Dating Magazine

Your Partner Might Understand You, but Do They Actually Care?

By Datecoachtoni @CoachToni

If you are having a bad day, week or more—can you talk to your partner about it? By this I mean; do they listen, understand what you are saying, and care about how you are feeling? Or is it just one or two of these? The results of new research on this topic have just been released by psychologists at UC Santa Barbara. What they found is that it’s not enough that one’s partner hears and understands what they are saying, they also need to care about how it is affecting them for it to be truly helpful.

Maybe this is why some people go on and on to their partner about something they are upset about, or why they repeat something over and over again, hoping somehow it hits the mark. Their significant other could be sitting there listening and acknowledging that they hear them—yet somehow there is something missing, like empathy. Apparently we know when someone cares—by what they say and how they say it. It’s knowing that they actually care that helps us to feel better.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Psychological Science—and they are the first time that the importance of understanding and empathy occurring together has been studied. Understanding has always been held as important in and of itself, but without compassion and concern, it provides little help to the partner seeking support. In other words, if your partner doesn’t get that you are hurting and is not able to feel your pain—they simply won’t be as emotionally available to you or able to provide you with the kind of support that will help you really feel better.

Maybe what happens when someone feels empathy is that we know they really get how we feel, that they have been there, and that when we express our pain, they validate us and we feel less alone, which lightens the burden. Maybe this is what people with high emotional intelligence have—an ability to both understand and feel empathy, and then communicate this to the other person.

Apparently if someone can’t feel another’s pain, they aren’t able to show the support and caring that is necessary. Makes sense. Maybe this is a piece of the “problem with communication” that I hear so often from couples who come to me for relationship help. They describe an inability to convey their feelings and needs in a way that their partner hears them correctly. Maybe what is missing is the partner’s ability to feel empathy and compassion and the desire to help that often comes with these.

I often tell folks to “think” more with their hearts than their heads when in conversation—this research helps to explain why this is so important.


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