Intimate Solutions Therapy

Applying Parenting Emotion Coaching to Couples

Part three of a five-part series on shifting your mindset to become a more capable Emotion Coach, and more Emotion Coachable.
Emotionally intelligent couples are more likely to feel connected, supported, and loved in their intimate relationship. And, emotionally intelligent couples are more likely to raise emotionally intelligent children.

Step #3: Listen with Empathy and Validate Your Partner’s Feelings.

OK, hang on for this ride! Let’s break down some of these “psychological” words into real life actions. The first thing to do is, again, shift your mindset into being willing to see things from your partner’s perspective. We tend to become so protective of our own stance, that it can feel impossible to try to see from another point of view. But walking away from your window, to look through your partner’s window at “the elephant in the room”, doesn’t mean your window closes or that your point of view isn’t just as real to you as theirs is to them.
You can walk right back to your window after peeking through your partner’s window — or hanging out for awhile to get a good view. After all, an elephant’s butt just might be as interesting as an elephant’s trunk! Having an element of curiosity and imagination can help with this shift. Practice being curious and using your imagination to see what you could learn from your partner’s experience and point of view.
Next, use your eyes to look for physical evidence of your partner’s emotions. Your partner is unique and has their own ways of showing their emotions. That wrinkled brow or nose, the raised eyebrow, the tense smile or sides of the mouth that are pulled down. You’re probably already doing it subconsciously, so now just make it intentional. Remember, the especially intimate nature of your relationship invites you to be an expert on your partner in every way. Tune into body language, facial expressions and gestures.
Share simple observations rather than ask probing questions. This might sound like, “I see a frown on your face and you sound upset about something. Is everything OK?” Use your words to reflect back in a soothing, non-critical way, what you are seeing and hearing and to help label emotions.

Validating is saying something as simple as “I can understand that”, “That makes sense to me”, “I get it”, or “Good point!” It’s a simple statement that lets your partner know that their experience makes sense for them and is acceptable to you, even if you don’t see or experience it the same way.

Empathizing takes it a level deeper, where you’re trying to use your heart to feel what your partner is feeling. I will often tell my clients to “listen to the words your partner is using to tell you what they’re feeling. Read between the lines, drawing on what you know about them from prior conversations and your history together.

Now, think if you’ve ever felt anything similar to what your partner is experiencing. If you have, remember what that feels like, tap into it for a couple of seconds, and then return your attention to your partner. Find a way to convey that you understand what they’re feeling. Empathy sounds like: “No wonder you’re upset”; “I’d feel the same way you do in your situation”; “That sounds infuriating (or insert any other emotion)” or even “I feel sad/mad/upset for you.”