“Why can’t he just listen and try to understand my feelings / experience rather than telling me to stick to the “facts”?”
“When we get into an argument, why does she always act like she’s being attacked?”
I’ve seen the long-term effects of couples who really want to connect with their partners and how agonizing it can be to get stuck in this kind of relationship stalemate.
CAN ANYTHING HELP?
I’d like to offer a simple answer. The answer is empathy.
Empathy has the power to melt the coolest relationship predicaments. And to create unexpected changes for couples willing to learn and commit to it.
In one of my recent couples’ sessions, a woman told her husband that there was a certain way that he sometimes treated her that made her feel hurt and rejected. As this did not fit his image of himself, he felt threatened and defensively argued that she was misinterpreting his behavior. He wondered if she was overreacting or projecting the relationship she had with her parents onto him.
The result – a standoff.
I suggested that he approach her differently – just listen and give her his complete attention with the sole purpose of understanding her experience and without any concern for the realty or accuracy of her conclusions.
When he tried this approach, something surprising happened. She was no longer interested in pursuing whether he had actually treated her badly. To the contrary, she felt safer being honest and vulnerable with him.
Empathy - the Solution
I encourage my clients to express their feelings to one another and to listen to each other, i.e. to be empathic, with no other agenda.
When you are engaged in conflict with your partner, I encourage you to put aside concerns about objective reality and to drop your defensive barriers enough to tap into the power of empathy. Simply listen to each other’s feelings, experiences and points of view.
Lacking that understanding and an environment that one can bring their feelings to light, the walls between you two will remain impenetrable.
And, without realizing it, you may be playing a part in why your partner doesn’t feel safe to reveal their feelings.
Consider using empathy and a breakthrough in your relationship may be within reach.
To learn more about how you can develop your ability to be empathic and strengthen your relationship, click here.
Learn WHY your marriage/relationship came apart, the PART you played in it, and most importantly, HOW to empower yourself to move forward to ensure that these issues don’t occur in your future romantic relationships (to virtually “divorce-proof” them).