If you have been in a relationship for any length of time, you undoubtedly understand how fulfilling they can be; however, they require hard work, empathy, and commitment from both parties.
Communication and empathy are two great ways to strengthen a relationship. Why? These qualities allow you to have a deeper and more meaningful connection.
So what does being empathetic mean, exactly? Well, it is the ability to understand and share in the experiences and emotions of another individual. In layman’s terms, it’s being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes. It is having the ability to see things from their perspective as opposed to only your own.
In this article, we will take a closer look at how being empathetic can enhance a relationship. We’ll also identify a few steps you can take towards becoming a more empathetic partner.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EMPATHY IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Before detailing the steps that you can take towards improving empathy, let’s address how it can positively impact your relationship. Along with allowing you to see things from your partner’s perspective, empathy can increase the likelihood of a long-lasting relationship.
Whether you’ve just embarked on your relationship journey or have already celebrated your 50th anniversary, it is always important to feel like you’re being heard and understood. Practicing empathy can go a long way toward meeting both of these fundamental needs.
That said, it is important to understand the difference between empathy and sympathy; one is more beneficial to your relationship than the other. While sympathy is important, it can often lead to feeling belittled. Empathy, on the other hand, is often seen as a genuine and concerted effort to understand what the other person is feeling.
Now that we have a general understanding of the importance of empathy in your relationship, let’s turn our attention towards steps that you can take towards becoming a more empathetic partner:
1. KEEPING THE LINE OF COMMUNICATION OPEN
As noted in the preface of this article, communication is a critical component of a healthy relationship. According to relationship expert and professor of psychology at Columbia University Laurel Steinberg, Ph.D., couples who practice empathy are less dismissive; additionally, they are more likely to communicate their interest in understanding what the other person is feeling, experiencing, and going through.
Being open and honest about what you’re feeling keeps both partners engaged. This, in turn, makes resolving conflicts far easier.
2. SEEING THINGS FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE
While often easier said than done, putting yourself in your partner’s shoes can deepen your relationship bond and help you gain a better understanding of yourself in the process. Those who are in a relationship that is the void of empathy often don’t understand how they themselves feel about a given situation.
Seeing things from a perspective outside of your own can help you grow as a person and teach you how to be selfless in your relationship.
3. ASK QUESTIONS
Although good listening skills are essential in communicating with your partner, taking a moment to ask questions can help you become better attuned with their needs, desires, and emotions. Beyond that, it shows that you are fully invested in the relationship and willing to make things work.
To that point, you don’t have to wait until problems arise to start asking questions; you can ask about how their day was or what they feel like eating. Basic questions like these make people feel valued and needed.
4. AVOID PASSING JUDGMENT
Passing judgment is one of the quickest ways to sabotage a relationship; it allows the partner to feel like they’re being berated or made to feel inferior. Obviously, these unpleasant feelings can, in many cases, lead to the dissolution of a relationship.
That said, you’ll want to work towards uplifting your partner when they feel down and help them overcome any life’s challenges. Besides, positivity strengthens a relationship while negativity only serves to destroy it.
5. DIVIDE THE WORKLOAD
One of the best ways to demonstrate empathy in your relationship is to divide the workload. Shouldering some of your partner’s responsibilities like household chores, for example, can serve as a great way to deepen your relationship.
To better put this into context, sharing daily responsibilities with your partner can help you understand their day-to-day life. It also allows you to walk in their shoes and to see things as they see them.
Beyond that, helping them with their responsibilities means you’re less likely to take them for granted.
6. ACKNOWLEDGE THE WANTS AND NEEDS OF YOUR PARTNER
Being empathetic towards your partner sometimes means placing their desires, wants, and needs ahead of your own. The ability to see beyond your own perspective can help lead to a variety of positives in your relationship. This includes better decision-making, for example.
Considering your partner when making big purchases or planning events can go a long way towards understanding one another’s likes and dislikes. Of course, this is not always easy, but the longer you’re in a relationship, the easier this process becomes.
7. SET ASIDE TIME TO BECOME A BETTER EMPATH
While empathy in a relationship is a good thing, it doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Of course, this nothing to be ashamed of; however, it does mean that you have to work a little harder towards applying empathy in your relationship.
In the end, however, your partner will appreciate your efforts. It proves you’re committed to the long-term success of the relationship. As far as learning how to be empathetic, there are a variety of online resources and books that cover the topic in great detail.
8. BE “PRESENT” IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
It’s easy to become distracted by day to day life, often to the detriment of the relationship we have with our significant other. To that point, it is important to spend quality time with your partner and be attuned to their feelings without the distractions of social media, phone calls, or the constant need to check emails.
Being “present” in your relationship means giving your partner your undivided attention and allowing them to feel like they are the center of your world.
HOW TO AVOID BECOMING MENTALLY EXHAUSTED
There is no denying that being empathetic all the time in a relationship can be mentally exhausting. After all, you’re dealing with your emotions and your partner’s emotions simultaneously. The best way to overcome such feelings is by demonstrating compassion, which allows you to express kindness and support without feeling the mental exhaustion that often comes with being empathetic.
That said, consider alternating between empathy and compassion to help avoid feeling overwhelmed by taking on the emotions of your partner.
THE BENEFITS OF BEING EMPATHETIC
In addition to the many benefits that come with empathy in a relationship, you can find some individual benefits as well. Some of the benefits associated with being empathetic include:
This ability enables us to not only recognize but also understand our own triggers and emotions. When an individual is self-aware they are more in tune with their feelings and are less likely to harbor negative emotion like depression, anxiety, and fear, for example.
Social skills –
While some people are naturally social, it can be hard work for others. And yes, being social is very much a skill. Being empathetic can help you develop the social skills needed to become a better communicator. Essentially, you will be able to share your thoughts and feelings in a clear and concise manner without rubbing people the wrong way.
Emotional intelligence –
Having this ability means that you’re better equipped to handle emotions like anger and bitterness, for example. Also, you’re not as prone to destructive or impulsive behavior. Being in control of your emotions means you’re in tune with their feelings and capable of foreseeing a potential outcome before acting on emotion. All in all, you’re able to make decisions that are rational and not predicated on emotion.
A better understanding of people –
Similar to a romantic relationship, being empathetic can lead to deeper, meaningful relationships with friends, co-workers, and family. This greater understanding enables you to get a better read on people and also anticipate their actions and behavior.
In summation, being able to empathize with others can benefit nearly every facet of one’s life, from romantic or platonic relationships to interaction with co-workers and just about anyone who comes into your life. Also, being empathetic teaches you about yourself and the extent to which your thoughts and actions can influence others.