Relationships what a difference the empathy makes
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor
4th June, 20140 Comments
Before you criticise me walk a mile in my shoes, a famous anonymous quote, one which has a lot to say about how we are in relationships. One of the first things to go in relationships when we are angry or bitter with our partner is empathy. Very often we will use the words to ourselves or to others “they don’t understand me” or “they just don’t get it”. This shows that there is a lack of empathy in the relationship in the relationship and one of the most important things in coming back together is to restore that empathic connection with your partner.
Anger and empathy find it very difficult to co-exist. Empathy is about patience and understanding, accepting that everyone is human and makes mistakes or has blind spots. With anger it becomes difficult to see clearly through our frustration and stress. Our ability to be patient and be empathic is at best challenged if not compromised completely.
If we are honest then we all see the world from our own perspective, so making the effort to see the others perspective can offer an awareness that will change our relationship for the better. Understanding the other person’s point of view does not commit you to agreeing with them or to changing your own view. Empathy is not judgement or problem fixing. It may however, offer alternatives that you want to explore either in talking things through or completely new avenues.
If empathy has gone from a relationship, it takes hard work by both partners to bring it back. Empathy is strongly linked to how we feel about ourselves, the trust we have in our partner and many other strong emotions. The key point being that while practices below help, they help if repeated over time.
Listening is probably the single key thing that you can do to show empathy. If you listen well, it means more than hearing the words and then decoding their meaning. It means being present in the moment not wondering what you will do next or running other thoughts in your head but really trying to link what is being said to your own feelings.
With thoughts and feelings in a relationship there is little point in being dishonest about the important feelings. Even if it is difficult it is better that your partner and you have a real honest relationship. Otherwise they are trying to empathise with something that is false and that is never likely to work. Empathy with your partner is about sharing those vulnerabilities and forming that strong emotional bond.
Live the empathy
Remember to talk about what you have heard, so give empathic responses. Acknowledge what you have heard and how the other person feels. Sometimes that may be physical such as a touch on the arm or a hug. Other times it may be a shared smile or a word or two.
Try to avoid immediate criticism, think how you want to say something if it doesn’t meet with how you feel. Try to put criticism in a context where your partner is not going to have to defend themselves, by putting your concerns in the context of their viewpoint.
The change to re-introducing empathy to your relationship can seem daunting and it is why many need help. If you are determined to save your relationship it is a positive way of investing in your partner, your relationship and your future.
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