In marriage, it’s not always obvious what our spouse needs. It’s not always obvious to them what we need, either. One way to get in better touch with each other’s needs is to cultivate empathy.
To create more empathy in our marriages, we need to first walk in each other’s shoes. A simple way to do that is what we call trading places.
Simply put, trading places means you picture things from your spouse’s perspective. It helps you get in tune with one another, or reconnect if you’ve drifted apart.
Everyone needs to check in with their empathy from time to time. Life circumstances, difficult events, and tough seasons can wreak havoc on our ability to observe, listen to, and truly hear one another.
Hard times can affect how we respond to each other, but trading places allows us to reignite the empathy that keeps love strong. If you’re battling resentment or having a difficult time understanding each other’s points of view, then trading places is a great way to reset.
Today, we’re sharing three reasons why everyone should take a walk in their spouse’s shoes.
1. Curb critical behavior and nagging
Walking in each other’s shoes can curb criticism and nagging. Behaviors like nagging and criticizing put a negative focus on the other person, making them feel belittled and even attacked.
It can be incredibly hurtful to say things to your spouse like, “You never wash the dishes,” or, “You always make us late.”
What’s more, criticizing your spouse doesn’t help to resolve your complaints. In fact, it makes things worse. So when we think about life through their perspective and think about how it would feel to be spoken to that way, it puts a pause on the things we say.
On the other hand, voicing a complaint with an “I” statement changes the tone of your concern. Cultivating empathy helps you to reframe your communication. Statements like, “I feel upset when the dishes are left dirty and piled up in the sink,” and, “It upsets me when we’re late,” feel totally different and much easier to respond to in a constructive way.
2. Strengthen your friendship as spouses
Tapping into empathy can help you reconnect and strengthen your friendship. Keeping your friendship alive and well in your marriage is crucial for staying close as spouses.
When we’ve lived with someone for a long time, it can be easy to take them for granted and to stop considering them the way we would consider our friends. Trading places and seeing the world through your spouse’s eyes gives you an opportunity to think about how you’d respond to a friend instead of your spouse.
Empathy will allow you to celebrate your companionship and get to know each other as friends all over again. The plus side? When you reinvigorate your friendship, you’ll inevitably rekindle romance.
3. Add grace to your marriage
Grace goes hand-in-hand with empathy. Where there is empathy, there is also grace.
Grace is a critical part of a healthy marriage. Living so closely together demands patience and kindness. Grace embodies both. It encourages us to treat one another with the utmost kindness.
If you’re building empathy, grace is the natural product of difficult circumstances. If your spouse makes a careless mistake or is feeling agitated after a hard day, the last thing they need is to be scolded or lectured. What they need is love and grace.
Trading places with your spouse can help you infuse grace into your communications, and patience into your daily routines.
How to start trading places
Sometimes, we need reminders and prompts to help keep us on track. If you’re finding it difficult to see a situation from your spouse’s point of view, ask them to help you see this from their side. Then, listen.
Ask questions. Reflect back to them what you’re understanding. Let them explain what they’re experiencing, and work to understand their side of the issue.
If you intentionally cultivate empathy for one another through trading places, you will see major changes for the better–and you’ll see them quickly.
If you want to try walking in each other’s shoes, there are some prerequisites you have to meet before you do that. Our book, Trading Places, will tell you everything you need to know before, during, and after you trade places with one another.
Do you and your spouse work to see the world through one another’s eyes? How has it impacted your marriage for the better? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!