Understanding the importance of empathy in marriage is a major asset to a healthy Christian marriage. Oftentimes, this topic gets overlooked or not talked about at all, when in fact, we believe it’s not talked about enough. Maybe you’ve never considered what true empathy looks like in marriage. Or perhaps, you’ve wondered if you are actually living it out. Regardless, we’d like to shed light on what empathy in marriage is, why it’s important, and what it looks like from a scriptural perspective.
What is empathy in marriage?
In a nutshell, empathy in marriage is seeing things from your partner’s perspective. We each come with our own history, beliefs about what was, is, and going to be, as well as values, needs, and even dreams. Being empathetic to your partner is like saying, “I want to see all of these things from your point of view.” There is much that can be learned by doing this.
Why is empathy in marriage important?
Imagine if you only saw things from your perspective and never became sensitive to your partner’s ideals. It would probably seem like you were in this relationship by yourself, right? In fact, when arguments and/or disagreements come to a head, it usually boils down to a lack of empathy. The foundational issue can almost always be found in the other person not seeing or understanding why or how their partner arrived at the conclusion they’re at (and vice versa).
Empathy in marriage is important so that unbiased and heartfelt trust can begin to cultivate. Seeking to understand your partner will make it easier to open up about different feelings, thoughts, and situations that occur. Practicing empathy eventually leads to strengthening the characteristics of understanding and being supportive.
What does empathy in marriage look like through scripture?
Now that you know what empathy in marriage is and why it’s important, it’s time to discuss what it looks like from a scriptural standpoint. This will also give you practical ways to start working on being empathetic toward your spouse. It’s not something that happens overnight, but having a better understanding of what God says about it can give you more to pray about and walk out in your marriage.
Your ambitions are selfless and you value your spouse.
Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” In other words, being empathetic toward your spouse will look like putting their needs before yours both in humility and in love. There are times when certain circumstances will humble you, but instead of retaliating to cover selfishness, you will react in a way that values your spouse.
Your words are helpful and build up your spouse.
In Ephesians 4:29, we are told to not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths. This is directly linked to the fact that life and death flow from the tongue and that words have the power to heal the bones. When you are being empathetic, you will seek to speak words that build up your spouse and be helpful according to whatever they need. And if you have children, this will show them what true godly character looks and sounds like.
You will be able to understand your spouse’s feelings.
Have you ever experienced a time when you just didn’t understand why your spouse was feeling a certain kind of way. So, your response was one that didn’t help the situation and may have even come off as a little heartless. It’s okay to admit it because we’ve all been there. Through the lens of empathy, we should be able to walk in Romans 12:15, which says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” So instead of brushing off why your spouse is upset, attempt to understand why they are feeling that way.
Empathy means being able to forgive.
Another moment of confession… there are times when we just don’t want to be forgiving, right? However, in order to walk out empathy in marriage, we need to also walk out Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” You see, forgiveness isn’t necessarily just about the other person more than it can be for us who need to extend it. Forgiveness is always tied to healing whether we want to see it that way or not.
Empathy is marriage is a direct reflection of Christlike love.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Underneath it all, empathy mirrors love. It is equivalent to laying your life down along with your needs and wants. It’s putting your spouse before yourself and loving them through the eyes of the Father. This isn’t always easy, but it gets easier as your mindset begins to shift.
As you begin focusing on walking out empathy in your marriage, remember these scriptures. And even more so, think about why you are doing it. Always keep the desire to please the Father at the forefront and it will help navigate you through the tough times when it seems most difficult to be empathetic. Keep your marriage covered in prayer and take it one day at a time.