Dave called me several months ago and began the conversation with: “Dr Fiore. My wife said I needed to work on myself . She asked me to leave home for awhile until she could sort things out in her head regarding the future of our marriage.”
“What do you need to work on,” I asked the distraught caller.
“I don’ t know for sure, doc. She just said I never listen to her and that she doesn’t feel an emotional connection with me like she used to.”
“I think she wants me to be a better person, but I’m not sure what this is or how how to do that. But I said I’d contact a psychologist to find out….so here I am”
Truthfully, I get many calls like this. I am Dr Tony fiore, a psychologist, marriage counselor and anger coach who specializes in helping ailing couples resolve conflicts and feel closer to each other by improving communiation.
To do this, I almost always start by introducing the concept of “empathy.” When I mentioned this to Dave, he responded like many husbands do…..empathy? I guess I have it but I never really thought about it. “I think she said something about I don’t have enough of it, but frankly, I don’t know what she means.”
Another well-meaning but clueless husband. This, even after 30 years of marriage and 2 children who, by the way, are also irritated with him because of his poor communication skills.
“Well, what happened recently that prompted her to be upset with you?” I asked.
Dave sadly continued his narrative: “We just returned from what I thought was a very nice vacation wilderness camping. But, she didn’t talk to me all the way home. Finally she exploded and said she was tired of my bullying her into always doings things my way. She said she didn’t want to go wilderness camping but finally agreed to go because I insisted and made her feel guilty if she didn’t go along with the program.
“She yelled at me that I never take her feelings into account when I do things or make plans.”
This seemed like a good time to explain the basics of empathy to Joe and help him better understand his frustrated and distraught wife.
I then gave him an audio to listen to about empathy which explains that empathy has four aspects to it and some husbands are better at one aspect than another.
The next week I asked him what his thoughts were and what he had learned:
“Looking back, I guess I was a real a-hole. I was oblivious.”. Said Joe thoughtfully.
“I have always been very inpatient and quickly irritable..always trying to win a point instead of listening. I always did what I wanted instead of asking my wife and family what they wanted.”
“I should have learned about empathy the day of my marriage. Things would have been a hell of a lot better for all of us.”
This course is designed to help people like Joe- before it is too late.
Before they get kicked out of their marriage by their desperate wives who can’t take it any more.
Wives often tell me their husbands basically are good men, but are clueless when it comes to understanding their needs or listening to them in a way that they feel heard. They also lament that they are oblivious to how others (even close friends) are seeing them and they march through life like titans of war instead of like loving husbands and fathers. Often, clueless husbands…
Do you recognize yourself as a clueless husband when it comes to empathy? Do you think you need to be here or you like bewildered mosquito in a mummy convention feeling quite out of place?
Let’s find out by listening to Mary and Stu, a couple married 23 years who are having dinner with each other:
GET VOICE OVER ON THIS
Mary:(sweetly) “please rinse the pasta bowl after you serve yourself so we don’t stain the porcelean by letting it sit.”
Stu:(irritated) ” Porcelan won’t stain. Everybody knows that.. Quite treating me like a child.”
Mary🙁 hurt and defensive)“I’m not treating you like a child. My grandmother gave me that bowl and I’d hate to ruin it.”
Stu:(now in attack mode, and sarcastic)) “Do you want me to call Uncle Jerry who sells porcelean and ask him if you can stain it with pasta sauce?”
Mary:(with contempt)”You’re such a child.”
Stu: (Full defensive mode, dismissive of wife’s feelings)“You are always trying to control my life. I am 62 years old and don’t need you to tell me about stains in a pasta bowl. The problem with you is you have OCD and you are hormonal.”
If you are a husband and you see nothing wrong with how Stu dealt with Mary’s simple request, you are a husband who needs to be here and learn more about empathy. You are indeed empathy challenged.
If you are a wife and see nothing wrong with how Mary dealt with Stu, you also need to be here because you can benefit from learning how to better handle your husband’s lack of empathy skills- to both avoid emotional disconnection now and also help him be more empathetic in the future in a way to better get your emotional needs met..
Let’s get started……..