Empathy in Marriage: You “Get Me!”

 

Empathy is more than understanding. It’s feeling what another feels. Self-centered, ego-centric people are unable to empathize with others.

But empathy – feeling with your partner – is a key to a healthy marriage relationship.

For example, we all know what our day is like and all the problems we have to deal with.

But learning empathy for your marriage partner and their day is very helpful, creating greater intimacy and connection. It makes you both feel like the other “gets me.”

So, it’s good to ask, what is my partner’s day like?

Do your best to try to understand the unique challenges your partner faces.

This is another exercise designed to value your significant other – to show them respect, understanding, appreciation.

The Exercise:

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. (Ladies, if he literally wants to wear your clothes, you may want to get him help).

Be the other person and describe what your day is like.

  • Who are the people they deal with?
  • What expectations do they face from others?
  • What’s it like having you as their partner?

Want to go further? Think about past family experiences of your partner. Put yourself in their place and see how those experiences affect you day to day.

Empathy is a part of a skill set that counselors learn to help people. The counselor’s question of how did that make you feel? is a good one to ask your partner. And rather than judge the feeling, just try to appreciate it.

Note: the longer you live together as husband and wife the easier it gets to feel what the other is feeling.

Resources:

You can dig much deeper with the book Trading Places by popular marriage authors Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. Perhaps their best known book is Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts.

The Trading Places book provides a three step strategy for learning to empathize with your mate. There are workbooks available too that really gets you into the nitty-gritty.

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28 comments to Empathy in Marriage: You “Get Me!”

  • Andrew and Anna

    This was a valuable exercise. Since we have been together and lived together for a while now, we sometimes take for granted what the other person goes through each day. Andrew knows Anna’s work frustrations, but because he has been hearing them for a while now, sometimes he thinks she should just get over them and learn to work around them. After talking to her during this exercise, he realizes the reality of the issues and that they aren’t the same frustrations day in and day out, but unique to certain situations. Learning to empathize is something that each of us can work on. Its easy to fake it, but making the effort to really understand each other’s problems and learning to be there for each other will make it easier for the other person.

  • thomas king and rebecca shreeve

    in the beginning of our relationship thomas and i have done everything together. we have worked together, gone to school together, lived together, everything. until recently have we been doing things more apart and it is getting harder. we are still able to empathize with eachother in certain ways because we have both been there where the other person has. now it is just about having those experiences separate instead of together. we never really had to empathize with eachother because we were always in the same environment experiencing things the same. now we are making more of an effort to talk about our days (as they are separate now) and to listen to each other. i think the older we get in our own skin and in our relationship we will be able to better empathize with eachother. it is something we strive for but sometimes we forget to take time to really feel what the other person is feeling.

  • Connie Noward and Barry Thiessen

    I have seen that Connie has taken on the new job as a Medical Examiner and is hard on herself when she makes a mistake. I have helped her to overcome the anxiety of making mistakes by being empathetic with her. I understand that mistakes will happen in anything we do.
    I know that I am not the easiest person to live with, I try to see myself through Barry’s eyes and I would have to say that it has helped me be more empathetic to the things that we have went through the past few years. I feel that if I had not been able to do that we would not be together today. Empathy is vital to our relationship.

  • Nancy and Adam

    This was a very valuable exercise for us. We have been dating for almost 7 years and we have been living together for a couple years. When we get home from work sometimes we forget the things that the other person has to deal with each day. We get frustrated with each other because we forget that we both have stuff going on in our lives. After doing this exercise, it helps to put those things back into perspective.

  • Michael and Terry

    Michael and I take time each night to sit outside, talk about our day-work, kids etc…its great to de-stress with someone who really cares and can understand the frustrations of work and kid life. I can’t imagine not having “our” time to just talk and laugh especially when we have both had rough days.

  • Brad and Kim

    Empathy is absolutely an integral part of any relationship. Sometimes it can be tough when someone is having a bad day to do more than just sit and listen but to actually pay attention to what they are saying and try to imagine how they must be feeling. The ability to be able to do that is a big step in bringing two people closer together.

  • Jessica and Andrew

    This exercise was fun. I liked thinking about my partner’s day and I liked hearing him talk about what he thinks my day is like. It was especially hard to articulate what it’s like for our partner to be in a relationship with ourselves but it was interesting!I felt affirmed by the exercise.

  • Ashley Harris and Michael Frisbie

    We really enjoyed this assignment! It was fun to try to see each others day from a different perspective and we were happy to see that we understand each other’s perspectives and experiences fairly well!

  • Katie and John

    We try to not only think about ourselves but others as well. We realize that “life” is not him and I, but the people around us that are also playing a role in “life”.

  • Dustin and Katie

    We liked this exercise a lot! We sometimes forget how difficult it is for each other. Dustin sometimes forgets the stress Katie has with going to school full time, and she sometimes forgets how stressful work can be. We think its a great idea to always remember what your partner is experiencing and being mindful of that when you talk about your days.

  • Tammy and Duke

    For the most part, we both have empathy for each other at least 90% of the time. Sometimes empathizing can actually lead to shying away from the truth. It helps to be objective about the situation for the other person so can you offer good advice, if necessary.
    You just have to be open to what is needed at the time.

  • Lindsey and Rhett

    Rhett and Lindsey discuss their daily grind with one another on a regular basis. While this can include many negative aspects (such as Lindsey’s long commute to work or Rhett’s lack of sleep from working overnight shifts), we try to limit the complaints and focus on the positives. We both have well paying jobs that we enjoy and this is something that some people are fighting to have. We are blessed in so many ways and while we each have hardships and need to stop and empathize with one another at times. It is important to limit the complaints and to not lose focus of our blessings and be mindful of the positive aspects in our lives!

  • Kelly and Larry

    We very much appreciated this exercise. We were reminded that we are both under stress at work, and we are so fortunate to have each other to understand the frustrations we deal with on a daily basis. We both try to focus on the positive aspects more so than the negative. We were both working the same job for a while with different companies so we are definitely more empathetic towards each other and more vocal of our appreciation of each other.

  • Mary Ann and Christoper Griffiths

    It really made us talk about each others day. He works night and I work days. We both have totally different stresses. But he brings me lunch and snacks and flowers. I try to go to every one of his gigs and events. After 2 years we haven’t given up on that. Sometimes we need little reminders of empathy.

  • Dawn and Mike

    We have maintained a strong and vital relatioinship over a long time and s long distance and we have had to deeply understand each other’s day to day issues, problems, achievements and struggles. Empathizing with each other and valuing each other has lead to an incredibly strong relationship.

  • Raychel and Peter

    Raychel, “Personally, I think this is a tough but great exercise. Because Peter and I have been in a long distance relationship for so long and are from different cultures, I have frequently felt that we sometime do not value exactly ‘what each other does’. Peter has never experienced the need to work full time and attend school. I am thankful this is something he hasn’t had to do, but felt sometimes the timeI spent working was not fully understood or appreciated from him. Also, due to him being unable to work legally until we get his green card, it is been up to me to make and save money for our future. I believe after a few years of him seeing the stress and time that my work takes, he has changed and values it more, though I still find myself at times wondering if he understands how hard I work. I know one day this will change so I try not to let it bother me and I look forward to our future when we can financially contribute equally. Though he may not be working now, I also have to remind myself that he has made many sacrifices as well, and though it may not be measured fiscally, his moving to the United States away from his friends and family motivate me to work harder for us. At the moment Peter doesn’t really see or interact with many people as he stays home and works on filing out paper work for his green card. He also does not have a way to get around so is at the mercy of me, my parents, or friends. I’d like to think that he looks forward to me coming home from work as well as my days off because I think we try to make the most of those times and do things we both enjoy.”
    Peter-“Being in a long distance relationship has taught me to understand how Raychel is feeling even though she doesn’t always directly say. I feel bad that I can not work at the moment, but it is also important for Raychel to understand that I don’t enjoy being at home and I know she is working very hard for us right now. I certainly rather be out working than walking around at home doing a lot of smaller insignificant things. On a daily basis, Raychel goes to work at a restaurant in the afternoon, but before she leave we try to make the best of our morning and do things together.”
    In conclusion we feel like we understand what each other is going through and we appreciate the hard work we are both doing and the different sacrifices we are both making for our relationship and our future.

  • D & S

    We are still learning to read each others emotions. Apparently, she is more transparent than he is. However, both of us have no trouble express our feelings. He is great because he understands that sometime all a woman heeds is to be held.

  • Brooke & Lucas

    For the most part, we both have empathy for one another and have daily discussions about things that are bothering us at work or with our families. Since we have been together for 7 years, we have a good understanding of how the other thinks and feels about past family experiences and day-to-day experiences.

  • Richard and Sarah

    Richard and I spent many years in a long distance relationship, we emphasized telling each other about our days and communicating the feelings we experienced that day. In all honest, probably due to work demands and gender differences, I could have more to say. Richard always tried to be patient and understand on my stressful day rants. And I tried to be patient and understanding with his “oh, struggling on” comments of his day.

  • Amanda & Nate

    Amanda and I have fairly different lifestyles currently: I work constantly at two jobs, and she is in a very demanding college curriculum and also works a part time job. Needless to say, we often come home stressed and we greatly enjoy listening to each others’ days. We feel that great listening skills are the only way to truly empathize with someone. The best way to enter someone’s mind is via the routes that they inform you about. Of course, spending time together eventually allows you to gain a better understanding of the things that are not directly spoken about – reading body language, facial expressions, etc. are important and is easier to do the longer you are together.

    We really do try to imagine the various stresses in each others’ lives so that we can think of the best ways to help our significant other de-stress. Sometimes the best way to de-stress is the simple act of knowing that someone else understands your situation, and knows the difference between the times when you just need some time to yourself and the times that you need a hug and an “I love you”.

  • Alan and Alyse

    I feel that we are very empathetic to one another, perhaps aided by the fact that I am a mental health provider… Alan has gotten skilled over the years to recognize and call out changes in my mood, showing how much attention and care he gives to me. This then helps me recognize my own mood, and we talk about what caused the changes.

  • Liz and Jesse

    This exercise really helped us realize how much we really do on a daily bases for ourselves and each other. We have been together so long that our lives just seem to mesh, and we often forget what each others day to day is truly like. This helped us realize emotionally how our day changes us, and why. It got us conversing about why some days are more emotionally draining and what are things that we can do to help each emotionally trough those tough days.

  • Hunter Earnest & Amy Mahoney

    Empathy is a skill that should be practiced routinely and should be on-going. Asking questions about one another’s day combined with active listening. Listening is not a passive activity and if attempted it will fail.

    We make a point to listen and hear about one another’s day. Getting into a routine when things aren’t as stressful can make it easier when times are stressful for both.

  • Aleah & Brandon

    We enjoyed this exercise. It was nice to hear back that we have each been truly listening about each others work experiences and environments. We both have highly demanding jobs, which we think is a positive, since we understand when the other has to work late, travel for work, etc. We also both enjoy relaxing and unwinding together after a long week, so have similar weekend plans in mind.

  • Aaron & Chelsey

    We both agree that the little girl did not have a cupcake. Perhaps it was a strawberry shortcake? We also agree that the video made us want to go get dessert.

    In all seriousness, we both have stressful jobs and as soon as we get home, we know that we can rely on one another for support because the other will empathize with the situation being faced. We may need a few moments to decompress before delving into the details and sharing our feelings with each other, but once we are ready to open up the other is ready to listen and understand.

  • Thomas & Tiffany

    This exercise was well worth it. We work for the same company, but have different positions/jobs. Every day when we get home, we talk about the stressful days we had and people we had to deal with. Doing this exercise made us realize just how much we actually listen to each other because we both knew exactly what kind of people the other deals with every day, what each other goes through – it was great. The part where we talked about what it’s like to have us as a partner was definitely interesting and a little funny. Neither of like talking about ourselves very much, but it was good getting out of our comfort zones and trying to see things from the other’s point of view, positives and negatives both.

  • Maggie & Steve

    This exercise reenforced the idea of emphasizing with each other, but also that having “our time” to discuss what happens during our day is important. We noticed for a while (due to work) that we did not sit down for dinner and talk about our days, which placed stress on our relationship. Having a better understanding of one another is integral to a healthy marriage.

  • Bethany and Jesse

    This was a good exercise for us. We’ve lived together for a little while so we share show our days were with each other. We know each other’s routines and responsibilities, but I think saying it out loud just really made us more aware of what all we have to deal with individually.

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