You have to always remember that your partner is different from you. They will have some different concepts about what is expected in a relationship. And you will at times have to make a concerted effort to understand each other’s perspectives. The best way to do this, is to develop an empathic connection with each other.
So, you make an effort to understand your partner’s point of view. And by doing this, you can develop an awareness of their needs. It’s like you step into each other’s shoes and imagine situations from each other’s perspective. You attempt to feel what your partner feels and gain understanding about their viewpoint.
You have to be honest with each other and not bottle things up. So, you regularly share your thoughts and feelings, and you take time to relate to each other. You listen attentively, and you ask questions if you are unclear about something being said. You aim for clarity and mutual understanding.
Many couples share common beliefs, interests and values. But there will always be differences, and it is these differences that can jump out and derail a relationship. By developing an empathic connection, you can respect your partner even when you don’t agree with them or feel the same way. You can accept their differences and continue to love them — lumps, bumps and all.
Empathic connection is not just about your words, it’s also about your emotional demeanour and your inner sentiments. For example, your body language, eye contact, tone of voice, facial expressions, attitudes and emotions.
To enhance empathic connection: Maintain soft eye contact and hold an open body language. Give your undivided attention and be sincerely interested. Be open to rational dialogue and talk calmly. Cherish your partner’s values and feelings with warmth and tenderness.
As you develop deeper levels of empathic connection for each other, you expand trust for each other. You’ll feel supported by the understanding and rapport you have for each other. And this will make it much easier to accept each other’s differences and resolve any grievances that might occur.
What you have to watch out for is getting stuck in negative thoughts and emotional reactions about something your partner has done.
If you or your partner, or both of you, carry bitterness and resentment for each other, and do not resolve it — the relationship will be prone to arguments and disputes. It will lack empathic connection.
Living a life with someone who you feel uncomfortable with is not going to work well for you. Some actions are unacceptable, and it may well be in your best interest to leave a relationship. It is healthy to honour your boundaries.
But if you are willing to make an effort to accept and forgive — you should prioritise making peace with your partner. And that means coming to terms with what’s happened, and letting go of your grievances.
Sometimes you can do this by yourself. And other times you will need to have discussions with your partner.
Communication and Reconciliation
If you sincerely want to connect with your partner and resolve an issue, you have to reach a certain level of composure. If you are highly emotional about something that has happened; take a break before communicating. Go for a walk, have a bite to eat, do some exercise or a relaxation technique — calm yourself.
Try not to make assumptions about why your partner has acted in a certain way — as you may be entirely wrong. Furthermore, keep in mind that your partner may simply not have been aware of what you expected them to do — and they may be happy to make changes if you explain your feelings.
During conversations about any disappointment or disagreement that is causing tension — do your best to communicate clearly, sincerely and calmly without being aggressive or defensive.
Describe what happened and how it made you feel. Explain to your partner how the issue with their behaviour has affected you. And also, take responsibility for your own actions if appropriate.
The best approach, is to have no demands about what your partner should do — and to have no intention to hurt or disparage them.
If you can establish empathic connection, you can quite quickly de-escalate tensions and reach reconciliation. Then you can discuss solutions as necessary.
You must both feel genuinely content about any agreements that are made. Neither partner should dominate by prioritising their own needs, and no one should feel a sense of unfairness. And this does often mean that some individual concessions will have to be made — to serve the greater good of the relationship.
In order to be fair and reasonable: You have to transcend the desire to control each other. You have to transcend the need to always get your own way. And you have to transcend your righteousness.
Your partner should never be viewed as an opponent that you need to overpower and be victorious over. It’s not about winning or forcing your partner into submission. To make peace, you have to appreciate each other’s perspectives and find common ground.
If you remain hostile, you will intensify negative emotions. Accusations and insults will not resolve anything. And it is unacceptable to use threats or intimidation tactics to get your way. To make peace, you have to let go of blame and any desire for retaliation or vengeance.
By respecting each other’s feelings and relating to each other with empathy and compassion — you can make peace with each other.
You can reconcile your differences by reaching mutual understanding about your values, and by agreeing on fair and equitable ways to move forward.
If you do intend on making behaviour changes; be realistic and make them achievable. Define them with specific details, so that you both fully understand what you’re agreeing to.
Have faith in each other’s commitment to change. You have to trust each other’s word — otherwise negative expectations can get in the way of progress.
None of us humans are perfect. Try to maintain a level of compassion and empathy for each other’s vulnerabilities, dysfunctions and weaknesses. Empathic connection can hold a sacred space of possibility for your partner to change. But hostility and judgement will restrict them.
Taking Personal Responsibility
People often tend to overlook taking personal responsibility when they are confronted with troubles in their relationship.
You have to be willing to recognise if your own desires and insecurities are causing issues in your relationship. You have to accept responsibility for your own thoughts and emotions — you cannot expect your partner to sustain your happiness.
For example, you may recognise how your expectations for your partner are making you feel frustrated and unhappy. But if you are stuck in negative thoughts and emotions about what you don’t want and about what you don’t like; your discontentment will drive a wedge between you — making things worse.
Everyone is psychic to some degree — and so even if you are not verbalising your dissatisfactions, they will inevitably be felt by your partner and will affect your relationship. Gossiping to other people about your grievances will have the same negative effect.
See if you can neutralise your negativity by lessening your expectations. See if you can accept your partner for who they are, and appreciate their positive attributes.
You can also communicate with your partner about what you want, and try to find solutions together.
Seek to resolve any grudges and grievances quickly through acceptance and empathic connection. You protect each other’s wellbeing by not dwelling on negativity.
Healing Past Pain
It can also be helpful to look at your life experiences. For example, are there events that happened in previous relationships, that are impacting your current relationship? Are there patterns of relationship behaviour you are replaying from your parent’s relationship?
You might recognise that you become triggered by certain behaviours. For example, you may get anxious, angry and frustrated if your partner comes home late after being with friends. But it’s important to recognise why you are triggered. Is it simply because you have to get up early, or is there more to it?
Perhaps, you realise you are getting triggered because of a past relationship where you discovered your ex was being unfaithful, when they were out with their ‘friends’.
Be honest with your partner if you recognise past associations are triggering emotions. And make an effort to not project your past upsets at them. It is not acceptable to use your vulnerabilities as an excuse to emotionally torment your partner.
If you realise your partner is being triggered by past associations, try not to take it personally — hold steady and provide a safe space for your partner to be vulnerable. But you should call them out if you feel they are being unfair.
One of the most powerful aspects of relationship is found in this dynamic — and you can help each other to resolve old imprints of emotional pain.
The way to resolve it, is to assure each other that things are different. So, you act in ways that build trust and therefore reinforce this assurance.
The associations are defence mechanisms wired into your brain to act as warning signals. Over time, as long as there are consistent confirmations indicating that your current partner is not comparable to someone who hurt you; the associations will stop, and the pain from the past can be resolved and healed.
One of the greatest gifts of a relationship is the healing and development that can occur. You can learn so much from each other. You can help each other in so many ways.
If you truly value and cherish each other, your relationship will be empowering and liberating.