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How Healthy Are You?

Empathy & Perspective Can Improve Relationships

Communications Grow and Reduced Cheating

Empathy & Perspective Can Improve Relationships

By John Salak –

Those interested in building a positive relationship or saving their marriage should take a simple approach. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes, also known as perspective-taking.

It not only lessens the temptation to cheat on a partner, but it also helps build up resistance to “partnership-destroying behaviors,” according to a team of Israeli and U.S. researchers.

There is no simple answer as to why relationships break now. Individuals cheat and engage in harmful behaviors for all sorts of reasons, even though they may be satisfied with their marriage or relationship, according to the study’s lead author, Gurit Birnbaum, a professor at Israel’s Reichman University.

“People often cheat not because they planned to do so. Rather, the opportunity presented itself, and they were too depleted—too tired, too drunk, too distracted—to fight the temptation,” he said.

Even given these considerations, there are usually differences between why men and women cheat, according to the study’s coauthor Harry Reis, a professor at the University of Rochester. Men are more likely to cheat because they feel their sexual needs aren’t met, while women are more likely to cheat for emotional reasons.

According to their research, developing empathy and gaining an understanding of another person’s perspective reduces this urge. It involved three studies that included over 400 Israeli men and women. All the participants had to be in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship for at least four months. They were randomly selected to either adopt the perspective of their partner or not. Afterward, they evaluated, encountered or thought about attractive strangers while the psychologists recorded their expressions of interest in these strangers. They also assessed their commitment to and desire for their current partners.

Perspective Relationship

Those adopting a partner’s perspective recorded an increased connection to their significant other while simultaneously decreasing sexual and romantic interest in alternative mates, the study noted, suggesting perspective-taking reduces harmful relationship behaviors.

“Perspective-taking doesn’t prevent you from cheating, but it lessens the desire to do so,” explained Reis. Ultimately, understanding the feelings of other give a person a more balanced view of relationships and lessens the urge to prioritize one partner’s goals over another’s.

“Active consideration of how romantic partners may be affected by these situations serves as a strategy that encourages people to control their responses to attractive alternative partners and derogate their attractiveness,” Birnbaum explained.

The positive impact of perspective-taking is likely to work even if only one partner builds empathy, the research team suggested. The one-partner approach boosts a relationship because it lessens the risk of infidelity while also promoting better communications.

“People invariably feel better understood, and that makes it easier to resolve disagreements, to be appropriate but not intrusively helpful, and to share joys and accomplishments,” Reis said. “It’s one of those skills that can help people see the ‘us’—rather than the ‘me and you’—in a relationship.”

 

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