Without sufficient empathy, there is no emotional contact. There’s no recognition and no authentic reciprocity in a couple.
The majority of us use a lot of psychological terms daily. That’s why it’s srange for someone to not know what empathy is or to not have heard of this basic term in the field of relationships.
However, what if we told you that many people have a distorted or even mistaken understanding of this concept?
To start, empathizing with someone does not just mean “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.”
It’s something much more complex and more intimate. It requires actions and behaviors, not simply feeling or perceiving the emotion.
After all, in a relationship it’s not enough to just know that your partner is suffering. Empathizing also means knowing how to respond effectively, usefully and in accordance with a specific need.
So, today on our blog we want to give you 5 basic key ways of identifying how much empathy exists in your relationship and whether it is truly useful for strengthening your bond and your trust and responding to the needs of each person.
1. There are three types of empathy: do you apply them all?
Let’s move on from general terms to concrete concepts. To understand empathy holistically, we need to discover what its main components are and what dynamics characterize them.
Thus, it’s helpful to understand the three types of empathy that you should be putting into practice daily with your partner.
- Emotional empathy: “I feel what you feel.” This means perceiving the suffering of the other person, noticing their happiness, reading their worries, putting yourself in their position and knowing what hurts them.
- Cognitive empathy: “I understand what you’re going through.” This is about not just feeling, but also demonstrating authentic understanding of the other person, understanding what something has triggered and why it has caused this effect.
- Compassionate empathy: “I know you suffer. I know why you suffer and I want to help you; I want you to feel good.” In this case, there’s a true desire for the partner to be well, happy, calm and satisfied.
2. I feel what you feel but I don’t judge you
Let’s use an example to understand this idea better:
Elena has arrived home from work very late. She’s had a bad day and she feels exhausted and close to tears.
When Carlos, her partner, sees the expression on her face, he knows things haven’t gone well. He feels her anxiety, her dejection…
However, he slips into judgement: “The problem is you take it all too seriously…Everyone takes advantage of you. You just don’t know how to be assertive.”
In this case, we have a member of the couple who applies emotional empathy but is not capable of developing the kind of useful, effective compassionate empathy which relieves and helps the other person.
3. I put myself in your position but without stopping being myself
As we mentioned at the start of this article, it’s not enough to put yourself in someone else’s shoes or in their position.
We need to enter a process of projection and sensitivity, but without stopping being ourselves and without losing our personal perspective.
For example, if I see my partner suffering and I don’t maintain my strength and my inner balance, the most likely thing is that I’ll intensify the suffering and not help at all.
True empathy, that which is useful, is capable of entering into the heart of another while keeping our own heart safe.
4. Empathy is also about understanding another’s mistakes
A happy, stable couple that is able to grow in a shared project is also able to understand and empathize with the mistakes of the other.
- I understand that you failed at the project you had in mind. I know how hard you tried and I understand how you feel. You were wrong to trust in those people, and perhaps I myself would have made the same mistake.
This kind of empathy, which is able to understand that people are not perfect and that relationships won’t always be easy, is the most useful kind and helps most when it comes to investing in the life project of two people.
5. I am receptive to all of your emotions
Some people don’t dare cry in front of their partner. They don’t express their fears to avoid worrying them, don’t tell them certain things for fear of how they might react, or how they might take it…
We need to be clear: as long as fear exists in a relationship, the connection is not authentic, nor satisfactory nor healthy.
A person should have total and absolute trust to show everything they feel to their partner at each moment.
A couple is the union of two life companions who can face anything together: both the bad moments and the good.
So, a person who shows adequate empathy is someone who we can be ourselves with at all times, without being afraid of sharing any thought or emotion.
Think about whether there’s any aspect that it would be good to improve or strengthen in your relationship.
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