Have you ever struggled to truly understand your mate’s feelings—feeling empathy for what he/she is going through?
I sure have! 😉
But it’s important to examine this important responsibility from every angle. So, first off …
What exactly is empathy?
Empathy is the ability to come alongside someone, and not only understand a person’s point of view, but also feel the other person’s pain.
I’ve discovered that if I don’t fully understand or feel the gravity of what my mate is going through, it can make my marriage very messy, very fast! In those moments, it as if I’ve become blind to what has been going on in his heart and mind.
This cuts me off from him—keeping me from feeling any degree of empathy in the moment when it’s needed most.
[bctt tweet=”It is incredibly important to develop empathy when it is lacking in marriage. #renewyourmarriage #awakenyourheart” username=”BethSteffaniak”]
How Do You Develop Empathy?
There are seven key ways, among many, to develop empathy. I hand-picked these, because I feel they are among the best strategies for gaining insight into your mate’s heart. And, in an effort to help you remember them, the methods are an acrostic for: I.N.S.I.G.H.T.
1. Imagine your spouse/offender—using your imagination in several ways to your advantage.
- One way is to imagine yourself in your spouse’s situation. Really take time to think through how you would feel if you were in his or her shoes—especially regarding the pain being experienced.
- Another way is to look at photos of your spouse as a child and use them to help you visualize your mate. Often when we consider our spouse in the vulnerable stage of childhood, our defenses tend to lower and lessen.
Make a point to regularly practice caring behaviors with your spouse. When you act lovingly toward your mate (or anyone for that matter), it will increase your feelings of love for him/her. It then goes on to develop your ability to empathize in that relationship.
Very often couples come at each other with baggage from their past or presuppositions that muddy the communication waters. Instead, you must be willing to let your mind and perspective be changed as you listen to your partner.
Make it your agenda to listen for your spouse’s feelings, going further to try to understand their point of view. Most of all, this should never be about proving your point of view. 😉
After your spouse has had plenty of time to share his/her feelings, you need to identify with them.
When have you experienced something like this? How did it feel for you?
Really put yourself in your mate’s shoes and imagine what you would feel to be him or her. This will help to deepen your emotional insight into your mate’s plight.
This method involves working on your personal identity. If you don’t have a clear sense of identity, then you can become enmeshed or take on your mate’s feelings in an unhealthy way. (Read a post that I did on this subject here.)
If that’s the case, then you’ll want to work on detaching emotionally from your mate. This is not about withholding empathy or compassion! Rather, it simply means you consistently avoid letting your spouse’s negative behavior determine your mood or choices.
In time, you’ll gain a greater sense of identity, definition and separateness that will offer you the advantage of perspective.
If you don’t heal your own past hurts, you’ll be like a walking wound. And anyone who brushes up against you will send shock waves of anger and pain through your mind and body. This festering anger will keep you from identifying or understanding your spouse’s feelings.
That’s because you have become self-absorbed with your own pain. 😦
When you find ways to resolve your hurts, you can turn your focus off of yourself and more clearly see your partner’s pain.
As humans, I believe, our ability to empathize is extremely limited without God’s help. We may try to empathize based on sheer willpower. But when the heat is on or the situation endures, our empathy quickly evaporates.
That’s why it’s essential to turn to God, because He gives us the mercy, compassion and grace necessary to develop empathy and gain insight.
It’s as if our empathy cup never runs dry, when God is the One pouring His abundant compassion into our hearts for our mates.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
What has hindered you the most from feeling empathy for your mate now or in the past?
What is one strategy that you would add to the seven I’ve offered above?
This is reposting of a post from years ago. I’m sharing older content while I take a blogging break. So I won’t be responding to comments, but would really appreciate any social media sharing while I’m away! If you do so, you’ll make my day!
Here are some lovely linkups I join –Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Mondays, Tea and Word Tuesday, Purposeful Faith, Tell His Story, Recharge Wednesday, Porch Stories Linkup, Break Through Homeschooling Linkup, Coffee for Your Heart, Sitting Among Friends, Destination Inspiration, Grace Moments Linkup, Tune in Thursday, Heart Encouragement, Moments of Hope, Grace and Truth, Faith and Friends, Blogger Voices Network, Faith on Fire Friday, Fresh Market Friday, and DanceWithJesusFriday
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