Peter Kane – Relationship Theorist and author "The Monogamy Challenge"

Empathy, Structural Integrity, and Transformation

IMG_2864Do we need empathy? Does empathy increase the strength or structural integrity of a relationship? I am continuing with my theme: What do we need? What do we need to feel connected and nurtured in relationships? How can we create nurturing relationships? I am regularly impressed by how difficult it can be for people to answer these questions and learn to validate their own needs. Being aware of, and learning to focus on our needs can be a valuable guide in our healing.

Creating successful and nurturing relationships (getting our needs met and learning to meet our own needs) is a lifelong process, which involves resolving many deep and usually unconscious issues. Getting in touch with, and resolving obstacles to successful relationships is the focus of my book The Monogamy Challenge: Creating and Keeping Intimacy, but there are other concrete things we can incorporate, which will help to create more nurturing relationships. They are things like: acknowledgement, communication (especially listening), touch, sex, deeds, gifts and spending time together. These are actions that can help create intimacy, and it helps if we consciously add them to our relationships as we resolve our other issues. There are also other even more abstract aspects of communication that we can proactively incorporate which will help to create deeper intimacy and connection. Some of them are: Being Empathetic, Giving Credit, Showing Respect, Being Patient, Giving Latitude, Making Apologies, Being Accountable, and Making Amends. Becoming more able to express these will likely take some deep work. This is where my next book will likely have its most original and unique contributions.

In this blog, I would like begin to share a generality about this and talk about how people seem to need things like empathy, apology, and amends to be better able to feel valued, nurtured, or cared for in relationships. Empathy, can be challenging, yet it may be the easiest of these qualities to feel and express because empathy is most often about expressing our care for how someone feels about something that they are feeling outside of our relationship with them. This is not easy to do, and it requires us to be emotionally accepting and present with another’s feelings. My other suggestions ranging from giving credit to making amends, are more challenging because they are ways to address our own relationship upsets or shortcomings. They are like giving empathy and care, but directly about things that involve us. To give credit, apologize or make amends is the opposite of being defensive about our side of a relationship issue.

Here I am mentioning empathy along with these other qualities because they do have similar feelings and benefits as empathy. Having empathy, or making appropriate apologies or amends, seems to help people feel heard and valued, which then more easily enables them to let go of the relationship challenges they have experienced. The qualities of respect, patience, credit, latitude, apology, accountability, and making amends are substantive ways we demonstrate that we care, and care is a foundation of our feeling strong about a relationship. Strength is an aspect of what I am calling Structural Integrity. Structural integrity is a slightly redundant term because integrity itself would suffice because integrity means sound structure. I am defining structural integrity to mean fair, balanced and equal, and I am asserting that it is natural for us to need to feel we are being treated in a way that is congruent. Congruency helps another feel our care. For example, if the structure of a relationship includes something like monogamy or shared finances, then it may be natural to expect fair and equal treatment in those areas as well as other areas like homemaking, communication and mutual respect.

Feeling heard or empathized with, is part of this because it helps us recover from errors or omissions. Empathy is part of maintaining a balance of equal regard that helps us feel strong about a relationship. When a problem has occurred, empathy creates a feeling of agreement and equal understanding, and that both people intend to not continue or repeat the problem. Feeling equally important to another helps us continue to devote ourselves to a relationship.

Do we have a need for equal care and regard? And how can we move toward greater care and regard with those we love? How can these aspects of integrity help us feel nurtured in relationships?

I am making the assumption (and I believe correctly) that people need varying degrees of what I am calling structural integrity to feel loved and cared for. Another phrase and assumption I have heard often over the years is “we need equal relationships.” I do intend to be encouraging us to explore this in depth as well. I do not mean equal as in “the same.” I mean “equal consideration,” or “of equal importance.” If we do not feel like the sum of a relationship has shown us equal care or regard, then we will not likely feel loved, safe, secure or nurtured. These empathetic qualities like apology and making amends increase our feeling honored in a relationship. If when a relationship is imperfect (they all are) and we can amend the imperfection by proactively adding more empathetic words (and behaviors), it will help our partner resolve their feelings, and more easily return to the intimacy and connection of the relationship.

I think this topic is particularly timely now because there is an accelerated level of transformation going on in relationships and we are letting go of the past and of old relationship patterns at a rapid rate. As we do, we are also repeating and facing the old negatives, and are having some real upsets. We are being called to have more structural integrity now because to resolve these upsets in a healthy way we need to have more empathy for one another. We need the structural integrity that having equal understanding and treating each other fairly brings.

I am not actually very knowledgeable about astrology but my sense is that with the current two plus year cycle we are having where Pluto and Uranus are creating tremendous transformation in relationships and structures in our world, that Saturn (structure) is also very involved. It is as if Saturn is watching to see if our transformation has integrity. While Pluto and Uranus are dismantling our lives, Saturn may be watching and holding us accountable for doing it fairly. If we don’t feel honored in the process, our relationships will suffer further losses.

So lets talk more about what we need and what helps us feel heard or re-connect when something we needed was lacking or our feelings were hurt.

Blessings, Peter

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Peter Kane - Counselor • Coach • Relationship Theorist
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