One of our deepest needs as humans according to “Carl Rogers” one of the founders of humanistic psychology, is to feel understood. Notice, that I said, “feel understood”. Because the truth is we can understand our spouse well, however; if they don’t ‘feel’ that we do then all the intellectual understanding in the world won’t help.
Carl Rogers in 1972 said, “When someone hears you without passing judgment on you, or without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mould you, it feels Dam Good!
What Rogers is referring to is what we call empathy. Empathy is the willingness to be present and feel with your partner. It’s the understanding of their inner world from a feeling perspective. Like the song says ‘take a walk in my shoes. It’s imagining and feeling what is happing inside them now.
The most important part of empathy is to not judge your partner’s feelings in whatever situation they are describing. What happens often in relationships is that we feel immense discomfort at our partner’s discomfort. So, we are not able to hold space for it. We then move to make ourselves feel better by trying to “fix” their feelings, especially if it is us that has hurt them in the first place.
Learning how to hold yourself in the presence of your partner’s distress is essential to being able to provide empathy. Empathy is essential to intimacy and a loving connection. Empathy is essential to “Feeling seen” and connected. By showing empathy we are validating our partner, we are accepting them and all that arises in them in the moment of sharing.
Relationship Counsellor & Couples Therapist