What advice can you offer to me about the following frustrating situation: I have forgiven my partner, offering compassion and empathy toward her.  She was insensitive to me on several occasions when she was under deep stress at work.  She is convinced that other people cannot know her own private world and so empathy, in her view, is unreachable.  In other words, my words of empathy are hollow for her.  What do you suggest that I do?  I ask because she seems to think that true forgiveness, involving empathy, is impossible.

This is a very interesting situation.  I say that because I have not encountered a situation like this until you brought it up.  If she thinks that you cannot know her inner world, even though you are convinced that you are able to do this to a degree, then you might try a different approach.  Instead of using words that suggest you have empathy for her inner world, try to focus instead on her behavior and circumstances, not to excuse her behavior but to put it in the context of her recent challenges when she hurt you.  She should be able to see that you are able to concretely observe the behaviors and circumstance that increased her stress and likely contributed to her insensitive remarks.  She then should be able to understand that you are viewing her as a valuable person who is more than the insensitivities she has shown to you.

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