Embracing the Perspective of Your Wife, Husband or Romantic Partner
© 2019-2020 Richard Chandler, MA, LPC, Masters in Psychotherapy, Licensed Professional Counselor
Learning to understand and appreciate your wife, husband, or romantic partner’s perspective is an essential skill. Your mutual happiness depends on seeing and feeling what life is like from the perspective of your mate. Couples that fail to empathetically embrace their mate’s perspective, his or her way of perceiving the world, remain unhappy.
“Real empathy comes from going: ‘You know, I understand how upset you are. It really hurts me that I’m messing up this way, and I’ve got to take some action.’ Real empathy comes from feeling your partner’s pain in a real way, and then doing something about it.” - Dr. John Gottman
Experiencing life from another’s point of view is not easy to do. We all default to our perspective and way of seeing and experiencing the world. By embracing these four couples communication tips on perspective, you will begin to feel more empathy and alignment with your husband, wife, or romantic partner.
1st Take Responsibility for Your Perspective When Communicating:
When communicating, you might declare what we think, as if your thought is a statement of truth. Doing so implies, “this is the way it is,” leaving less room for your partner to have a differing point of view. We take responsibility for our way of seeing things by using softening words of introduction. Examples are:
- What I have noticed about ______________________?
- My understanding is ___________________________.
- From my experience, ___________________________.
Introductory phrases help your mate to feel OK about having noticed or understood things in a different way than you. Presenting your thoughts with softening statements make it easier for your spouse to enter into a dialogue with you. She or he can more easily respond by saying asking you to expand on what you noticed, understood, and experienced.
Your mate's understanding of the situation and experience as it relates to the case, are more likely to be shared, whether similar or different from your understanding and experience. A more fluid and open conversation allows both of you to connect more deeply, growing your knowledge and appreciation of each other.
2nd, Seek to Understand & Appreciate Your Partner’s Differing Perspective:
Your mate’s understanding of the situation and experience as it relates to the case, are more likely to be shared, whether similar or different from your perspective and experience. A more fluid and open conversation allows both of you to connect more deeply, growing your knowledge and appreciation of each other.
Open-ended Question Draw Out Your Partner for Deeper Conversation
When conversing with your mate, use neutral, open-ended questions to begin. Your questions may start with “what, why, and how.” Here are some examples of open-ended questions:
- “What was that like for you?”
- How did that conversation impact the rest of your day?”
- “Why do you think she was motivated to bring the topic up in that particular way?”
- “What surprised you about his announcement?”
Engage with what he or she is saying non-verbally through nodding, eye contact, and focused attention. Doing so shows your spouse that you care. It will be evident that you are fully present and genuinely interested.
Use Close-ended Questions to Verify Your Understanding
As a journalist would do, make use of follow-up questions to clarify what was said and to draw out your mate’s understanding. More open-ended questions will deepen your discussion. Your questions may also be closed-ended, which do not elicit an expansive answer. Closed-ended questions may be answered with a yes or a no. They help to verify your understanding and increase confidence that you understood each other. Examples of closed-ended questions could include:
- “Which route did you end up taking?”
- “Did it end up, OK?”
- “Were you satisfied with the result?”
Summarizing lets your partner know whether or not you understood. After he or she talks for a bit, you can make summary statements, saying, “My understanding of what you said is ____________________.”
If your summary is not on target with what your spouse wanted to communicate, your review allows your husband or wife to clarify your understanding. In doing so, you are both more likely to feel heard and understood.
Engaging more deeply in conversation in the ways outlined in this post goes a long way to help your partner feel understood. Feeling understood helps you to connect even on topics in which you have differing views. Feeling heard allows you to feel OK with each other despite not wholly agreeing.
3rd, Embrace Differing Perspectives Equally; Yours is No Better or Worse than Your Partner’s:
“Negotiations and love songs are often mistaken for one in the same” -Paul Simon.
It is OK that your partner’s point of view is different than yours. What is not OK is to discount your spouse due to their differing perspectives. In the same way, it is not fair to you to be on the receiving end.
When you see things differently than your mate on issues that don’t directly impact you, it is easier to “agree to disagree.” But when an issue directly affects you and your mate, reconciling your perspective is required. So how might you proceed?
- Do your best to stay in the mental and heart-centered space of a love song. It is not yet time to negotiate. Instead, let your partner know that you are interested in hearing his or her perspective. Truly listen. Listen with your body to help you feel the emotions behind the words. Physically turn towards your mate. Focus. Stay neutral and receptive. Don’t respond immediately. Instead, ask some followup questions and summarize what he or she said. Ask your partner if you got their perspective right. With this active, neutral listening, your mate will feel understood.
- Acknowledge that his or her perspective is valid. Thank him or her for helping you understand what was behind their point of view. Say something along the lines of, “I appreciate understanding how you have come to think about it the way that you do.”
- Explain your perspective. Point out places where your viewpoint is the same or similar to that of your spouse.
- Where your perspectives differ, continue talking. Do your best to reach consensus as you both gain understanding and appreciation of each other’s perspective. Reaching common ground together is the “love song.”
- For any remaining areas that still differ, negotiate. This last negotiation phase might take the form of each of you trading off some of what you want so you may reach an agreement.
Your success in doing the above steps rests on a foundation of having equal power in the relationship. When power is balanced, having a different perspective is less likely to derail the relationship. Equality must continually exist for romantic partnerships to thrive. So it is OK that you may not always see things the same way, as long as you use the above methods to reach consensus whenever it is possible to do so.
For the remaining parts of issues, negotiate to meet in the middle while maintaining respect and appreciation for your husband or wife’s differing perspective. Thank your mate for taking the time and giving you the attention to work through things to help you both better your relationship.
4th, Be Willing to be Influenced by your Partner’s Way:
What ways of doing things seem to work well for your mate? Is he or she consistent in picking up after themselves immediately rather than putting cleanup off until things pile up? Does your partner plan and organize ahead of time, so things go more smoothly?
Notice your spouse’s processes. What methodologies work well for them, and even better than what you generally do? Endeavoring to tighten up your ways of doing things to more closely match those ways of your partner can do several things for you and your relationship:
- You will also become more effective and efficient for that process, helping your life to go more smoothly
- Your efforts are likely to remove a possible source of irritation for your spouse
- The upgrade that you have made tells your partner that you are paying attention, and you admire her or his methods enough to adopt them.
What qualities in your mate do you admire? Is he or she thoughtful, kind, or understanding? Does your partner do pretty well with staying calm in more stressful situations? Does he or she give you the benefit of the doubt when you have done or said something that may initially not make sense from his or her perspective?
My wife, Bonnett Chandler, excels in the qualities listed above. Although she remains miles ahead of me in all of them, I have made progress in adopting those qualities by following her example.
In much the same way, she has been open to my influence. From my decades of being self-employed, it is relatively easy for me to see potential in both situations and people. With this quality, reinventing my career at various times through my work life has been more natural.
Although this idea of reinventing one’s career was not as natural for Bonnett, she was open to my influence. And with this openness, we both mounted the courage to finish our 4-year degrees and complete master’s degrees in psychotherapy at a much older age than most people might attempt to do.
She has recently dared to step into a new role at the residential treatment facility that employs her. Because she dared to do what she has not done before, she pursued an opportunity to be promoted from a clinical therapist to a clinical supervisor.
Bonnett told me that without my influence of taking calculated risks, she might not have made this career move. Since beginning her new role, she developed her latent leadership skills. The basics for being a good leader had been there all along. Those aptitudes were unrecognized before taking on the clinical supervisor position.
Try out your mate’s manner of seeing, hearing, and feeling the world. Doing so increases your flexibility, helping you grow in wisdom and in your ability to get along even better with your husband, wife, or romantic partner.
These 4 tips will serve you and your mate, whatever your situation, and will be especially helpful if you have been having the kind of difficulties that motivate you to seek out marriage therapy couples counseling in or near St. Cloud and in Central Minnesota.
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