Are you empathetic? Is your partner? It might be the secret to a happier marriage. According to a recent study from Harvard University, being able to accurately read a partner’s emotions–and believing that your partner is trying to understand your emotions–is related to couple relationship satisfaction.
The authors suggested that for men, being able to understand and be empathetic to their partner’s negative emotions may feel threatening to the relationship, but women don’t seem to find negative emotions threatening. Findings suggest that effort, not just accuracy, positively impacts relationships.
Listen for emotional messages. The emotional message isn’t the same as the words that your partner is saying. Your partner may be criticizing you for not spending enough time together, but the emotional message may actually be, “I miss you and I’m afraid I’m not important to you.”
Push the pause button on your own emotions. When your partner is expressing something critical, it’s easy to respond defensively. Before reacting, take a deep breath and try to slow down your own emotional response so you can hear the emotion behind the criticism.
Reflect back your partner’s emotional plea. Instead of coming back defensively with, “What are you talking about? We just went on a walk yesterday, and we went to dinner last weekend!” respond to your partner’s emotional plea by saying something like, “You really miss me and want to spend more time together. Thanks for letting me know. I love you.”
Even if you read the emotional message inaccurately, your effort to understand your partner’s emotions will pay off! Now, tell us about the empathy level in your own relationship!