Stuck in relationship rut – husband lacks empathy

My husband has some issues with empathy that did not become apparent until after we had our daughter, who is now almost 4. Prior to having a child, we shared a lot since we got to do a lot together. That is how we connected. I am also not very needy, so did not put many demands on him, and my requests were fairly easy to meet then.

Since giving birth, we have not been able to do many things together – most evenings we don’t see each other since he works at night, and our weekends are often spent with us alternating who is with our daughter so we can go do our own things for self care. We normally climbed and kayaked and skied, and those things are harder to do easily with a kiddo. We have done some river trips and a few other things together as a family, but since it’s not nearly like it used to be, I am finding we don’t connect. He is easily bored (we were both Himalayan climbing guides when we met) and tolerates family events like museum trips etc, but he’s definitely not excited about them, especially with me. I also have more needs now – needing more support and needing him to be around more.

He seems to now be able to connect with our daughter, but he doesn’t know how to relate to me when we aren’t adventuring together. He admits to this and to having a hard time with empathy unless he’s had a shared experience with anyone (so it’s not just and issue with me).

My mother recently died, and he has not been able to offer much support, even though I know he would if he could “understand” how I am feeling. For example, at Christmas, we were opening presents that she had bought for us before she died and ones she never got to give us. I was crying and he did not know how to put his hand on me or comfort me – and I had even prefaced the evening with “this might be hard to me and I might need more support.”

He’s not a jerk, but his lack of ability to empathize is making it hard to co-parent and feel like I am in a partnership. Our therapist agrees he lacks the ability to empathize more than the average person, and he is going to be working on that. My question is, how can I move forward in my relationship without compromising my needs, which are to be in partnership and allow myself to be cared for. I have always taken care of myself and am the primary breadwinner, and I would love to feel cared for in these core ways. Do I need to shift what I think I “need?”

It helps me to think of him as having a mental illness of sorts – our therapist supports that is somewhat aspberger’s-like with some of his tendencies. It’s hard that it wasn’t more obvious when we could connect in the way he prefers – but it makes sense in hindsight since extreme sports are where he feels connected to life and to himself.

I now am getting more and more frustrated and bitter and falling into a victim mentality, which I know is not helpful. I know he is feeling bad because he is feeling like he’s failing me on a regular basis. This has led to some unhealthy and volatile arguments.

Thank you in advance!