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Is it possible to have to much empathy?

I have been recently contemplating leaving my husband, if only for a trial seperation. There are alot of reasons, and I really dont want to get into them here. However, every time I get myself to the decision that it's time, I remind myself that he has no where to go and I end up changing my mind because I feel bad. I mean, I still care for the guy and don't want him to be homeless. So, I end up feeling like I am staying with him out of pity, which makes me feel worse, because I swore a long time ago I would never do that. So, I guess my question is is it possible to have TOO MUCH empathy?

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Asked by spiritguide_23 at 12:29 AM on Dec. 28, 2012 in Relationships

Level 23 (16,700 Credits)
Answers (11)
  • I think it's possible to put others before yourself so often and so thoroughly that you end up harming yourself. It's not a bad thing to understand how your husband might feel if you separate; it might well be a bad thing if you stay to your own detriment.

    Answer by Ballad at 12:35 AM on Dec. 28, 2012

  • Empathy and pity are not the same thing. Empathy means you can relate to what they feel...pity means you feel sorry for them.

    It sounds to me like what you're really feeling is guilt. You feel guilty that if you choose to get a divorce he would have nowhere to live. Don't let guilt keep you in a bad relationship. If you think there's something to salvage, get some help rebuilding your marriage, but if you stay, stay for the right reason.

    Good luck mama.

    Answer by ohwrite at 12:38 AM on Dec. 28, 2012

  • First off, you mean sympathy, not empathy (unless you've been in the same situation)
    Second- what do you hope to accomplish with a trial separation? To see if you can live without one another?

    Answer by feralxat at 12:39 AM on Dec. 28, 2012

  • You ladies are right. Alot of what I am feeling is guilt and pity. I know they are terrible reasons to stay, but they can be VERY convincing.

    And I guess I would want to see if my kids and I would be happier without him.There are alot of things that he does that hurt us (emoitionally mostly, sometimes financially) and I just want to see if all of our lives would be better.

    Comment by spiritguide_23 (original poster) at 1:01 AM on Dec. 28, 2012

  • Is it possible that you don't really want to leave him and so you use these things (he has nowhere to go, etc.) as excuses not to leave, rather than admit you don't want to leave?

    Without knowing the reasons behind it, it's hard to know why you end up staying. Maybe guilt and pity, maybe fear (if he's abusive). Maybe reluctance to change the status quo because even though it's not any good, at least it's familiar. Or maybe you still really love him and want it to work, so like I said, you use those excuses to stay.

    I think if you really think you want to leave him, you need to pick a date, and then just stick to it. Get a place, or kick him out, whichever. Make your plans and follow through. Otherwise, you're going to spend the rest of your life wavering and someday you'll regret not doing something - even if it was wrong.

    Answer by wendythewriter at 8:25 AM on Dec. 28, 2012

  • I often wonder the same about myself. I get all ready to leave, have everything planned out and I am usually guilted in to staying. The reasons are always different but along the same lines.

    I think you should do what you have to do and take your own feelings and well being (and your kids) into consideration over his.

    Answer by amazinggrace83 at 11:15 AM on Dec. 28, 2012

  • Empathy means you've been in that situation yourself. Sympathy means you feel sorrow, but have not been in that situation... is that what you mean?

    It's totally normal to feel sympathy for anyone that would be homeless, but in the end, it's your life and you have to do what you feel is best for yourself.

    Answer by m-avi at 11:29 AM on Dec. 28, 2012

  • Then perhaps a seperation is best. My FIL would always say that you have to let them fall and hope they will bounce.

    Answer by Dardenella at 11:35 AM on Dec. 28, 2012

  • Of course, feeling conflicted comes with the terriritory in divorce. But he hurts you emotionally and financially that should be enough to get out. Call 211 and see if there are any housing options for him or other social services then pass on the info and start getting him out of your life.

    Answer by booklover545 at 11:40 AM on Dec. 28, 2012

  • I don't think it's possible to have too much empathy. Empathy doesn't hurt you or influence your choices in unhealthy directions. Empathizing doesn't interfere with healthy boundaries, personal limits, or differentiation as an emotionally independent/interdependent person.
    I see that others have addressed the issue of terminology here, but wanted to point out my thought.
    Therapists (skilled ones, at least) have a high degree of empathy, including empathy for clients who are difficult to like. They can validate feelings & thoughts with which they do not at all agree. Their empathy is based on seeing & understanding--seeing individuals as products of their experiences & circumstances, of their attempts to adapt to those & to survive. They see "tragic" & destructive behaviors for their problems AND their roots. It's beyond blame or judgment, to the point of compassionate understanding.
    It's distinct from what you're describing.

    Answer by girlwithC at 2:50 PM on Dec. 29, 2012

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