It's no secret that happy, healthy marriages take a lot of work. From learning to communicate, to finding ways to get over annoyances, couples have to work together to have a fantastic relationship.
But, there's one key element that every marriage needs: empathy. Empathy: "... [F]eeling empathy matter[s] more than simply listening to what partners ha[ve] to say," stated a recent article on relationships. It is not enough to just listen, you need to try to understand how your spouse is feeling and have compassion for him/her.
If you don't have empathy for your spouse, your communication is basically broken. You can't fully grasp what your spouse is going through if you don't work to understand his/her point of view. A lack of empathy is a lack of full communication.
Work toward understanding
Truly understanding your spouse's point of view is vital to your relationship. It can aid in making necessary compromises and seeing situations through your husband's or wife's eyes. Work to see situations from his/her perspective. Even if you disagree, you can try to understand the situation from your spouse's side.
What is your spouse feeling?
Communication isn't just verbal; it's also physical and emotional. If your spouse is angry, ask why? What is making your husband or wife upset? Why is he or she crying? Part of having empathy is being able to understand the emotions behind the actions and words. Look for cues to grasp how your spouse feels. Is she/he raising his/her voice? Is your spouse crossing his/her arms? Tapping his/her foot? Giving the silent treatment? Crying? Laughing?
All of these physical, verbal and emotional reactions can give you insights into how your spouse feels.
Even if you don't agree with your spouse's point of view, you can still be compassionate and considerate. Having empathy is being able to see and understand the other person, and then act with compassion. When you know how your spouse feels, you can be considerate of his/her feelings and care about how your husband or wife feels. Love and comfort him/her. Being compassionate opens the doors for better communication and compromise where necessary.
You can develop empathy
If you're not already able to empathize with others, especially your spouse, you can work toward being more sympathetic and compassionate. As you learn to listen, understand and see situations from your spouse's viewpoint, you will be able to more easily sympathize with how your spouse feels. As you act compassionately toward your spouse, you will become more empathetic.
Empathy is a wonderful quality to exist in any relationship—most importantly within a marriage. A lack of empathy leads to not caring about others and no desire for compromise. For a marriage to work, empathy needs to be present. Spouses need to understand each other and have compassion for one another. If you can feel what your spouse feels and see situations from his/her perspective, your marriage will be a lot stronger and happier.