One of the things that leads to the most amounts of distance, hurt, and anger in a relationship is lack of empathy, and it is one of the primary issues that this counseling center focuses on in marriage therapy and couples counseling.
In the early stages of romance, we are so enthralled and in tune with our partners that empathy is basically a given. At that time, you hang on every word she said, she knew you were present and felt understood and safe with you. And in turn, she opened up and listened to you in a way that let you know she was the one for you.
While the description above might not be your exact experience, many couples feel while they are falling in love that their partners just GET them. In a simplistic way, this is what empathy is, and it plays a major role in why we fall in love in the first place. It’s fantastic to feel like someone understands us, like we can be safe enough to be our true selves.
As we all know, the intense levels of passion and infatuation present in the early part of a romantic relationship do not last. When all goes well, these feelings settle into a comfortable love and appreciation of one another that allow couples over the long term to work through conflict and find ways of enjoying each other and finding moments of reclaimed passion.
However, there are also dangers of more negative feelings coming up: taking each other for granted, feeling uncared for, resentment, and blame, among others. If these feelings arise repeatedly over time and you are not able to effectively work through them in a productive way with your partner, the end result is you lose empathy for him. While at one time you were willing to open yourself up to really understanding him on a deep level, now you may feel closed down to his experience. In the past he may have been more willing to communicate in a loving and open way, but now he does not seem to care about the negative effect his words may be having on you.
It has become a sad state of affairs…… and one that it can seem there is no way out of!
But this isn’t true!
One of the primary things I focus on in couples therapy is teaching them how to have empathy for each other. This can be admittedly difficult when you have reached a stage in your relationship where you are viewing your partner as someone who is working against you rather than your PARTNER. However, I have found that when you learn to listen and understand each others’ viewpoints amazing things can happen. Please see this past post for a communication technique that can help you better understand your partner. Through this understanding you can develop empathy for each other. You may be amazed at what changes can happen between you when you feel true empathy for each others’ experiences.
For further information or help working through lack of understanding/lack of empathy in your romantic relationship please schedule an appointment or contact the couples therapists at the Salt Lake Relationship Center.