One of the things we crave most as humans is the feeling of being understood, not from the perspective of another, but from one’s own perspective. Empathy, defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is critical to relationships. When we do not feel understood, when we don’t feel the empathy of our partner, resentment creeps in and latches on like kudzu, being equally difficult to control.
Given that empathy is a core need for connection, it follows that empathy is a core component of intimacy. When the empathy goes out of a relationship, so does intimacy. While there is no hard and fast cure for anything (though, wouldn’t it be nice if there were?), open and honest communication in any relationship can help keep those resentful feelings at bay.
According to an article written by Nancy Colier, a psychotherapist, “Often, partners refuse to offer empathy to each other because they feel that to do so would mean admitting they are to blame, thus giving up the chance to receive empathy and validation for their own experience.” She goes on to describe resentment as a cancer that metastasizes in every part of a relationship, causing the sort of foundational cracks that have the potential to bring down the whole house.
The one thing that always seems certain in any relationship is to listen to another person in a selfless way; to understand them from their perspective, rather than as clouded by one’s own preconceived notions and judgements. Listening to understand another person, rather than listening to selfishly defend how their feelings affect, or implicate, oneself. Empathy and love are not tactical emotions. Remembering that could save your relationships from the toxicity that is resentment.
Read Nancy Colier’s article in Psychology Today