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How to Be More Empathetic in a Relationship

This post is all about the benefits of being more empathetic in your romantic relationship, including tips to increase emotional intimacy with your partner.

Empathy is the heart of every relationship. Without it, it becomes challenging for a relationship to survive. When there’s no compassion, couples will struggle to develop an unbreakable bond. According to research, high empathetic people have high chances of creating meaningful relationships and friendships. 

being empathetic

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Lack of empathy is associated with personality disorders such as antisocial and narcissistic behaviors. People in relationships always need to connect with their partners to stay happy and enjoy life. Strong connections in a relationship usually result from communication. Most people can communicate with their partners better, although they tend to overlook the quality aspect that promotes better communication skills.

Apart from strengthening relationships, empathy also plays a significant role in improving cooperation, reducing negativity, improving physical health, lowering aggression, and helping people forgive.

What is empathy?

It’s the ability to understand other people’s feelings, experiences, and emotions without any judgment. Empathy is the foundation of kindness, communication, and understanding. Being empathetic makes you understand how your partner feels at different times, including when there are life-changing situations. Instead of misunderstanding or blaming your partner for various situations, you need to show compassion to show that you really care about how they feel and think.

According to psychologists, empathy is categorized into three i.e., emotional, cognitive, and compassionate empathies. Emotional empathy is when one feels exactly the same as their partner. On the other hand, cognitive empathy also called perspective-taking, is when one intellectually understands and perceives how another person feels without feeling their emotions. An excellent example of cognitive empathy is when one partner wants to know why the other partner looks upset and goes ahead to question the reason behind it.

Lastly, compassionate empathy balances emotional and cognitive empathy. It involves understanding your partner’s feelings, experiencing such feelings, and thereby taking action to assist where you can. Psychologists believe that both emotional and cognitive empathy is sometimes used negatively, mainly in manipulating others.

Importance of cultivating empathy in relationships

Most people think that it’s hard to practice empathy in relationships. However, this isn’t the case. Most modern relationships involve working couples with children and other responsibilities to take care of. Therefore, it’s essential for one partner to think about the perspective of the other partner. Lacking empathy makes partners indifferent and inconsiderate towards each other.

Empathy plays a significant role in relationships by improving communication skills, enhancing curiosity, providing helpful support to the other partner, learning new cultures, and developing the ability to evaluate different situations from different angles and perspectives.

How to build empathy in a relationship

If you want to build a strong relationship, there should be a feel connection between you and your partner. According to psychologists, people tend to be more connected during the early stages of their relationships. This connection slowly reduces with time, and the emotional bond becomes weak. However, if partners become empathetic to each other, the emotional bond grows stronger.

Below are some top tips on how to be more empathetic in a relationship:

Be a great listener

It can be really challenging for partners to be empathetic without making listening a priority. Being ready to listen to your partner means that you’re present to hear what your partner says. Listening should also be accompanied by not reacting based on your feelings and thoughts. You only need to be mindful and fully engaged with your partner’s reactions when explaining their case or current situation.

When listening to your partner, your objective should be to observe your partner’s feelings without reacting or judging carefully. This way, you’ll be able to determine what action to take. In addition to listening, you can ask your partner a few gentle questions to get a better view of their situation. Note that the main aim of these questions is not to solve the problem but rather to explore and strengthen connections.

Watch your partner's body language keenly

Depending on the situation at hand, sometimes it becomes difficult for people to open up during conversations, especially where they think they’re likely to be judged. If there’s an occurrence that makes your partner sad or humiliated, they may not be comfortable opening up to you and sharing their feelings and emotions. In this case, you can rely on their body language to understand their emotional state. You’ll be more empathetic if you learn to read your partner’s body language.

For instance, if your spouse finds it difficult to make eye contact or crosses their arms when having a conversation, this could indicate distress. Therefore, in this case, the emotions could be fear, anxiety, insecurity, or even worry. However, you may not necessarily know the exact feeling, but you’ll get an idea that’ll help you dig deeper to determine what’s going on.

Again, body language can also help you determine how to best please your spouse.

empathy in relationship
Communicate understanding of your partner's feelings

If you recognize the emotions or feelings in your partner, you need to put yourself in their shoes. Basically, you should connect with the emotions and not the situation. For instance, if your partner is sharing a sad event they’ve encountered recently that makes them upset, you shouldn’t also become upset. If you also become upset due to the sad occurrence, it’ll be challenging to show compassion and empathy since your mind will shift to negative thinking.

Simply put yourself in such a scenario and think about how you once felt due to a similar occurrence. This way, you’ll be able to console your partner with great understanding. You’ll also be sending a powerful message to your spouse that you’re willing to assist them in going through the painful times together.

stay curious

This is a great way to be more empathetic in your relationship. You should be curious about what the other person is sharing with you. Additionally, it’s essential to ask some open-ended questions to ensure you get the right information and avoid any misunderstanding.

If you misunderstand your partner, there are higher chances that communication might be detailed. This shows that you’re willing to invest in your partner’s life. The follow-up questions shouldn’t be complex. For instance, ‘tell me more,’ ‘what did you feel at that particular time?’

Once you notice that the other person has finished talking out, you can ask whether there’s something else to share with you. To strengthen your relationship and create a deeper emotional connection, you can find some curious opportunities in your day-to-day life that require an empathetic response.

For example, if your husband talks about work-related stress or frustration, you should be concerned about their general feelings rather than giving ideas about what you feel about such a situation. This way, your partner will know that you’re a great listener and you’re supportive.

Share your personal feelings

You can share your personal experiences with your loved one, similar to what they’re feeling. Your goal, in this case, won’t be to figure out or solve the problem at hand.

The aim is to make your partner understand that they’re not on their own with whatever they feel.

If during the conversation you notice that your spouse felt humiliated, you can also give a similar past experience that made you feel humiliated and what you did after the situation to be okay. In this case, you should avoid using any unkind words since they may worsen your spouse’s emotions. The kind of words you use will determine if the person feels better or not.

Remember, the other person will feel comforted if you’re empathetic enough to help them understand that such situations occur and the best ways to deal with them.

be aware of your biases

If you want to be more empathetic in your relationship, you need to evaluate your biases. Having unconscious biases can spell doom to relationships between couples. Typically, these biases are categorized into two, i.e., negative and confirmation biases.

The negative bias defines the reasons behind people forgetting positive compliments and praises and only remembering the negative comments made at a particular point in time. If you become empathetic to your partner, it becomes easier to remember positive interactions more than negative ones.

On the other hand, confirmation bias explains why people in relationships have the tendency to be more attentive to any information they believe while ignoring the rest that seems to be senseless.

Be open-minded

It’s essential to be open-minded when your partner is sharing something with you. Generally, to be empathetic, you must be in a position to put yourself in someone’s shoes and reality.

You shouldn’t impose your own reality depending on what you think about the other person’s feelings and emotions. If the other person is willing to share their feelings or emotions, ensure you receive them without any judgment. During the process of your spouse sharing their emotions, be open-minded and find the best ways to ask some questions.

To be more empathetic, you must be willing to accept feedback from your spouse rather than being defensive. In this case, your partner will truly understand that you care about their emotions and you’re ready to adapt to their dynamic needs. This will strengthen the emotional connection between you and your partner.

withhold judgment

To build a strong relationship, you must master the art of withholding judgment. It’s essential to help each other out during various situations without pointing a finger at your partner. This not only makes the other person hold back their feelings or emotions but also makes them feel small.

You should learn to withhold judgment regardless of the choices that your partner makes or situations they’re involved in. To be more empathetic, always assume that the choices your spouse makes are usually under careful consideration. This shows that you’re always considerate, thus strengthening emotional connections.

choose to respond instead of react

If you allow emotions or feelings to control you when you’re having a conversation with your partner, you might end up diverting your attention completely, thus affecting the interaction. You should think about your partner’s situation rather than a reaction to it. If you know how to identify emotions, it’ll be easier for you to remain open-minded and listen carefully to what your spouse has to say.

To learn how to identify emotions, first determine the kind of feelings you have and note a number of them somewhere. Next, take time to analyze the most powerful feeling. If you’re in a position to determine your emotions, it becomes easier to know your partner’s feelings. This further makes it easier to understand the perspective of the other person, thus being empathetic.

Give yourself some grace

Empathy is a skill that should be in every relationship. The more couples practice being empathetic, the better they get with time. According to psychologists, people in relationships should consistently learn how to listen to their partners to understand their general feelings, thoughts, and emotions.

Putting yourself in the shoes of the other person makes it easier to understand their perspective and point of view, thus strengthening your personal connections.

In conclusion, these are tips on how to be more empathetic in a relationship. You can also practice loving kindness, being present when needed most, and giving genuine attention to your spouse.

If your ultimate goal is to grow your relationship and deepen emotional connections with your partner, learn to be more empathetic, and you’ll be good to go.

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