Has this ever happened to you? You call up your man and ask how his day is, he responds with a slew of “nothing is going right” and “I am so stressed from by boss breathing down my neck..” As any loving partner, you respond by listening, trying to give feedback and advice on how to get through this tough work day.
But in your quest to help your partner find relief from his stress – you find yourself feeling irritable that “he’s not taking any of your suggestions… “and if he just would try deep breathing, he would see how helpful it can be to manage his anger…”
Why this is a toxic merry go round:
Empathy VS Sympathy.
Knowing the difference will save you tons of stress and conflict in your relationship!
Brenee Brown said: “what makes something better is not a response, but connection..” This is the essential component of empathy. It’s a very simple concept but so tough to practice! When we know our loved one is in some kind of emotional pain- our gut instinctual reaction is to want to take that away. So, we go into problem solving mode! We say “do this…stop that” and spend much of our time formulating a solution rather than truly listening and validating out partner’s experience in that moment. This can cause our loved one to feel unsupported, misunderstood and invalidated!
- Reflect what they’re saying to you- without interpreting) stand on their side, even if they are dead wrong!) “You’re boss is really on your case today” or “there’s been a lot of things that haven’t gone as planned for you today”
- Put on your therapist hat and validate, validate, validate: “I’m sure it’s really suffocating to have your boss so involved in everything…”
- Let them know you’re here if they need anything/ask is there anything I can do?
Remember: It’s not your responsibility, nor is it even possible to change the way your partner is feeling in any given moment. The more you understand this, the easier it will become to provide empathy.
Check out this short clip that will help you learn more!
Val Spiropoulos, LCPC