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Can you see your partner’s POV?
Why empathy and compassion can make or break a relationship
We tend to think that the way we view the world is the way the world really is. And when our partners disagree with us, it’s easy to think that they are the ones who are misinformed or have a distorted perception of reality. How else could they see things so differently?
But failing to understand that each individual is entitled to his or her own point of view is failing to appreciate what makes the other person who they really are. After all, you both are two unique individuals, with two unique backgrounds and life experiences that help form two unique perspectives. And those perspectives should be respected and valued.
Learning not only to recognize, but to appreciate your partner’s perspective may be challenging at times. But with discipline, practice and emotional maturity, you will be able to find new ways of understanding your partner’s point of view. And by doing so, you will not only find that you can enrich your vision of reality, but that you can create a new level of intimacy in your relationship.
Are you really listening?
Over the course of your relationship, your partner has demonstrated time and time again what his or her beliefs, thoughts and feelings are. But you, in turn, have likely only absorbed a mere fraction of this information. If you want to truly deepen your understanding of your partner’s subjective reality, you need to condition yourself to listen and communicate more effectively.
One of the first steps to effective listening and communication is paying attention to what words mean to your partner. Even though you and your partner speak the same language, you both have your own private meanings and interpretations that you associate with different words and phrases. This is simply the result of growing up in different environments with different life experiences.
There are also challenges to overcome with communication. Often, when a couple disagrees, it is easy for one or both to slip into a state of denial, in which they outright refuse to believe what the other has to say. Some individuals also tend to tap into an arsenal of weapons to help validate their point — whether that means condemning their partner, ignoring them or even threatening them. In every one of these cases, however, one person is trying to diminish the other’s sense of self and replace it with his or her own, self-serving perspective. And this is particularly damaging to the relationship.
Ask these 3 questions
Rather than telling your partner that only a portion of his or her beliefs or feelings are acceptable, and adding further insult and injury to their sense of self, focus on helping your partner step out of their pain. And rather than seeing your partner’s differing views as potential for conflict, consider it an opportunity to learn more about them. Ask yourself: “What are you seeing that I am not?,” “What have you experienced in your past that has led you to this belief?,” and “How can I use this as an opportunity to know you better?”
When you become more receptive to your partner’s perceptions, there can also be a shift in the energy. Your partner will feel more understood and therefore feel safer and more secure since you are no longer challenging his or her beliefs or feelings. The more secure someone feels in a relationship, the more they will be willing to open up. They will choose to share information with you because they have trust in what you will do with it — that is, they trust you will not use it against them, but use it as a way to understand them better. And that in itself is a gift.
Your partner will also no longer feel the need to amplify their feelings in order to feel heard. And you, in turn, can express how you feel with less force. This helps each of you lower your defenses, and become more willing to recognize and truly understand the other’s perspective.
An “A” for effort
By making the effort to understand your partner’s perspective, you are making the effort to bridge the divide between you and your partner as separate individuals with different views on the world. You are strengthening the connection and introducing a new dynamic of trust, where your partner feels that they will be accepted and understood no matter how far their feelings or beliefs deviate from your own.
Understandably, there may be certain situations in which you find it almost impossible to see the other person’s point of view. And finding empathy or compassion is the furthest thing from your mind. But those most challenging times also present the most room for growth. You are setting your ego aside to focus on how you can help your partner out of their pain. And you are turning away from anger and fear to bring love and security into the relationship.
The journey towards a healthy, happy relationship is never a straight line. But at the end of the day, making the effort and the space to understand your partner’s perspective will help you become more conscious in your relationship. It will help your partner feel more loved, more vital and more secure. And it will help your relationship achieve a new sense of inherent unity and wholeness.