The old saying goes that opposites attract, but I rarely find that to be true.
Sure, sometimes people who look completely different to each other will be attracted to one another, and sometimes someone’s taste in music or their hobbies will be the polar-opposite to their partner’s.
Deep down, though, there needs to be a marriage of minds in order for two people to really respect and understand one another and make a good team that can stand the test of time.
We humans are complex beings. We operate on a lot of different levels, but we all have a few basic, key characteristics that really define how we react in certain situations and how we lead our lives.
One of these is our capacity to feel empathy for those around us.
What Is Empathy?
Empathy is roughly defined as the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.
Someone that’s very empathetic is good at putting themselves in another’s shoes and seeing things from their point of view.
We can feel empathy not just for humans, but also for our fellow animals, and even the beautiful planet we live on.
Almost everyone has some empathy in them. Like any characteristic, each one of us sits along a sliding scale with empaths at one end and psychopaths (who feel no empathy whatsoever) at the other.
Why Is Empathy Important In A Relationship?
Empathy is a key part of any/all relationships you have with other human beings. That includes the relationships that you have with your family or your friends, but it becomes particularly important when we’re talking about romantic relationships.
If you’re looking for love and you choose to have a long-term romantic partner, they’ll probably be the person you spend the majority of your time with, and you’ll more than likely make big decisions taking their needs and opinion into account.
If You’re Not Empathetic…
If you are, for example, someone who doesn’t generally feel that much empathy for others, and doesn’t really get affected by the suffering or pain of those around you, then you’re not particularly empathetic.
You probably find it difficult to understand the points of view and choices of other people, particularly if they don’t appear to be logical.
In your eyes, an empathetic person who really feels the pain of others and gets upset by it might seem a little weak. That could mean that you are unable to have all that much respect for them.
After all, if you view someone as being easily manipulated, it can be frustrating seeing things sway them that wouldn’t have the same effect on you.
You don’t like seeing them sacrifice their own wants or needs for the benefit of others.
If you can’t respect someone’s decisions, then it can be difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with them.
Although you’ll recognize that your empathetic partner is extremely kind – and you’ll probably see them as being a good person – in your eyes, there’s definitely such a thing as being too nice and too generous.
It may turn from initially being a characteristic that you admire in them, as is often the case with characteristics that we don’t possess ourselves, into something that you come to view negatively.
On the other hand, if you’re someone who’s very empathetic and who finds it easy to put yourself in other people’s shoes, you’ll probably find it hard to understand how your partner can be so cold and seemingly unfeeling.
You’re likely to question how much they really care about you, as you won’t be able to understand how they can be so clinical and closed off in the face of situations that you feel passionate about.
As someone that lives their life always thinking about other people’s feelings, a person who isn’t empathetic can, in your eyes, seem extremely shallow and self-absorbed, which can mean that you, too, can start to lose the respect you have for them.
With both parties finding it hard to respect the other, people who feel empathy differently will likely struggle to keep a relationship strong.
Decision-Making Can Become A Challenge
In a serious relationship, the two of you become a team. If there are things like children and mortgages involved, then there will be plenty of big decisions that you will have to make together over the years.
If one of you is less empathetic than the other, you may well find it difficult to reach an agreement regarding some of life’s more important decisions.
It’s true that it is always good for there to be a bit of balance in a couple. It can, perhaps, work well if one partner is more of a dreamer, and the other is more logical and realistic, so that you have a good mixture of the impulsive with the practical.
However, it might not be so easy for someone who’s empathetic and someone who’s not to balance each other out, as you’ll find it tough to understand the other’s reasoning.
When you’re next getting to know someone and think they could be the one for you, make sure you keep empathy at the forefront of your mind.
It’s a fantastic indicator of whether or not the two of you are a match made in heaven, or whether your relationship might struggle down the line when important decisions have to be made.
Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.