May 17, 2024

How Empathy can help us Avoid Unnecessary Arguments with our Partner.

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Have you ever fought with your partner about meaningless stuff?

I know you have.

I’ve done short-term and long-term relationships and if there’s one thing I know for certain is that it’s hard to dodge little arguments.

Although they’re little and might not last for more than a few minutes, their emotional impact might be massive.

When our partner gets on our nerves or makes contact with us when we’re apathetic, it’s easy to become vulnerable and hurt each other’s feelings in the heat of the moment.

All of a sudden all we want is to be right. And so we might find ourselves fighting over nothing.

My husband and I have little arguments all the time, and honestly, we don’t like it. We always go back to the moment of the conflict and discuss how we could have avoided it.

To my surprise, we have realized that arguing over nothing is preventable.

It’s easy—but also hard:

Before going on the defensive, we both make sure to turn on our empathy radars.

Personally, when I feel triggered, threatened, or attacked, my empathy shuts down. In other words, my ability to see my husband as another separate human with his own problems and struggles fades. I just see him as a target and someone who’s supposed to regulate my nervous system.

And so, when my reservoir of empathy becomes empty, my mind starts misreading his actions and words. My wounds, traumas, and unresolved issues come to the surface, transforming my rational actions into emotionally charged reactions. Instead of seeing my husband with compassionate eyes, I see him as a threat.

That’s exactly how arguments escalate in relationships.

Since we can’t prevent arguments overall, the question is, how can we reinforce our empathetic nature?

My husband and I have made a pact: when a silly argument is looming, we become mindful of our words and each other’s energy. To put it differently, if one of us is tired, distracted, or dealing with external pressures, the other makes sure to tone it down and not attack. Being mindful in looming arguments means that we stay on the watch for any triggers. We observe our nonverbal cues and make sure to act accordingly.

At that moment, instead of making assumptions, we try our best to show up with empathy. We walk in each other’s shoes and aim to understand each other’s feelings.

And if we say something awful that might hurt us, we try to stop. We both understand that no one needs to win—or lose. The only thing that should win is our relationship. So we know when to move on and when to hold on.

Having said that, arguments aren’t a win-or-lose situation. They’re simply the result of two persons who deal with many different emotions and thoughts on a daily basis and who don’t know how to cut themselves some slack.

Empathy can save relationships. I know it has saved mine many times. So activate your empathy if you want to feel safe in your relationship.

~

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