Five Ways to Encourage Your Spouse to Be Empathetic

It’s no secret that empathy takes work. It’s all too common in relationships for spouses to feel a lack of empathy from each other. If you feel like your spouse isn’t seeing an important part of you, then it’s time to walk in each other’s shoes. Learning how to see all sides of your spouse will mean a great deal to your relationship!

How can you encourage your spouse to be more empathetic? Today, we are sharing tips that have proven helpful for couples who are trying to encourage their spouse to become more empathetic.

1. Share Your Highs and Lows

Sit down for at least five minutes (or longer!) each night and recap your day. Both of you take turns sharing the highs and the lows. It’s vital to recap not just what happened, but how you felt about your day. This sets the tone for more empathy and understanding. And the five minutes of intentional conversation will be a portal to a more meaningful connection.

2. Set Out the Right Pair of Shoes

To put it simply, your partner can’t read your mind. When you are trying to get your spouse to “walk in your shoes” and show more empathy, you need to set out the right pair of shoes. Tell you spouse how you feel and what you need from them. No one is a mind-reader, so be sure to point your spouse in the right direction.

3. Highlight Your Most Important Emotional Needs

Everyone has some predictable needs, but not all are clearly laid out. Voicing your needs can pave the way to better understanding. We suggest highlighting your top two most important emotional needs. For example, you can say something like “I know one of my biggest needs is admiration and I am sure that’s why I am feeling unappreciated right now.” This doesn’t point fingers, it simply highlights your awareness of your needs and helps your spouse enter your emotional world.

4. Get Specific with Gripes

Be as specific as you can with your gripes. Avoid saying things like, “you always make us late.” Instead, say something along the lines of “It’s 7:00 and you are still getting ready. I feel stressed because we are due to attend our meeting at 7:15. I’m worried about what we will say when we show up late.” This kind of concrete specificity makes empathy far more likely. With a concrete description that doesn’t just point the finger, it will help your spouse see things from your side.

5. Provide Context and the Whole Picture

Context engenders caring. If a person understands the context for another’s experience, they are far more likely to care about them. If you are upset and want to let your spouse understand and empathize, you need to let them in on parts of the backstory. What made you upset?

Sometimes spouses need more than just the backstory context. You may need to paint the entire picture first. This will help avoid any “emotional games.” Lay out your intentions of the conversation and the picture you’d like to paint right away. Especially if the matter is important to you. Provide the tools they need to empathize with you.

When practiced, each of these steps will increase the odds of understanding each other better. Practicing empathy is a vital tool to have in a relationship. And to learn more about the art of walking in each other’s shoes, check out our book Trading Places.

How do you and your spouse encourage each other to practice empathy? We’d love to hear your tips below!


  • Bill Coffin says:

    Show them what it sounds like to be empathic. Show them understanding!

    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love
    Where there is injury, pardon
    Where there is doubt, faith
    Where there is despair, hope
    Where there is darkness, light
    And where there is sadness, joy
    O Divine Master, grant that I may
    Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
    To be understood, as to understand
    To be loved, as to love
    For it is in giving that we receive
    And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
    And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life

  • Lorrie says:

    Always on the mark, Nill
    I especially like set out the right pair of shoes. And St. Francis is always on your team.

  • Laura says:

    Awesome tips. I’ve learned that displaying these things have allowed my spouse to see how it feels when someone shows empathy.

  • Connie Meissner says:

    My husband does not volunteer his feelings readily. But when I see that he is disturbed or just not himself, I ask him to tell me how he is feeling. That usually gets the conversation started. And we often pray about the situation. We are growing in understanding of each other.

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