you or your "reasons" for your bad behavior, think about being at the receiving end and really feel what that must be like.

astudentoflife posted 12/6/2013 20:03 PM

I know i don't deserve to live nor do i deserve her for my pathetic existence

Stop with this nonsense. :) Of course you "deserve" to live, you are a human being. A human being who has caused great pain to another. Your wife makes the decision to whether or not you "deserve" her and from my point of view she is still there and still trying, give her the honor that deserves and become the man that she sees. Let that give you pause and the courage to become that man, unless you think your wife is crazy. I am betting that you don't think she is crazy now do you.

Pages: 1 · 2

Return to Forum List

© 2002-2018 ®. All Rights Reserved.