Daniel Linder, MFT
Understanding and empathy as a couple
The pre-course to empathy and understanding is showing interest. Your partner is getting from you that you’re genuinely interested in what their experience is. You can show interest asking questions; you can show interest making eye contact; you can show interest just being open hearted and allowing whatever your partner has to share with you to be experienced inside of yourself.
You have to have some ability to receive and feel your own feelings that come up when your partner is opening up to you and then be able to respond. Showing empathy and understanding it often takes the form of capturing what your partner is saying and communicating back that you understand what they mean, that you hear what they are saying. Ask them if you are understanding them correctly.
Harville Hendrix in his “Imago Dialog“, has a systematic way for couples to talk to each other for this particular purpose so that understanding can be achieved. He talks about marrying, validating and empathizing: three different, subtle shifts in how you respond to your partner that will make them feel that you understand them. That makes it clear, and the feeling you have, the shift that occurs when you experience your partner’s understanding, often begins with interest.
Having someone interested in you for who you are and what you’re experiencing feels good. It’s connecting; it’s bonding; it’s warming; it’s a turn on.
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