As couples counselors, we recognize common patterns of issues that couples tend to struggle with. One of these issues is a lack of willingness to understand the other partner’s perspective. When someone tries to understand where another person is coming from and an attempt is made to recognize how another person is feeling, empathy is developed. Empathy requires you to make a genuine effort to listen and understand your partner’s experience.
When we are upset, it’s not the easiest to pause and join our partner in their hurt or frustration. However, it is highly important to fully listen and attempt to understand your partner’s feelings. We are quick to minimize or try to soothe strong emotions. We don’t like to see our loved ones hurting so we try to make them feel better.
Instead, we encourage you to listen to understand your partner. Instead of telling them it will be okay, try to ask about how they’re feeling. Take it a step further and validate their feelings. This requires you to cast aside any judgment you might have about the situation. Statements like, “You must feel so hurt,” or “I hear you saying that you’re angry- I understand how you could feel that way,” are examples of how you can show empathy. Statements such as these express that you hear your partner and are validating their feelings.
Empathy allows our partner to feel heard and understood. Empathy deepens our ability to see the world from our partner’s point of view. Ultimately, this allows for greater connection and understanding. Listen closely, imagine feeling the way that your partner does, and reflect that understanding back. It takes practice, but a little empathy can go a long way.
If you are struggling with empathy in your relationship, one of our couples counselors would be happy to help. Click below to schedule:
Written by Taylor Walker, Ed.S.