Pooh and Piglet
“What does empathy look like in a relationship?”
“Why can’t my partner just listen to me?”
“Isn’t ‘just listening’ doing next to nothing for your partner? It feels demeaning or dismissive if I don’t offer a solution. But if I don’t keep their worries under control, won’t they just spiral into negativity??”
I hear this all the time when working with my couples on being a better listener.
It can be so hard to bring in change in how we talk to each, and believe me, being a better listener will change a lot of your interactions.
If we continue to think we need to fix our partners problems, diminish their worries, or carry their burdens, we will distance ourselves from our partner if we feel like we don’t have much to give. This distance can be misinterpreted and leave you both feeling alone in our worries.
Often times we aren’t looking for a solution. The world is full of solution makers; we need more listeners and “be with-ers” (like that word I just made up?!). In our state of worry or fear, we are looking for connection not fixes to the issue. Many times connection is the solution.
This story of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet really shows the power of connection I’m talking about.
“Today was a difficult day,” said Pooh.
There was a pause.
“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Piglet.
“No,” said Pooh after a bit. “No, I don’t think I do.”
“That’s okay,” said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.
“What are you doing?” asked Pooh.
“Nothing, really,” said Piglet. “Only, I know what difficult days are like. I quite often don’t feel like talking about it on my difficult days either.
“But goodness,” continued Piglet, “difficult days are so much easier when you know you’ve got someone there for you. And I’ll always be here for you, Pooh.”
Isn’t this so beautiful?! (Feverishly orders a print of this on Etsy for my office)
How lovely for Pooh to have someone sit with them with understanding, empathy, emotional safety and support. And Piglet didn’t need to muster up the strength for a perfect TedTalk to get Pooh to feel better or see things differently. He knew his loving presence and emotional safety would be enough. And it was.
I struggle with this in my marriage because…hello! I’m a therapist!! I can come up with a million solutions!! But amazingly enough, my husband doesn’t want to always to be talking to a therapist, haha! He wants to talk to the one he’s chosen to intimately walk through life with. I’ve found when I just sit with him in empathy and support like Piglet, we connect better (and I’m at more peace too).
When I’m trying to get him to feel better, it sometimes can feel like I’m hauling a bag of rocks up a mountain. It’s so much work and maneuvering and energy spent. And I feel distant from him. When I sit and say, “ya, that sucks’ or sit in silence with him, I feel a peace in acknowledging his experience instead of trying to manufacture it into something else.
Life is hard enough with all the unanswered questions but to be alone in that makes it unbearable.
Give it a try with your partner or friend or coworker! It will take practice like many new life skills. Notice how you feel and how their demeanor changes.
I’d love to hear how it goes! If you are wanting more support through couple’s therapy, reach out and we can schedule a consultation to see if we are a good fit. I am offering in person and online therapy to Northern Colorado (Greeley, Loveland, Berthoud, Fort Collins, Windsor, Firestone, Longmont). I also am offering online therapy to Wyoming couples.