“His sister told me that ‘no one in our family ever learned how to love another person’ so that’s probably why he doesn’t care.” “When I was in the greatest need of my life for care and comfort, he chose to watch a ball game rather than be with me.” “His politics are all about hurting people.” “I have caught him so many times being inappropriate with other women and he doesn’t even seem to care.” “His religious beliefs are that women are inferior and he treats me this way.” “I can’t get her to care about me enough to even check in with me during the day to see how I am doing.” “She comes from a very harsh family that just judges everyone.” “I can’t even remember the last time my spouse made love to me.” “He yells at the dog, the kids and me using foul language – if we try and ask him to stop, he says we are ‘crazy’ and don’t know what we are talking about!” “We took a personality test and I am a 9.75 out of 10 on caring for others – he didn’t even score on the scale!”
These are all actual quotes from a session with people who live with, or are married to, someone with a hard heart. What makes someone hard-hearted? It can be the environment within which they grew up, with “hard” parents who never showed love or affection. It can be having difficult circumstances throughout life and developing a shell to avoid any further hurt or critique. It can be due to feeling unloved and unwanted, and needing to shield oneself from anything that could be hurtful. Or it can be brainwashing – being affiliated with a religious group or political party so that a person no longer thinks for themselves but has a viewpoint they just seek to continually validate.
Being the soft-hearted one can be a difficult burden to bear. In many cases the harder person is also a narcissist, very self-involved and self-interested. You might try and get them to care somehow by crying, or ranting, or yelling or threatening, and they will merely say “Stop attacking me” or “Stop your haranguing” or some such. They are masterful at deflecting, and in your vain attempts to get them to care, you will often find that they turn it on you and make you the difficult one!
You have probably heard or read the research on the different roles people can play in relationships – that of giver, of taker and of matcher. Givers – well, they give a lot. Takers take a lot, and Matchers try and keep score of the give and take. When it comes to caring, the people most likely to be there for you when you need them are, of course, the Givers. They are the ones in life who can never do enough for those in need. Unfortunately in many cases, they are attracted to Takers – “That person really needs me”–so they get stuck in a relationship where all they do is give, to their own emotional and physical exhaustion.
What can you do if you have found yourself in a relationship where you have done everything you think you can to make your partner care and they just simply don’t respond – or worse than this, they accuse you of being the problem because you “won’t leave them alone”? It’s time to start taking care of you. Your giving nature is admirable and has probably helped more people than you can count, but you need to take care of yourself and stop trying to change someone who doesn’t want to change. Leopards are born leopards and won’t change their spots. You can ignore their behavior, stop being hurt by their actions, and turn your attention to something that really matters.
Consider whether you could:
- Just leave somehow. There are many reasons to stay, and that’s probably why you are still there, but sometimes the pain of having no love, no care and no one to just hold you and tell you “it’s going to be all right” is too much. You need to take into account the financial and child-related implications, of course, before you make a decision, but you may be better off without this person.
- If you choose to stay, forgive the person for being so hard-hearted and see that they are missing out on the best part of life – love of self and love of others, and most importantly compassion. Try and see what sadness and emptiness they have. Don’t agree to emotional or physical abuse – never. But do consider the hurt this person must have had to be so angry and empty toward others.
- Find support elsewhere. The wonderful thing about being a soft-hearted Giver is that other people usually want to be around you! They know your friendly spirit and your genuine care for others. Find individuals or groups where you can pour out your soft heart and have people who appreciate you and support you for it.
- Do what matters to you. Volunteer at an animal shelter, or work with children who are homeless and trying to get through school. Attend meetings of people who are fighting for what you care about – those “soft things” that are really the hard ones when it comes to life. Not only will this allow you to do things where you believe you are making some sort of a difference, but it also helps you get away from the Taker as much as you can in order to do so.
- Embrace your soft heart. A soft-hearted Giver can often be left feeling they are the weak one, or the stupid one. In fact, the hard-hearted seem to enjoy treating the soft-hearted like they have no smarts. Know that you are smart. You are probably very intuitive and sincere. These are the qualities that – if all human beings espoused them –would make this world a very different place to live in!