• Robin Parry

Can we have too much Empathy?

If you have an abusive husband or partner then the short answer is yes. It is a quality that is exploitable and which traps women (also men in some instances) in abusive relationships. At the same time it is a very desirable quality that we value in others and promote in our children. It is what makes us human but to help abused women to help themselves this quality needs to be reined in. Empathy is the foundation of a good relationship but not if one party lacks it.

Abusive husbands behave appallingly at times and later expect forgiveness or at least forgetfulness. If their abused partners accept their contrition or their rationale (e.g. effect of childhood abuse) empathy comes into play and the abusive husband's unacceptable behaviour is set aside as something they “couldn’t help” because of their “damaging childhood.” This does not help the abused woman. It traps her and lets her abusive husband off the hook. He needs to take responsibility for change. She needs to rein in her empathy.

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