Empathy is defined as being there for someone, putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, building rapport and showing compassion for the other person. The opposite of empathy is apathy and indifference; not caring what the other person is going through.
It is interesting because the opposite of love is also indifference, not hatred. I can love you and be mad at you at the same time but at least I care. Indifference is not even caring. Like constantly saying, “whatever!”
We live in a world where empathy is becoming a lost art, something that “feeling” people do but not for us intellectuals or narcissists. Life is all about “me” and you just go deal with your own feelings, bruises, and mishaps.
Carol Sheets, LCSW in her book, Help Her Heal, presents the AVR formula for showing empathy for a spouse after infidelity. It can also be used to improve any relationship communication issue, infidelity or not.
A – Acknowledge: that you understand how what you’ve done has caused her anguish, lack of trust, and a sense that your whole relationship was built on a lie.
V- Validate – that you’ve seen physically, emotionally and spiritually how this has affected her.
R- Reassure her that you will do whatever it takes to build the trust back with her.
Empathy is only effective when it can be accepted by the betrayed partner. When the betrayed or hurt partner can’t find her shoes for you to step into, you cannot be empathic. You can’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes if she doesn’t know how your actions are affecting her negatively or refuses to accept and forgive you.
Acceptance and forgiveness does not mean approval. I can accept the fact that you have a problem and did something that hurt me deeply. I may not be ready to forgive you, but even if I do forgive you it does not mean I approve of what you did. It just means I want to move forward and expect you to do whatever it takes for you to heal, stop lying, stop cheating and make me your priority.