A simple definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
So then, how does empathy promote intimacy?
Generally speaking, when a person experiences an intense emotion like sorrow, anger, love, etc, others can relate to this by either recalling an experience when they have had the same feeling or actually experiencing the emotion alongside their partner. As couples walk through life together, it is inevitable that they will encounter an opportunity to show empathy.
The importance of grafting empathy into your relationship is key to helping generate a culture of understanding and communicate validation.
When people experience this kind of safety in a relationship, the levels of intimacy flourish.
P R A C T I C E
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- This process will expand into 3 separate posts since the use of each component is pivotal. Take the time this week to put each step into practice every day and perhaps discover other approaches to develop them even more profoundly in your own unique way.
Your general awareness of your partner’s verbal and non-verbal communication is important here. You may or may not notice that he is not looking up from his dinner plate. You may not notice that she is more quiet than usual. You may not have noticed that he is not sleeping well through the night, or you may not have seen that her time at an ordinary task is taking twice as long.
- How can you increase your awareness of your partner? First, begin to notice her. Slow down to acknowledge in your own mind the color of her eyes, the look of ease when doing something he enjoys, the way she walks, the movement of his hands when he is talking. Perhaps think of when you first met and how in tune you were to each minute detail of her existence. This will be the barometer to let you know when things are “off”.
- Next, take in what you are noticing as an embrace, a welcoming, a gentle acknowledgment that works as a deliberate direction of focus and attention. Perhaps this may look like breathing in the beauty of the moment or savoring the details as if it were something you have never experienced before or would never encounter again.
- Once your attention has settled on a specific feature, task, or characteristic in your partner, finally start to verbalize what you noticed, and communicate what you appreciate. Perhaps you see how hot she makes that shirt look, or how masculine he looks with a beard, or you see how he is looking at your children with kindness, or how she dances as she does a routine task. Perhaps you notice how she took out the trash or how he sorted, washed, folded, and PUT AWAY the laundry, or how she has stopped leaving toothpaste splashes on the bathroom mirror, or how he has really developed a passion for recycling, or she truly refuels through running.
Noticing is half the battle for your relationship, verbally acknowledging it is winning.