When having a fight, couples who can still see where their partner is coming from bounce back better after the fight, and view the fight as a “healthy one.” Bottom line: we need to feel that our partner “gets us” even when we are not in agreement.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, conducted experiments with 85 people in relationships and studied the couples’ arguments, as well as how happy they were in the relationship and whether they felt their partner understood them. When couples did not feel understood by their partner, they felt less satisfied with the relationship after a fight, and visa versa.
But partners didn’t have to be completely understood, they had to feel understood. The key was whether their partner expressed empathy with their position.
To say it differently, whether you agree or not isn’t the issue. Expressing empathy and understanding is. If you want your partner to feel happy with your relationship, it’s important to convey that you still appreciate your partner and where they are coming from, regardless of whether you agree.
“Feeling understood, regardless of whether it’s grounded in reality, can be enormously good for general well-being,” said researcher Serena Chen. “Conveying that you understand but don’t agree can go a long way. We know this, but we don’t often do it.”
Expressing empathy is not pretending to agree. Instead, partners who vocalize empathy are bridging the divide, avoiding accusatory “you” statements, and helping the other person feel their views are valued.
“I get you,” is the message we need to convey, even in a fight.
Next time you disagree on politics, chores, or anything else, see if you can take the time to let you partner know you hear what they are saying, and that you “get” them.
Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for 20 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.
Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com.