Paraphrase back what your partner has said and done your best to feel how they feel about this issue. This demonstrates that you honor and understand their experiences.
“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” – Stephen Covey
1. Your partner: “You should have been on the phone when my mother was talking to me. She is such a witch. Ugh. I can’t stand her.”
2. You: “It sounds like what she said really angered you. I can totally understand that. She can be harsh sometimes.”
Listening to Sadness
Crying about something tends to mean your partner has felt like they lost something meaningful. When your partner is sad, don’t try to cheer them up. Instead ask them, “What are those tears about?”
Listening to Anger
Don’t ever tell your partner to calm down. This dismissing statement backfires. Anger can be a protector of deeper feelings or a reaction to feeling blocked in some way. You can say, “I want to understand what this anger is about, this feels important.”
Listening to Fear
Don’t dismiss your partner’s fear. Instead ask, “What is so scary about this? Can you help me understand?”
Self-Edit What You Say Without Editing Feelings
If you’re the partner who is expressing your “bad” emotions, focus on putting your feelings into words and vulnerably sharing what the event meant about you as a person, lover, parent, worker, etc.
It will become impossible for your partner to connect with you over negative emotions if you criticize and attack them. You too have a responsibility in connecting with your listener by choosing how you say something.
What Do Emotions Mean To You?
When couples feel disconnected over their emotions, I encourage them to explore each other’s past and present, and experiences in the relationship. When partners do this well, they get a map of their partner’s emotional inner world with the laws they created to survive their childhood. Once partners understand this, they can begin constructing a shared emotional culture that deepens their emotional connection.
Giving The Gift Of Attunement
Being there for your partner when they are upset is one of the best gifts you can give them.
It may be difficult to listen to your partner’s negative feelings such as sadness, anger, disappointment, or fear, especially if it’s directed at you, but it is valuable.
“Taking responsibility—even for a small part of the problem in communication—presents the opportunity for great repair.”―
Negative emotions are like knights protecting the castle around your partner’s heart. If you can get past them by being kind and gentle, you’ll get to see the heart of your partner and learn how to love them better.
The goal is for you and your partner to feel comfortable expressing negative emotions in ways that allow both of you to listen without feeling attacked. That way the message on how to love each other better can create healing rather than injury.
Acknowledging negative emotions, tackling them and resolving them is the best way to build a strong and unbreakable bond. If you can show your partner that you will always have their back, they will feel safe and loved. After all, it really doesn’t take a lot to show someone how important they are to you.
Written by Kyle Benson
Originally appeared in Kyle Benson