“I just don’t understand you at all. You are controlled by your emotions and I think that’s crazy!”
“You are as emotional as a stump!”
“You never care about what I care about. You are just selfish and only care about yourself.”
Have you ever heard statements like these? Or have you ever said anything like these?
Too many times in my practice I have heard these statements or something very similar. People make these type of statements out of frustration, aggravation, and anger. They are trying to communicate the emotional differences between the husband and the wife. Obviously, the differences are vast. Generally speaking, women are more emotional than men while men are more logical or analytical. Most of the time women are more relational than men while men are more competitive. (again generally speaking) Men like action while women like romance. I could go on about the differences between men and women because as I said they are vast. But this is not to point out the differences, but it is to show the need for empathy in marriage.
Philippians 2:3-4 (NASB95)
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Empathy is very difficult for many people and yet it is the deepest form of understanding there is. While sympathy says “I care about you,” empathy says “I care with you.” In a marriage relationship, caring with your spouse about the different issues in life is paramount for the relationship to grow and thrive. In our marriage, we never want to feel that we are just surviving. One way for that to happen is to feel that our spouse is being empathetic.
How can we become empathetic?
- Ask questions for understanding. Asking questions is a very good tool to use in order to understand the person you are talking to better. In order to empathize with someone, you must understand them first.
- Validate the other person. Even if you do not agree with how the person feels about the situation, you still need to let them know that they are important to you. This action will also go a long way in showing empathy.
- Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you respond in their situation? How would react if someone told you that you were crazy? I told a couple the other day that in order to show empathy that you needed to keep a pair of your spouse’s shoes in their pockets at all times. If you are carrying your spouse’s shoes, you will find it easier to “put them on.”
- Learn to accept the emotion of your spouse. This step is very difficult for men. The only emotion men really know how to show is anger and that most of the time is shown inappropriately. Romans 12:15 (NASB95) 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. This verse shows us that we can share each other’s emotions even if we do not fully understand them. This step takes practice and patience. I believe that if we truly care about our spouse, we will be willing to work toward this important step.
- Finally, commit to the love that you have for your spouse. So many times we do become selfish and self-centered. When our spouse is upset at us or something that we don’t think they should be upset about, we have to remember that we love this person and they are very important to us. When we begin to work at thinking this way, we can learn to empathize.
When we learn to empathize with our spouse, our relationship will grow in its intimacy. Emotional intimacy is a level of intimacy that can and will affect all other levels of intimacy. Empathy can be learned by anyone if the time and effort is put forth.