You may be to the part of your story where you are ready to do the work to help heal your relationship. There are many things that you are probably working on, but to help with sustainability of that work, learning and implementing the skill of empathy should be paramount.
Empathy is the ability to feel or imagine someone’s pain and emotional distress. Empathy, as a skill, gives us the ability to develop that muscle to see things (pain) from another’s point of view and, in turn, it creates a space for deeper connection and healing. The vulnerability that breeds in moments of empathetic connection helps to increase emotional attunement.
Perhaps you are not well versed in the skill of empathy yet and need some tips on how to hone this skill. Empathy can be learned with practice and by making some changes to unhealthy but familiar patterns. For example, if you are having a difficult conversation with your partner and their pain is being shared, you may begin to feel that usual urge to protect and defend yourself. When these feelings come up, you may feel some tightness in your body or the temptation to resist and oppose what is being shared.
In this situation, a good plan is to take a second to ground yourself and take a few deep breaths to self-soothe. Then you can become curious while actively listening to your partner’s feelings. As you listen actively, you should work to keep an open heart that allows you to look at your partner’s pain with vulnerability instead of focusing on “the story you have heard over and over.”
Empathy helps build depth in love because it allows you to see your partner and their pain rather than the version of your partner that you created in your defensive judgment. The compassion you can then display helps your partner feel understood on a new and deeper level, so suddenly they feel seen and validated.
As you continue to practice empathy, you may also begin to heal parts of yourself with the self-effacing realization that you are not the only one in this relationship, and your partner’s feelings are as relevant as your own.
Finally, empathy can be a wonderful beginning to building intimacy, trust, and healthy attachments. As empathy continues to grow, it closes the ability to ignore or detach from your partner’s feelings. The more empathy is used to join and validate, the more it builds a safe space for a healed connection.
* * * * * * * * * *
If you or a loved one are struggling with sexual addiction, Seeking Integrity can help. In addition to residential rehab, we offer low-cost online workgroups for male sex addicts new to recovery. The next online course session starts March 4, 2023. Click here for more information.