Tired of repeatedly having the same argument or type of conflict? Do you and your partner try to change each other’s feelings or points of views?
Our San Francisco Couples Therapists can help.
At the root of connection and intimacy in partnerships Is empathy. Empathy is a powerful way of holding mindful space with and for another person, without trying to problem solve, fix or change anything: It is the ability to deeply witness and feel moved by another person’s experience, so much so that it stirs in the witness similar feelings. Empathy is the very foundation of human connection, love and respect.
Take a moment to reflect on a time when you were listened to and really truly heard... without being offered platitudes (“Hey everything happens for a reason!” Or “Snap out of it!”), advice or dismissing statements. How did it feel to be seen as you were in that moment and experience? What did it feel like in your body as you felt understood, witnessed and heard?
One of our deepest needs as humans is to feel seen, accepted and understood; true understanding is not possible without empathy. As the iconic Humanistic psychologist Dr. Carl Rogers stated, “When someone really hears you without passing judgment on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good!” And indeed this is often what people most desire when upset or in pain (or even when experiencing joy)! Typically people don’t want someone to fix or change their feelings, as much as be a shared witness who gets it. We want to know we are not alone and in being understood we feel validated and supported and close to the listener.
Being Known Requires Sharing Yourself
“Vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, it’s courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness.” – Brene Brown
Empathy is the willingness to deeply feel with your partner and to understand and accept their inner subjective experience as valid and real. It’s an opportunity to see your partner’s private inner world. What an honor to be witness! What trust and respect given by the vulnerable partner sharing their feelings!
This critical skill is part of Secure Functioning (creating a secure and safe and even sacred space of trust between the partners) and is vital to reaching resolution in difficult conversations and especially during times of conflict and turmoil. Not surprisingly, it is during conflict when empathy is most difficult and the most important intimacy building skill to master. To empathize with your partner when their hurt feelings are a result of something you said or did without defending yourself requires skill and practice. Putting yourself in your parter’s shoes, allowing yourself to soften to their hurt even when you feel angry or hurt or want to be “right” is the benefit of empathy.
EMPATHY SOFTENS US INTO AUTHENTIC CONNECTION, VULNERABILITY AND GENUINE INTIMACY. IT HEALS ATTACHMENT WOUNDS AND GENERATES EMOTIONAL SAFETY AND INTELLIGENCE.
Unfortunately, many people are not taught empathy and find themselves caught in painful and destructive repeating patterns called negative cycles. Our highly trained San Francisco Bay Area Couples & Marriage Counselors, Sex & Intimacy Therapists and Relationship Experts have helped thousands of couples and individuals deepen their capacity for empathy and intimacy, while simultaneously reducing the negative relationship patterns through highly effective couples therapy modalities rooted in the latest research in neuroscience and attachment theory.
Couples & Partners that have mastered empathy through relationship therapy often indicate “it’s like a light switch has been turned on in our relationship” and their cycles of negatively and conflict drastically reduced. They also learned how to stop the escalation and quickly and effectively repair.
San Francisco Intimacy and Sex Therapy Center’s couples Counselors are trained to assist partners to:
- Identify their problematic beliefs, feelings, interpretations and behaviors that create the negative cycle
- Help them to identify their underlying attachment needs,
- Learn how to effectively express their feelings and
- Share empathy with one another.
- Cultivate and maintain security and emotional intimacy (secure-functioning attachment).
When partners stop defending their positions and polarizing one another, they can choose to seek mutual understanding of one another other. Defensiveness invites defensiveness, whereas vulnerability invites vulnerability. When partners choose empathy over being “right” they become a team against the conflict and deepen security and closeness.