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Marriage Counseling: The Empathetic Partner
Marriage Counseling Builds Empathy
As you learn communication skills in marriage counseling, you might wonder how you can actually show more empathy for your spouse during important conversations. Getting started can be the hardest part, so today you will learn about the four components of empathy and how to apply them to your own relationships (Related article: What is Empathy?)
Creating Better Empathy
Dr. Theresa Wiseman was a nursing scholar who studied how empathetic people show compassion for others (Source: A Content Analysis of Empathy, 1996). In her research, she identified four characteristics of empathetic people that you can use and apply to your own marriage and relationships. Showing empathy for your partner can improve your emotional intimacy and foster greater connection (Related article: 3 Steps to Reconnect When You Feel Disconnected from your Partner).
Four Ways to Be an Empathetic Partner:
Perspective taking is a valuable tool that you have likely started to learn with your partner in marriage therapy. This means more than just hearing your partner and their words. Instead, you acknowledge that your spouse’s own point of view is their reality. You see that your partner is actively experiencing the feelings they describe to you when they are vulnerable. For your spouse, this perspective is real. It can be easy to think that other’s feelings are simply an opinion, especially if the situation is emotional for both of you. Taking time to acknowledge your partner’s reality when it comes to their emotional is an important part of empathy.
Staying out of judgement
Avoiding judgment can be easier said than done when it comes to important conversations in your marriage. This is especially true if you are discussing a conflict between you and your spouse. However, making an active effort to avoid judging your spouse’s perspective and introducing your own bias is essential for practicing empathy for your spouse and their point of view. Now, this doesn’t mean that you forget your own feelings and experiences. It just means that you take the time to approach their experience impartially so that you can make an effort to truly understand and connect with them (Related article: Marriage Counseling is for Both of You).
Recognizing emotion in your spouse
As you attend marriage therapy and indiviudal therapy, you will gain skills that help you recognize and name your own emotions. Sometimes being able to describe your feelings is easier said than done! That is an important idea to take into empathetic conversations with your partner. Remember to watch for their emotions while they are vulnerable and sharing their thoughts with you. It will be important to also set aside your own emotions, especially if they are different from your partner’s. This is only temporary, but setting aside your own feelings while your spouse is sharing theirs is important so that you can create a good foundation for conflict resolution later (Related article: How to Be Emotionally Healthy).
Communicating your spouse’s emotions
You have likely learned by now that validation is an essential part of good communication with your spouse. That is also true when it comes to empathy; once you see your spouse’s emotions you can make a compassionate effort to acknowledge and validate their experience. It may sound odd, but this is especially important if your feelings differ from your spouse’s. Being able to show that you see and understand your partner’s emotions can help to create trust and understanding (Related Article: Learn How to Communicate with Your Spouse).
If you put in the work to show your partner you truly care and want to understand, you can create an environment of safety and connection that will be important when you express your own feelings later on. Validation shows caring and love for your partner and is an important communication tool in marriage and relationships. Empathetic people are great at seeing and validating others, and you can do the same in your own marriage.
Build Empathy for Each Other in Marriage Therapy
Although it can be challenging, becoming more empathetic towards your partner will have a positive impact on your relationship. Marriage counseling can help you as you work to improve your communication and connection.
Ready to get started? Start couples therapy today in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork.
Written by Lauren Adkins