skip to Main Content

When I first began looking for help for our marriage, most were quick to judge our problems as either my or Steve’s fault.

Although I had been advised that Steve had the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I still did not see him as the cause of all of our problems.

Eventually (after many months of research) I stopped focussing on Steve’s lack of empathy for us, and put together the steps (by trial and error) to heal my own emotional neediness, allowing myself to take more of a leadership role in getting our lives back on track.

When we shared those steps in our first book, Back From the Looking Glass – 13 Steps to a Peaceful Home, I received some fierce criticsm. I was called everything from delusional to narcissistic myself. Many more people, however, thanked us and urged us to continue our work.

Fifteen years on, our marriage is still a work in progress and life has its ups and downs.

Although I had been advised that Steve had the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I still did not see him as the cause of all of our problems.

While things certainly improved dramatically by following the steps we share, Steve’s underlying lack of ability to empathise (especially when times get tough) is something I admit that I still struggle with.

Hundreds of testimonials from other families echo similar results. Following the steps can improve your family life tremendously but deep down, the nagging ‘no empathy’ problem remains.

Needing your partner to care more may sound needy, but really it is primary to feeling secure in your life.

When times get tough, Steve’s default position is still that he doesn’t care enough—about his job, where we live, or his relationships—to put any real concern into resolving problems or conflict. Instead, his knee jerk reaction is to pretend that putting any effort in is not worth the effort, or to simply blame someone else for the problems that exist.

We are finally now addressing this with some promising results, and I will share more about that in a moment.

Needing your partner to care more may sound needy, but really it is primary to feeling secure in your life.

Back to our story…

Most of the time I know how to keep things on track, but after a terrible few years where life threw a lot of incredibly tough and stressful situations at us, I saw that keeping things on track could not always rely just on me.

I had learned to trust and depend upon myself much more, but after 24 years of marriage, I had run out of patience. I was experiencing Steve’s lack of caring as a threat to all I value in my life.

I felt cornered and helpless. The problems we had faced earlier in our marriage (like how he hid credit cards, etc.) were gone. His lack of empathy however had turned to full blown depression and self-pity, just when I needed him most.

I needed Steve to put on the line the fact that he does care—especially when times are tough—about me, our children, his job and our home.

Unfortunately, I forgot most of my own advice and started fighting Steve again, insisting he step up to the plate.

I had learned to trust and depend upon myself much more, but after 24 years of marriage, I had run out of patience. I was experiencing Steve’s lack of caring as a threat to all I value in my life.

Fighting, of course, didn’t work and I finally saw that I had to dig deeper.

My life had brought me to the point where I needed to be responsible for organising staff as well as my family. I came to see that the same formal process and procedures we use to hold staff accountable in a business, might also be used in our home.

You can read more on that here: Men and Women Must Organise to Defend Their Families

Part of the new business-like structure we are now putting in place in our family, is a conflict resolution process.

Steve was resistant to this idea at first, saying our children would resent spending time on it—but quite the opposite has been the truth. Our young adult children have been responsive (especially after reading the examples), and the discussions lively. Young adults, I have come to realise, really labour with the burden of not knowing how to resolve problems they have with other people.

Avoiding fights is one thing, but what of the hard feelings that still lingered and eventually resurfaced? Totally resolving conflict to the point where there were no residual hard feelings, was something we all knew our family needed.

The clincher with conflict resolution is that it requires empathy…

Practicing examples of responding empathetically with one another has finally helped Steve see his gap with this, and he is now working on it.

If you are interested, I will leave the conflict resolution page we are working on (which will eventually be part of a members only subscription) open until New Year. You can view it here:

The Cooper Family Conflict Resolution Process

This is not something you can launch into with your family before you are ready.

Putting these types of structures in place will require leadership skills you may not yet have.

Just take it one step at a time. The first step may be looking at your own codependency.

If you need help knowing where to start, you can email me at, or friend and message me on Facebook

The end of my story today is that no matter how badly you feel threatened and hurt by your partner’s lack of empathy, fighting won’t help. I know because I have been there. I wrote my books primarily for myself because I have had to remind myself about this often.

The new programme we are developing for better family governance is still in its early stages. The framework is there but it’s not very visual or fun yet. It may take a year or more to get all the movies, visual cue cards, and published documents finished to make it something that is ready to be rolled out commercially. But if you can handle plain documents that need downloading and printing yourself, and want to share your experiences, we are looking for early adopters. Come have a look and see what it is all about here:

Men and Women Must Organise to Defend Their Families


And once again our conflict Resolution process is here:


The Cooper Family Conflict Resolution Process

For fifteen years, the Coopers have offered themselves as humble guides and mentors, helping families avoid cynicism and chaos. Leading the way as peer support specialists whose own family has traversed love's dangerous terrain.
Taking you to that place inside yourself that you can't go by yourself. Helping you get back in touch with the power of love within you to restore the sanity in your marriage whether you stay or leave.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Hi Kim —

    I’ve commented here several times before that Kim’s research into the problem of narcissism in relationships is incredibly thorough and comprehensive. Her conclusions are sound and research-backed. I feel that God has surely blessed her with an ability to eloquently and succinctly state the findings into material that can be readily accessed and implemented.

  2. Thank you for sharing your life journey. Your insight is so helpful in what seems like helpless relationships. Please continue to share!

  3. my mother used to often quote: “necessity is the mother of invention!”,… this looks to be a great example of that!,… (-:

  4. I have been struggling with this for 41 years, as you know, I have contacted you before. I was a widow with 2 young boys, went to school and made a good living for myself and my family. My husband has NEVER stepped up and paid any household bills or anything. Every women who meets him thinks he is the answer to their prayers. I have recently been diagnosed with cancer and also an autoimmune disease, I need his help and support desperately but it is not there. I really think my cancer is caused by my internal turmoil due to him. I do not want to divorce him but I don’t know what to do.
    I feel that is he could care for anyone besides himself, it would be me, but I really question that also.

  5. Thank you so much! Your books and articles were absolutely a positive turning point for me in addressing codependency. It’s so very true, that the lack of empathy as the underlying and recurring trouble spot is super SUPER hard to deal with. Everytime i get confident that we are two steps ahead, I’m crashingly disappointed. The truth, as you’ve explained it before, is that I know if I leave my husband then I would really be abandoning him and leaving him to sink (as a single dad with half the time caring for our young kids without my presence, which i would be terrified about that solo influence on them); what’s difficult about NOT leaving, is that he QUICKLY jumps to “Well then just leave if you don’t like it.” or “You are so annoying and pissing me off, this is why I’m planning to leave you! I can’t wait to leave you!”. When I hear him say those things, it does hurt me and also makes me panic each and every time thinking “What if he means it this time? Should I go get a lawyer first to BEAT him to it so that I can have the legal upper hand in how the pieces will fall…?” But of course I don’t REALLY want to ever leave him, so I never take the action to leave or to kick him out even with his continuous threats in every little argument that he wants to win. It really is just so difficult. However, I truly feel that leaving and separating our 3, 4, and 8 yr olds up into a broken home where we are all less financially stable and we are both looking out more for ourselves as individuals instead of as some sort of a team is WAY WORSE. When people advise me to just Leave Him, it’s usually people who don’t have kids and who have never experienced this so the “leave him” advice seems to be easy for them to give out. Thanks again so much for all that you share with us and for all of your honesty and dedication to helping us!!

  6. Kim, you have helped me tremendously. Thank God I found you several years ago. I thought I was going crazy because everybody told me he was a nice guy. I finally realized that I was allowing his hateful behavior. It was a shock to learn I was at fault for the way he was treating me. Thank you for opening my eyes.

  7. What you wrote, “his knee jerk reaction is to pretend that putting any effort in is not worth the effort, or to simply blame someone else for the problems that exist.” is my hubby exactly. Like you, I have grown up a lot, but the lack of empathy is still there, when difficulties arise. It appears to be an inborn lack. I always go back to what I have learned from you, which is when empathy is lacking, you need to set boundaries. It’s just that when dealing with an adult, setting effective boundaries can be difficult or impossible sometimes (or so it seems to me), and it doesn’t provide the sense of being loved that we ARE entitled to. I mean how much love do you feel when your husband only stops doing something bad for you because you issue consequences? Instead of because he understands and feels for you? You don’t have to be codependent to feel the lack of love. So taking the conversation to another level, like you are beginning to do, is good. I appreciate it!

  8. Kim, I’ve been working with your materials for some years now and I started an amazing journey of discovering and healing myself. I encountered so many amazing People that inspired me to work even harder on my gaps. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to save my relationship with my NPD Partner as he walked away from me treating me nasty names and making me responsible for the miseries in his life. I met my new partner almost the same day he left me. My new partner is very empathetic and caring. And more: I got hired for a new job and I won a scholarship for my former research project… Well, life started to be very good for me. Still I’m not done with my work. I can work harder. I will apply your new materials to find a way to get along with my ex-Partner who happens to be the father of my daughter.
    Thank you Kim and Steve. Love to your Family for this Holiday season.

  9. Aspergers Syndrome may be the cause of lack of empathy. In those cases, in my experience, there’s not much you can do but accept how that person is because it is a brain wiring issue. I get through it because God, in Jesus name, is my all and all.

    1. Hi Bridgette, It is interesting you say that. Stanley Greenspan actually showed it WAS possible to teach autistic people empathy. In the first unit of my emotional intelligence master class I write about his discoveries and compare our work to his. If you are interested the class work is available to members of Steve or my group. You can subscribe to our groups here:

  10. Unfortunately my npd husband will never agree to these rules. He would think it’s ridiculous, and even if he did to humor me, the very first time I tried to use it he would just blame me for everything as usual and not be able to move beyond that. Now that my kids are young adults, they all know he is npd… have looked it up themselves. Thinking of trying a family intervention.

    1. Hi Cheryl, Yes this is advanced work for families that are ready to try and work together. It is important you start at the beginning with Back from the Looking Glass – 13 Steps to a Peaceful Home.

  11. After 51 years of marriage with the income property we have he wants to split the rent, he said he doesn’t trust me with the money. (I have been more the bread winner then him always an excuse why he doesn’t get jobs he’s a Contractor) I have never taken from our joint account so it is hard to believe this is the reason he doesn’t want it in the account together. Please HELP if you know why he is so PARANOID also won’t eat my foods said he’s afraid I will poison him and wont go away with me alone afraid I might hurt him. He is a LOONY BIRD (along with being a VN Vet)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back To Top