Empathy Dysfunction (EmD) Is More Common Than You Think

You’d think that everyone has at least a little bit of empathy, right? Contrary to this popular belief, I’ve discovered that this is not so. Some people have no empathy at all, while others display a limited measure of empathy. That’s why Empathy Dysfunction (EmD), although it isn’t a household term, is so important to understand. It explains so much about the state we’re in these days.I’ve spent over 40 years observing and treating people with a variety of problems, such as narcissists, sociopaths, autistics, alcoholics, and the brain-injured. What do they all have in common? Empathy Dysfunction (EmD). The one constant I’ve discovered among all of these is that their problem with empathy causes the greatest damage to their relationships.

These are a few examples of Empathy Dysfunction (EmD):

  • Your wallet is stolen by someone who looked you in the eye.
  • Your good friend lies to you repeatedly.
  • Your loved ones accuses you of interfering when you try to rescue them from their harmful choices
  • Your heart breaks when your children turn against you.

Empathy Dysfunction (EmD) also explains most of the problems we experience in our NT/AS relationships. As far as I am concerned it’s the most important factor. Once you have mastered the mysteries of your Aspie loved ones Empathy Dysfunction (EmD), you stand a much better chance of surviving and even enlivening your relationship.

It’s not that I have a cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Far from it. But I do get it. I get that they don’t get us. They don’t think like us. They don’t think about us. They don’t plan their lives around their relationships. They don’t know themselves in relation to us.

It’s such a conundrum, isn’t it? We spend every waking moment considering others. It’s not that we’re self-serving martyrs. Rather it’s just natural to think about the thoughts of others, to consider how they may feel about our actions, and to get why others think the way they do even if we disagree. That’s empathy. We have it. They don’t.

It’s freeing to have this realization, so that you’re never again stuck in the despair of wondering what’s going on, or if you’re loved, or if you’re wasting your time seeking to be understood from an Aspie who doesn’t seek understanding at all.

I have a lot to say about Empathy Dysfunction (EmD), because I’ve just finished writing a book about it. It’s entitled “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you.” Download your free copy of the first chapter, “No One Calls Me Mom”. Of course not all of our Aspies are hell-bent on destroying us, but it feels like it some days, doesn’t it?

6 Replies to “Empathy Dysfunction (EmD) Is More Common Than You Think”

  1. I look forward to the conclusions on this month’s video conference because my Aspie husband makes decisions on his own and it can be a shock when I find things out. His brother is the same so they worked behind my back regarding his ex. when she wanted money. So people go behind my back.
    He hates conflict and gives anyone but me what they want. People describe him as ‘soft’ (me a bully, hurt fully) but they he isn’t soft to me and actually I feel as though he hates me. We aren’t a team or close friends, don’t chat. It can leave one feeling anxious.
    I am not interested in sex, possibly due to this psychological coldness. It would be like intimacy with a robot.
    At 73 it’s important to enjoy the good things in my life. There isn’t anyone else out there to laugh with and share love.
    Another subject is the absence of NT friends. I blame myself for having few friends but the aspie uses a visit as a time to wind me up in front of people (“see how she treats me”). If I react, I look bad.
    The Aspie plays the injured partner who needs sympathy coping with this woman. It’s a set up but we don’t have couple friends much so I am lonlier than ever. We should do things together but he just isn’t companionable

    1. Sue, I can identify 100%. I’m also in my 70’s, married 30 yrs to my Aspie husband (2nd marriage for both) I only found out he was on the autism spectrum 8 yrs ago. Early on when we were both working fulltime it wasn’t ‘quite’ as difficult dealing with his actions. We weren’t together 24/7. Now we’re both retired and this being ‘alone together’ is huge. We also have no social life outside of our children’s birthday get togethers. He has zero ability to make any conversation or small talk so he avoids going ‘out’ to socialize with others. I so envy others who are able to enjoy being together with friends. He can also make extremely hurtful comments to me and not even realize, or care, how it makes me feel. He blurts out anything he perceives to be “the truth”, not caring how his words/actions affect others. Apologies are unheard of as he probably thinks it’s not necessary. It’s a very lonely life. Not the senior retirement I had visualized many years ago.

  2. Since separating from my husband after 40 yrs together, I discovered your book Going Over The Edge which was the ultimate revelation about the life I had been living. Reading some chapters was a literal jaw dropping experience. Undiagnosed, but knows he’s v dyslexic & regarded as slightly eccentric, my husband is very, very bright, runs his own v successful technical business and to most people ( including me for a long time) appears v sociable & charming.
    As he ages, he’s become more extreme in his opinions & is always right, becoming uncharacteristically really v nasty to me.
    In order to start to repair our relationship, how do I introduce the idea that he is v high functioning autistic in a way he will accept or consider? He’s had therapy, but I don’t think it’s ever been identified or mentioned to him. Indeed one therapist apparently said she still didn’t know who he was after many months as he says what he thinks people want to hear rather than be honest.
    All of our marital probs that led to separating many months ago were MY fault. Too emotional, too demanding ( really not! My whole adult life a has been mopping up behind him and supporting his life & career) daring to have different opinions about life & politics (another Brexit casualty!)
    How do I broach the subject?

  3. Dear Sue,
    I understand every word of your saga, and I truly empathize with you. My journal entries over the past ten years of marriage to a man with HFA and EmD reveal countless episodes of the pain of being misunderstood, ignored, and labeled as the antagonist in our families. If only I would behave in his rational, disconnected manner then all would be well. My saving grace was to become educated on autism’s curious & curiouser neurodiverse behaviors and stay active in a neurotypical world. (Thank Goddess for Kathy M’s seminal work in education
    us ALL! ) I am teaching still into my sixties and have found the empathy connections within our school community to satisfy my need for conversation and life purpose with others able to fully feel. Perhaps a school or SRDA in your area would need volunteers. Please know that you are not alone in your valid frustrations. Standing up for your self-care and self-worth WILL make a significant difference. Blessings!

  4. Most of us NT wives will relate- I finally risked telling my husband of 42 years that I don’t think we have a future together because of what I’ve learned about the Aspie/NT relationship, and he immediately berated me for taking advantage of his generosity and kindness in caring for me so I never had to grow up… this is the kind of typical nasty exchange when I try to talk about any feeling experience. Berated, yelled at, silent treatment, etc. today he added “I’m so sick of these NT people saying ‘he doesn’t meet my needs’!” I had planned a weekend away with him to try to connect through travel and seeing new things, he says it’s too much travel. My normal weekend is alone in my spare room, reading and sleeping; his is on computer. Such a terrible life? All I know is that I’m lonelier than I ever contemplated being, and he has made it clear he will punish me financially if I initiate any separation or divorce. While I’ve been such a lousy dependent partner I’ve worked, raised six adult kids of his and gotten my masters degree all by myself. He despises me as weak, but enjoys the cat and mouse torture of my emotions.

    1. Sounds like he may have some narcissistic behaviors as well as being Aspie. My friends husband is similar – this is a very difficult mix and you deserve a better relationship.

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