In today’s key I am going to help you understand how your past relationship partner(s), your current partner, or even you, can claim to love a person and yet cause them pain.
Let’s start by understanding the difference between being in love and experiencing empathy.
Love – enjoyment of, appreciation of, liking off and commitment to another person. Intense feeling of deep affection. Romantic or sexual attachment. (Google)
Empathy – the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling. (Berkley’s Greater Good website)
As you can see, love and empathy are not the same thing.
In order to prevent yourself from causing pain to another person you must be able to empathetically connect to them. You must be able to nearly experience what they experiencing, while clearly recognizing the difference between yourself and the other person.
To put it simply, when you are connect this way to a person and they stub their toe, your toe may hurt as well. At the same time, you will know you’re feeling empathy pain and that your own toe is okay.
When you and your partner are empathetically connected, you will both pick your words more carefully, be more gentle with each other, and show more kindness. You will do this because if you cause each other pain, you will feel badly for doing so, in your own bodies. When you cause each other joy and pleasure, you will feel that too, in your own bodies.
On the other hand, when you are not empathetically connected, you may cause each other a great deal of pain, as the things you do and say to each other do not hurt you. When they hurt your partner, you don’t feel that pain.
A person can deeply love another person, but lack an empathetic connection with him or her. We think loving automatically equals empathy, but it does not.
It follows that no matter how deeply a person loves you, he or she may not be able to feel empathy for you, which means, he or she may cause you pain, without realizing how deep that pain cuts.
There’s much more to say on this topic beyond the scope of this key. In future newsletter articles I will be writing on what this means for men and women already in a relationship, and for singles, and what can be done to grow yourself and your partner empathetically. To be notified when these articles are published, add yourself to my Relationship Insights newsletter list.
The Key Point to understand is this: Love can exist without – or with varying degrees of – empathy. That means loving someone or being loved is not a guarantee against hurt nor a guarantee of emotional safety. Growing in love does not guarantee growing in empathy. Emotional safety is only available in relationships where there is mutual empathetic connection – where you can feel each others experiences.
If you recognize a lack of empathy in your relationship – or your past relationships – and are uncertain what to do about it, start by scheduling a Get Clarity Telephone Coaching session with me. I will lay out for you clear, simple steps necessary to create an empathetic, loving relationship.