Shawnda Muir
Shawnda Muir
February 3, 2022
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Dear Friends,

February is the Month of Love - and thus I've dedicated time to sharing more John Gottman Relationship info.

Hopefully you've started the Gottman Bingo Challenge, and considered signing up for the 7 Principles of Making Marriage Work Course starting February 8.  Now I'd like to introduce Gottman's podcast called Small Things Often (which is his motto for relationship success!).  Read on for a sample episode and tip below.

Why You Should Stop Trying to Fix Your Partner’s Feelings It might feel counterintuitive, but stop trying to fix your partner’s feelings. On this episode of Small Things Often, learn why you should empathize with your partner instead.

View Transcript Below, or Click here for the 5 minute podcast.

Hi! You’re listening to Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute, where we talk you through research-based tips to help improve your relationships in 5 minutes or less.

Today’s tip is about empathizing with your partner.

When your partner is having a hard time, you might automatically try to help them. Maybe you say things like, “Well, it could be worse…” and “You could spin this into something positive…” — and you truly have good intentions when you say it, but you’re actually invalidating their feelings. So what’s a good solution? Stop trying to change or fix how they feel and instead, focus on connecting with your partner.

You can do that by showing empathy and putting yourself in their shoes. Start by listening without judgement — that means washing away all preconceived ideas about what they’re feeling and what they need. Be present in the conversation when your partner comes to you and says, “I can’t stand that we’ve been bickering all day over text. I feel really hurt.” Practice non-defensive listening and remember how much you love and respect each other. Be curious about your partner’s feelings and consider saying something like, “I feel terrible that you feel hurt. I want to know more if you’re up to talking about it.”

Pay attention and look for those feelings of being hurt, sad, or angry — or whatever it is! Concentrate on that emotion and listen to what your partner needs… and don’t get swept away by the facts of what actually happened. This is where couples can get stuck. Let’s say you and your partner start arguing over who is “right” — when actually both views are valid. When your partner is having a tough time, it might not matter at all who is right or wrong… and in fact, if you focus on that… you could also invalidate their feelings. 

So listen with your whole being because it’ll become a lot easier to understand their perspective. Think of it like this. Your partner is in a dark hole with these difficult emotions. And now, you need to climb into that hole with them. Feel what they’re feeling because empathy is kind of like a mind meld. You can sometimes experience their feelings on such a deep level that you almost become your partner. Sounds wild, right? Empathy can make you so connected that it’s physical — and you have to be vulnerable. Attuning to your partner’s difficult emotions requires you to connect with that feeling within yourself… so dig deep!

And then, try to summarize and validate how they’re feeling. Tell your partner that you respect their perspective and that their feelings are natural and valid… even if you don’t agree. You could start by saying, “How could you not feel hurt? I completely get where you’re coming from.” Validating their perspective doesn’t mean that you’re abandoning your own perspective… empathizing just shows that you understand why they have those feelings and needs.

Oh and by the way… when you make this conscious effort to be empathetic instead of trying to change or fix your partner’s feelings… you’ll likely notice your partner reciprocating. Because we have to receive empathy to feel empathy so really, it’s a win-win.

Here’s today’s small thing: The next time your partner expresses difficult emotions, react with empathy. Remember to listen without judgement, concentrate on their feelings, climb into that dark hole right along with them, and validate how they feel.

Tune in to the next episode of Small Things Often for another quick tip from The Gottman Institute — helping you maintain and strengthen all of your relationships.

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We hope you enjoyed this blog. Click here to go to MMOC's marriage website pages for previous posts and other info. 

Contact our MFL team for marriage support anytime. 

God Bless,

Your Marriage, Family and Life Team