Empathy: A Game Changer in Recovery

In today's video, Samuel discusses empathy and it's power in recovery to change the atmosphere of almost any situation following infidelity and affairs in a relationship.

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Good information.

Empathy is much much needed in recovery. I am a betrayed spouse and for a year it was what was missing. But I think some of that was because my husband was just sorry he got caught. Maybe not for the whole year but for awhile and in talking with others both betrayed and unfaithful I think that is pretty common. The unfaithful even if they want the marriage and dump the AP or really work to get out of the porn addiction they have to deal with some of their own junk before they move to the place of I am genuinely sorry I did what I did.
However, I want and need (and I think others will agree) to see TRUE EMPATHY. Not just words but emotions that display hey I really do get it. I have really thought about how I would feel in the same situation as I have put you in and I am trying very hard to actually imagine the emotions you feel. Genuine empathy, genuine emotions, and genuine remorse are a healing balm to me and I am sure other betrayed. And don't try to fake it. I have seen fake. I know the unfaithful is an accomplished liar and has the ability to snowball me. So at first I Was not sure if I could trust what he was saying or even showing. But when he has been truly genuine and are consistent with that it goes along way towards helping me heal. I have to know he understand my pain and appreciates the work I am doing to heal. For me it has had to be genuine empathy.
Just my thoughts.

good point SLM

great point on TRUE empathy. the struggle is, I think empathy develops over time and the best empathy comes later down the road, as long as the unfaithful spouse wants and works at getting healthy. it's a progression for many. and, as the progression continues, the empathy gets wider and richer for the most part. i get that you want to see genuine empathy and for those who are deep into their struggle/addiction/affair etc, it unfortunately takes time to see it develop.

Empathy taught or felt?

Is empathy a learned response you nurture over time or is it due to a breakthrough in recovery?

I'm the betrayed and i have yet to see consistent empathy or fruit from it.

I'm in the same boat. I have

I'm in the same boat. I have yet to feel my husband feels empathy towards me for what he has done.
How far along in recovery are you?

grace0228...it's both unfortunately...

i think it's both. at least it was for me. i learned empathy through what i read, and listened to and studied and participated in. but, i nurtured it as well through discussions with samantha and the like. it has to be nurtured. how long have you both been pursuing recovery and what recovery work has your spouse done? i had exceptional help but also followed the advice of a few people and found my empathy develop over time as a result of the work i did. it doesn't come over night. not real empathy that is. it also will evolve and get richer and deeper and more meaningful over time. there absolutely must be consistency and fruit but it depends on how long you've been at it and what work you've done. if there isn't fruit and consistency, it would have me worried for sure. if you'll share more on how long and what work you've done i'll be able to shed more light on it. thank you again for commenting.

6 years ...

I have been in recovery for years. We have been to EMS. I did harboring hope before. Nothing has been consistent except the ambivalence. He blames me for almost everything that has happened in some form. The affairs haven't stopped.

the affairs....

grace0228, i'm so sorry for the pain of it all. if you've done these things, and he's not changed or at least shown some consistency AND if the affairs haven't stopped, something is terribly wrong. i would have huge concerns if I was you and I would probably pull away significantly then. if after that level of help and insight, and he's still not showing any consistency and if he's not stopping the affairs, unfortunately he doesn't sound serious at all hence, there isn't going to be much empathy at all as he's clouded by his affairs and clouded by his inability to see how his actions are hurting you and affecting you. does that make sense? it's really sad and concerning he would still act that way after getting good quality help. i would pull back, insist on getting better help and even consider a separation if the affairs are not stopping and he continues to be ambivalent. just my thoughts on it my friend.

Knowledge isn't equal to action

We did get good help. I have an appointment with Rick coming up. However, the help is only as good as the application I guess. Just as we can read the bible daily but it doesn't live through us until we apply it. Words on paper don't change anything.

He would take steps but they weren't consistent. He says I wasn't consistent either...

I have tried so hard to recognize where I fell short in our marriage and ask forgiveness. I didn't do it perfectly, I know... But he still resents me and has such anger at me. I can't explain it, but I just don't have anger towards him? I guess God has helped me forgive. I have pain but not anger.

Thank you for taking time to answer me. I sincerely appreciate the advice.

its my pleasure to help as best i can

rick will certainly know what you should do and how you should approach it. consistency is key, with the understanding that the goal is progress not perfection. it sounds to me though that you've not seen MUCH progress at all and that is concerning for sure. owning your part is helpful, but at some level, his own initiative and 'want to' has to kick in.....if it's not kicked in at this point, rick will help contextualize if there's a deep concern or if it's pretty normal in your particular context and situation.

He is...

Reading his bible now and says he's searching for Gods answers. I am as well.

As a betrayed spouse, you

As a betrayed spouse, you couldn't have said this better.
My husband is not an empathetic person in general and I know he has a very hard time showing empathy towards me in my recovery. So much so that I find it difficult to even believe that he is sorry or feels remorse at all.
Perhaps he is sorry but it is hard for me to believe anything he says because of all of the times he has lied to me.
I feel that he is not being genuine when he does say he's sorry. Or perhaps his concern is just pretend to get me to stop crying, stop yelling, stop hurting.
We are a year and a half into recovery and he watches these videos so hopefully something will "click" at some point. Maybe it already has and I just refuse to see it but my gut tells me that's not the case.
I didn't listen to my gut feelings for years about my husband and I regretted it so I'm trying hard to pay better attention this time around.
I find these videos and the blog extremely helpful and I don't know if I would've stayed married this long if I had not of stumbled upon them a few days after my discovery day...so thank you for that.

thank you peggy..

incredibly kind and encouraging. thank you for sharing and for watching. means a ton. i'm so glad you're doing well and moving forward and that he watches as well. a huge roadblock and rightly so for a betrayed is believing they mean it when they say they are sorry....however, they probably do mean it, but 1. wont do the work 2. wont stay consistent 3. won't get outside help 4. won't be vulnerable 5. won't allow the process to work, so momentum is lost and then sometimes never regained or it takes sooooooooo long to regain it, many betrayed simply can't keep staying in a destructive situation. when an unf spouse gets it and shows empathy and consistently demonstrates they get it (not perfectly, but consistently) i've yet to see many betrayed spouses bail and quit. just the facts. thank you again.


Samuel - you are right on target! Empathy is essential to sustained recovery. Some individuals are naturally empathic, for those that are not it, can be learned - https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/threat-management/201303/i-dont-fee...
For me, when my spouse came out of her "affair fog" and her ambivalence fell away, her natural emphatic self re-appeared. Our journey to recovery started in earnest! Her ability to demonstrate to me that she understands the pain she has inflicted upon me, in our marriage and especially for me to see that pain in her now, gives me great hope for our full recovery. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.

Thank you for that link!

Thank you for that link!

thank you boris...

good points my friend. thank you for posting and watching. you said it wonderfully.....

It goes both ways

Great job as always. As the betrayed, I have to say I felt empathy goes both ways. Once I was able to stop my own bleeding, and get beyond the shock and the anger and to see more clearly, I developed empathy for my unfaithful husband. When I decided that healing was the only option for me and I became healthy, I began to see the struggle that he would have for the rest of his life. Yes, I will always have a bruise or a scar, if you will, he will always live in sort of that "self-jail" that you refer Samuel.

While I do not accept the blame for his decision or condone the choices he made, I feel badly that for the rest of the days that he is in his right mind, he will remember the bad decisions he made. His kids will always know what happened, his parents, our friends, his former job, etc. He will face God on judgement day owning this. None of that makes me feel good now (trust me, during the anger stages it sure did) now, I feel for him. Sometimes, as we were healing, it was me that had to extend empathy to him--sometimes, when I see the pain on his face or a tear in his eye during a discussion or when we are watching a movie or at a marriage seminar; it feels good to extend a hand and experience empathy together. You may think I am crazy and three to four years ago, I would have thought this to be outlandish myself.

Empathy truly goes both ways, I think, at the right time in the right place. Do you see empathy on the healing journey that way?

It goes both ways.

Thank you for this. I know the post isn’t recent. I jus happened upon it. Just what I needed to hear at just the right time. I have lived in anger since d day 14 months ago. Just today I have felt empathy for my unfaithful husband. He is working towards healing and making progress. We both have. But for me I’ve been so angry and hurt that I couldn’t see straight. I’ve prayed for the ability to see him through God’s eyes. Im beginning to. I hope this continues because I feel lighter.

It goes both ways.

Thank you for this. I know the post isn’t recent. I jus happened upon it. Just what I needed to hear at just the right time. I have lived in anger since d day 14 months ago. Just today I have felt empathy for my unfaithful husband. He is working towards healing and making progress. We both have. But for me I’ve been so angry and hurt that I couldn’t see straight. I’ve prayed for the ability to see him through God’s eyes. Im beginning to. I hope this continues because I feel lighter.


100%on the mark

Empathy has been very powerful in my recovery

Samuel, you got it right in my opinion.

As a betrayed spouse, the empathy my wife has been able to show has been a key element in helping me through the worst of times. We are 11 months post D-day and she has struggled all along the way with empathy. She would show moments of great concern and caring and then retreat into shame and guilt by ignoring and evading and pretending normal. At first I couldn't understand how she could react this way after her affair. I felt like I had to teach her how to show compassion for someone. It just didn't seem like it was in her and I took her lack of initiative and action as her lack of remorse and sincerity. But as I learn more about the skill of empathy I'm beginning to see that it is something learned and not all necessarily God given. I have seen the progress my wife has made in this area. I've seen the light bulb come on 2 or 3 times in our recovery and with each she improves. She has always struggled with communicating her emotions and still does, but when I see her really trying to break her habit of shutting down, and instead, owning her bad choices and initiate the expression of her thoughts and feelings with empathy it gives me hope that full recovery is possible.

I can't tell you how much your V blogs mean to me. Watch them religiously. Thanks for taking the time to serve the affair community with all of your experience and advice.

Unrealistic Expectations

Samuel, to start with, thank you for your blogs. They are great and I admire you and your recovery. But here is the problem. I want the same from my wife! I want her to be so brutally open and honest about all the aspects of betrayal as you are! But how realistic is this? I may be painting a picture of what an ideal recovery may look like but ultimately be unhappy or disappointed because she did not recover like you? So the question to you is: what are the absolute must haves that are an indicator of a sufficient recovery? If we can't have it all, what can we do without?

great question xooo748...

the struggle is timeline. it really depends. keep in mind, i'm 10 years down the road. it took time, rick taking me to the woodshed, hours of reading, processing, praying, crying, yelling, screaming, insanity, and a whole lot more. so, i'm not the comparison stick at all as i've blown it a ton of times and made a ton of mistakes. there are a few things though that are must haves and these are not exhaustive and i haven't put a ton of time thinking about it, but off the top of my head and in an effort to respond quickly here are a few things at the core of recovery: 1. eventual empathy, as it takes time and will develop over time. i'd say over about a 2 to 5 year process you'll see empathy get deeper and deeper, richer and richer. it has to show up in communication, processing, during fights, in some form of communication and demeanor there must be empathy. 2. safety. she must live a safe life eventually. if she is not willing to live 'safely' for you and for her, problems will occur. 3. patience. it's a process. there are layers to it. it takes time, and energy and the right work ethic to push through those layers and get at the root of what's going on. 4. a commitment to do whatever it takes. this is between 6 and 12 months or so after disclosure. there has to be a time when she says, i'm willing to do whatever it takes. proportionate to what work you do will be her empathy, her dedication, her 'whatever it takes' attitude. if there's these things we have a problem (at least over time) 1. perpetual indifference. 2. laziness in recovery work 3. unsafe living, see this article: https://www.affairrecovery.com/shocking-truth-about-trust-0 4. lack of competency in recovery, see above article as well for section on competency and safety as well as a blog about it. 5. refusal to get outside expert help. i hope all this helps. i'm open to keeping dialogue going if you like. talk soon and thanks for your kind words.

Right on (again)

Right on--we are having trouble because he has no empathy. I have no control over watching over him to see if he's still cheating, and I couldn't stop him anyway if that's what he wants to do. The good days that we have (2 weeks at a time) build him up to the point where he thinks the problem is over and has no patience or empathy with me having triggers. It's 6 months since discovery with a 34 year marriage. I am devastated, and he doesn't get it. It's all about him and his shame, not about me and the hurt that I'm left with.

Your ministry (videos) are refreshing because it gives me perspective, and he is a fan of yours also. He's just not putting them into the plan for saving our marriage.

Excellent Video

As a betrayed spouse, this video is on the money. I would love to see this covered early in the program and this video really brings the point home. My UW agrees wholeheartedly. We have been going through our trauma for over 3 years and I believe now that we are starting to have honesty, this will be the missing link to healing.

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