We’ve all heard that empathy is putting yourself into your spouse’s shoes if done well. Being empathetic helps us to see, hear and understand our spouses like nobody else can. And when properly cultivated, it leads to some transforming, caring actions.It’s reinforcing our empathy with these actions that show our spouses how much we truly love and care for them.
So let’s look at how we can back our empathy with some actions.
First step to doing this is to set aside your agenda. The first and probably most important step to cultivating true empathy is putting your agenda aside. That means you’re listening to your spouse’s point of view rather than listening to make your point. This is going to involve the surrendering of your natural desire to win. When you’re driven by agenda, you really don’t want to hear what your spouse has to say. What’s on his or her heart is lost in your desire to prove your point. You don’t empathize with your spouse because you’re blinded by your own perspectives and desires. What you’re really saying is what you have to say doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t want to understand you. It’s easy to see that when your agenda drives the conversation, your ability to empathize comes to a screeching halt.
Second thing you want to do is to be focused on your spouse’s needs and experiences. You can really do this by listening with your heart to your spouse’s heart, visualizing yourself in your spouse’s shoes, noticing your spouse’s facial expressions, body language, working to see what he or she is really feeling and needing, and then trying to feel the same emotion that your spouse is feeling. I say trying because that’s difficult for many of us. But once you truly understand your spouse’s perspective and feelings, you’re ready to demonstrate your love by responding well. If you simply just internalize this responsiveness and don’t do anything to show you care, it doesn’t help your spouse all that much. In fact, what you’re really saying is that you hurt him or her and you truly understand. But if you do nothing, what’s that say? Empathy truly happens when you demonstrate the love and care your spouse needs from you at that moment. Which leads us to the third thing we can do is show your spouse how much you really care.
Caring actions are the proof of true empathy. It’s impossible to have a practical marriage, let alone a happy one, without demonstrating care. So let your spouse know how much you care for them through not only the words you say, but the things you do for them. Care can easily go unnoticed until it evaporates from a marriage. And once it’s gone and spouses have stopped caring about one another and for each other, their marital union is headed for destruction.
So what we learned today is that empathy is a verb. It’s more than just listening. It’s responding to the heart of your spouse by doing something that will support and care for him or her. Understanding without caring is empty empathy.