7 Ways to Develop Empathy and Gain Insight into Your Mate

Empathy Insight

I’ve discovered there’s one common denominator for making a marriage messier and that’s … a lack of empathy.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to come alongside someone, and not only understand a person’s point of view, but also feel the other person’s pain.

How Do You Develop Empathy?

There are seven ways, among many, to develop empathy. I hand picked these, because I feel they are among the best strategies. And to help you remember them, the methods are an acrostic for – INSIGHT.

Imagine– Use your imagination in several ways to your advantage.

  1. One way is to imagine yourself in your spouse’s situation. Really take time to think through how you would feel if you were in his or her shoes—especially regarding the pain experienced.
  2. Another way is to look at photos of your spouse as a child and use them to help you visualize your mate. Often when we consider our spouse in the vulnerable stage of childhood, our defenses tend to lower and lessen.
Nurture the Relationship

Make a point to regularly practice caring behaviors with your spouse. When you act lovingly toward someone (anyone), it actually increases your feelings of love, as well as, your ability to empathize with that person.

Set Aside Your Beliefs, Concerns and Personal Agenda

Very often couples come at each other with baggage from their past or presuppositions that muddy the communication waters. Instead, you must be willing to have your mind and perspective changed as you listen to your partner. Your only agenda is to listen for you spouse’s feelings and try to understand your partner’s point of view—not to prove your point of view.

Identify with Their Experiences

When your spouse begins to share, focus on the feelings and situations that you’ve experienced in the past that are similar. This will deepen your emotional insight into mate’s plight.

Gain Personal Perspective

This method involves working on your personal identity. If you don’t have a clear sense of identity, then you can become too close to your spouse. (Read my last post on this here.) Begin to practice emotionally detaching—not allowing your spouse’s negative behavior to determine your mood or choices. In time, you’ll gain a greater sense of identity and separateness that’ll offer you the advantage of perspective.

Heal Past Hurts

If you don’t heal your own past hurts, you’ll be like a walking wound and anyone who brushes up against you will send shock waves of anger and pain through your body. This anger keeps you from seeing your spouse’s feelings. Instead, you become self-absorbed with your own pain. If you find ways to resolve your hurts, you can turn your focus off of yourself and clearly see your partner’s pain.

Turn to God

As humans, I believe, our ability to empathize is extremely limited without God’s help. We may try to empathize based on sheer willpower, but when the heat is on or the situation endures, our empathy quickly evaporates. That’s why it’s essential to turn to God, because He gives us the mercy, compassion and grace necessary to develop empathy. It’s as if our empathy cup never runs dry, when God is the One pouring His abundant compassion into our hearts.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

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  • This is great! Love the acrostic. I often find empathy a hard thing to explain. I’ll have to remember this.

    BTW. I tried to come over from On, In, and Around Mondays but the link wasn’t good. I just recognized that MM was messy marriage and came on my own.

  • messymarriage

    Thanks so much, Mary Beth, for your kind words and also for letting me know about my link problem! I’ll have to check out your latest next! 🙂

  • Sylv_R

    I was here earlier, but didn’t have time then to comment. So I’m back, because these are really good pointers, and the acrostic helps to remember them. It’s so easy to misunderstand or have too little grace with the people closest to us. We need to make the effort to develop that empathy. Thanks for these good helps!

  • Renee

    Such a detailed, helpful post, Beth. I’m not married, but I pray this post will bless many who are. Thanks for visiting me at Doorkeeper!

  • Empathy is so important in any relationship. It keeps us from looking at ourselves. It is an act of grace. Love the acrostic and the ideas here. So helpful!

  • messymarriage

    Yes, I’m still working on this one in my life. I feel like it may be one of the most important skills I acquire in my life. I’m glad you feel the pointers are helpful. Thanks so much for stopping by and encouraging too!

  • messymarriage

    Thanks for your kind words, Renee. The fact is, this post is a repost from another blog I used to write at and was geared toward “everyone.” So the points are helpful whether you’re married or not. Thanks so much for coming by my place too! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    Thanks, Christina. Your encouragement means a lot! 🙂

  • Love this. So helpful!

  • JosephPote

    Excellent post with very practical tips!

    Thank you, Beth!

    Yes, Empathy is such an important part of a marriage relationship…something very like what the Bible calls “lovingkindness.”

    Two other tools I have found very useful:

    One is to pray for my wife…really pray very specifically for what I perceive as her needs while asking God to help me to better understand her needs.

    Second is to simply ask my wife, “Help me to understand…” I seldom get the response I expect, but I nearly always gain insight, when I ask such questions.

  • messymarriage

    Thanks for saying and for coming by, Lyli!

  • messymarriage

    Those are great additional thoughts, Joe. Thanks, as always, for coming by and weighing in! 🙂