A personal relationship, whether with a partner, a child, or a parent, can cause a great deal of stress if it is dysfunctional. Many people come to therapy feeling like the relationship is beyond repair, and their negative emotions are intensely felt. They can feel alienated from the other person, and anger, sadness, fear and grief can be the only emotions they can express to each other.
These negative emotions are usually the result of the despair felt over feeling physically and emotionally abandoned. Restoring the connection between them is a crucial first step towards healing the relationship. To do that, both people must show and experience emotional responsiveness.
Emotional responsiveness is “a process in which interaction partners attend to and respond supportively to each other’s needs, wishes, and circumstances, thereby promoting each other’s well-being.” Basically, it means that each person must affirm the other’s feelings and experiences, and show them support through verbal and nonverbal responses. Once the emotional ties are restored, they can begin to open up and create a responsive and satisfying relationship.
But is it worth the emotional labor that must be put in to heal? How can emotional responsiveness transform a relationship?
It Can Help Form Empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s feelings and experiences from their point of view and not your own. One reason two people may have dysfunction in their relationship is because one, or both of them, don’t feel like the other understands or cares about their feelings and experiences with their relationship. When two people in a relationship don’t have empathy for one another, they can feel trust has been broken; trust that the other person will hold space and care about their emotional and physical well being.
A big part of being emotionally responsive to one another is expressing empathy and understanding for the other person’s feelings. When they can each acknowledge the other’s emotions, sit with them in a safe emotional space without judgment, and are moved to help them if needed, empathy is formed and their bond can strengthen. Once empathy is formed, deep emotional wounds can begin to heal.
It Can Restore Trust
In a relationship, if there have been experiences that led to mistrust, one or both people can feel isolated and alone. Feeling alone and abandoned can lead to each person feeling angry, deepening the sense of mistrust.
When the two people come to therapy and learn how to be emotionally responsive to each other–validating the other’s feelings, practicing empathy and showing them they understand why the other feels this way– a sense of trust can be restored between them. When feelings are acknowledged, empathy is felt and the two people no longer feel alone, that trust becomes stronger.
It Can Rebuild Feelings of Love
Love in itself can be transformative. When a person feels loved, they also feel safe, secure, and trusting–all components of a healthy relationship. But can love be felt again when such deep emotional rifts exist?
If two people come to therapy and are able to learn to empathize and trust each other, the foundation for love becomes stronger. Being emotionally responsive will only serve to strengthen that foundation, and the relationship can be rebuilt. By being emotionally responsive, two people can feel safe to openly talk about their fears and vulnerabilities, which can bring them closer together and spark feelings of love.
If the two people begin to feel love, they will want to continue to be emotionally responsive to keep the love strong. They will be able to solve life’s problems together instead of pushing each other away when things get tough. In doing so, their love will continue to grow.
Look at your own relationships and ask yourself, “I am emotionally responsive? Are those I love emotionally responsive to me?” If you aren’t sure, or if you need help restoring a relationship, contact us today.