Empathy, sympathy and man-flu

Who here knows the difference between empathy and sympathy? Both are often used in times where someone is dealing with an emotional situation that is not good, like when someone is unwell, lost a loved one or had a disappointment.  Sympathy is when you share the feelings with the other person and feel sad with them.  Empathy is when you can put yourself in their shoes and understand what they are feeling but not be in it with them.

Sympathy is a tough one, I’m not usually the type to jump in there with you but I like to think that generally I’m pretty good at empathy.  I can be tough and will call someone out if I believe they’re making a mountain out of a mole hill but I do try to remind myself that it is about perspective and my mole hill can appear like a huge mountain to others!

So I got to thinking about why when Eliot gets sick do I have to work so hard at being empathetic? I know that when I am unwell, I want love and support from him to make me feel taken care of.  I know that he wants the same from me when he is unwell, so why do I need to take a deep breath and not groan when I hear him coughing and snorting.  I pondered on this over the last 12 hours and I realised it is because when he is unwell, I need to do more, I need to give more and that makes me resentful.

We are in the midst of packing up our home to relocate.  We fly out of the country in 14 days and we have a tonne to do.  Yesterday whilst both kids were napping (a somewhat rare occasion), we had the perfect opportunity to get some packing done.  Eliot had woken up feeling under the weather and was wrecked. I was busily deconstructing cabinets, emptying and sorting cupboards, taking photos of items to sell and came downstairs to find him napping on the couch.  My blood pressure sky-rocketed and I saw red.  I asked him to get up and help and he simply said that he just couldn’t push through so I let him nap.  I was feeling passive-aggressive.  I was resentful that I was working hard and he was napping.  I really didn’t want to feel this way.  It made me unhappy.  When he woke, I decided not to cause a stir about it and when he complained about his symptoms, I helped find solutions.  Initially I was using the ‘fake it until you make it’ method and eventually it started making me feel less worked up and I started feeling empathy.  I did put myself in his shoes.

I know as a busy, working parent we often have to give so much to others and are running at 100% and then when our partner becomes unwell, it can make us resentful due to the added workload.  We often also can think that their sickness surely is not as bad as it seems.  Feeling this way is not only toxic for you but it also doesn’t help your partner in crime get any better.  So next time you want to roll your eyes at your significant other when they are under the weather, ask yourself, who is that benefiting and maybe try a little tenderness. 

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