When you love someone it is natural to want to solve his or her problems, but you cannot. In fact, trying to solve someone’s problems may backfire and make them feel that you don’t believe in them to solve their own. It may also cause your partner to feel misunderstood by you or worse, not listened to. Empathy shows concern and understanding, and it empowers your partner to feel capable of handling their own problems. 15 to 30 minutes of empathy shared in your marriage every day with or without a problem to solve can enrich your marriage to a deeper level. There are dos and don’ts of showing empathy to your partner. Following these guidelines can help your partner feel connected emotionally and love you more.
- Do pay attention. Put whatever you are doing down, give eye contact and be present for your partner.
- Don’t minimize their feelings. “That wasn’t a big deal…why are you so upset?” This hurts your partner, and shows your lack of understanding.
- Do respond with affection and tenderness. “I’m really sorry you have to go through this.” This shows your concern and understanding of how your partner feels.
- Don’t ignore what your partner is saying or suggest they are seeing things incorrectly. “I’m sure they didn’t mean it.” To you this may sound innocent but when your partner hears it, they will feel abandoned and more alone. It sounds like you don’t understand their pain.
- Do validate their feelings. “I can see why that bothered you.” This statement tells your partner you understand their point of view.
- Don’t try to tell them how to fix the problem. You cannot fix their problem, but your support can help them fix their problem.
- Do take your spouse’s side and create a “team approach” offering support if they need your help further. Always leave your partner feeling as though you are on their side even if they screwed up. Helping them feel as though they are loved even when they make mistakes helps them forgive themselves and work through the problem.
Empathy is one of those words we feel but often times forget to express to those we love the most. Showing your partner empathy is an expression of love and an extension of kindness. Great relationships thrive with empathy.