“You can never love anyone to your own detriment. That is not love, that is possession, control, fear, or a combination of them all.” – Iyanla Vanzant
For most of my 20s and a good chunk of my 30s, I had a unique skill. I was particularly gifted at finding men to date who were missing an essential ingredient of a healthy personality—empathy. Plenty of experiences and exchanges along the way were giant neon signs telling me: No Empathy Here, Lost: Empathy, or to be crass, Asshole Here.
One man really took the no empathy cake. You know how you have cringe worthy moments? In retrospect, my two years with him was a cringe worthy moment. As self-aware as I always attempt to be, my fear of not finding Mr. Right would sometimes plunge me deep into denial, clutching tightly to Mr. Wrong. This guy was a disaster from day one. It was no mystery. I just blindly decided to ignore the signs.
Fast forward to today and I am happily married to someone with empathy coming out of his pores, so why do I share this tale now? I hope my story can spare someone else from making the same mistake, and wasting the time I did. I think we can make faster progress in our lives when we learn from the missteps of others, in this case, me.
The number one way to tell if you are in a good relationship boils down to one question. Does your relationship make your life better? It’s a simple, yet effective way to separate the duds from the studs. Life quality tends to plummet with the wrong person. If you are in the right relationship, life improves in all sorts of ways, individually and as a couple.
[DISCLAIMER: I’m not saying you need to be in a relationship to improve your life, I’m saying if your relationship doesn’t improve your life, you could be in the wrong one.]
Long ago I learned from my psychologist that our intimate relationships, more than any other aspect of our lives, are a reflection of our overall mental health. To oversimplify, someone could have a thriving career, money in the bank, a rigorous fitness regimen, great friendships, but if he/she is dating a disaster, he/she could use a little mental health work.
For me, I had friends who met my Mr. Zero Empathy and they immediately disliked him. My family? They were silent at the time, but later told me they wondered what I was thinking.
My life took all sorts of negative spirals.
I noticed my bank account dwindling because he wanted to go out all the time (almost every day) but he was King of going Dutch. (I’m not saying women should never pay, but I do believe your long-term BF should treat once in a while.)
I felt alone in the relationship as I watched Zero Empathy stare at other girls. (You are cringing for me now, right?)
Zero Empathy even joked once when we were rappelling that I had misstepped. He laughed at his joke while his feet were safely on the ground and I was blindly pushing off a ledge.
Soon, I noticed every event we went to had alcohol at its center—camping, crawfish boils, running events (after), pool parties and vacations. While I love some good red and some fruity martinis, a constant focus on alcohol, even during the work week, was just another sign that my life wasn’t moving in the right direction.
Zero Empathy didn’t make me feel like he was in my corner. I had an abscessed tooth once and was in excruciating pain. I needed meds to get me through the night to my appointment with the endodontist the next morning. Zero Empathy reminded me on the phone of how close I lived to the drugstore, you know, instead of volunteering to help me out.
Point is, if you are with a Zero Empathy, your life is likely taking hits in areas outside of your relationship.
Maybe your bank account …
Or you are compromising your physical health …
A shadow is cast over your outlook or spirit …
Maybe friends tell you that you are acting differently …
Or your relationship has halted your life progress …
It is likely people in your life don’t like your significant other …
If you are in the right relationship, life improves. Period. Healthy relationships bring out the best in you.
Do a quick relationship check. Is there empathy? If that’s missing, nothing will fix your relationship. People who lack empathy only care about themselves. Next, check and see if life is improving. If it isn’t getting better, or if it’s getting worse, exit stage left and don’t look back.