A lack of empathy in relationships can lead to a lot of frustration, anger, and resentment - both for adults and children. It leaves people with a feeling that, "She really doesn't understand me." "He really doesn't know me." "They aren't listening to me!"
Here are some examples I'd like to share about adult relationships:
I have a friend who wants a women's two-wheeled bike. She had hurt herself on a men's bike with the bar across the top; it was difficult to get on and off; and it just wasn't a pleasant experience for her to ride. Which if you're going to go for a bike ride for pleasure . . . well this wouldn't be the way to do it.
Her husband lacks empathy in that he doesn't understand why she can't just ride the men's bikes they have so that they don't have to buy another one and have one more bike to deal with. He doesn't seem to be able to relate with an experience of his own where he is uncomfortable or has had similar feelings. (As a Real Love woman, I can think of many ways to deal with this situation. If you're interested in knowing more about Greg Baer's work visit www.reallove.com).
The examples in my own marriage abound - I could write books on them! One that strikes me is how much more spontaneous I am than my husband. He likes to plan most things and think about them before he makes a decision (although he does have a spontaneous side too.) For the longest time it drove me crazy to have to plan things, and to have to think everything through before making a decision.
I'm sure it drove him nuts that I wanted to just do this or that or go here or there or buy this or that without thinking through what would happen or what the best option would be.
A lack of empathy can come into play very easily when things happen to others that have not happened to us. A miscarriage or still birth, job loss, loss of a child or spouse, difficulty conceiving children, an abusive marriage, etc. If we have not gone through these things, its likely that we may have sympathy, but not empathy. And that can put up barriers in relationships.
It's so important in these situations to listen and just be there for people, but not to pretend to "know" how they feel or say any such thing. It's also important to help others in situations where we can relate. I believe one reason God allows us to go through things is so that we can have empathy for others.
In our family our youngest had difficulty eating until she was 17 months. It was a scary time, extremely stressful, draining, worrysome, prayerful, and at times overwhelming from the weight of it all. It put a tremendous strain on our marriage and our other two children. Hospital visits, therapy, medications, and the constant threat of illness and losing even more weight she didn't have to lose, all kept us in a constant state of stress.
Thankfully, by the grace of God, our little one was helped through chiropractic care and our lives literally turned around after one adjustment. Since then I've been able to help others who have had similar difficulties with their children and be there to listen and empathize.
Continue to to learn the first step in moving away from a lack of empathy and becoming an empathetic person.
Recommended Resources to Learn About a Lack of Empathy