Empathy and Marriage
by Emily Macke
A team of neuroscientists in Canada used brain imaging to discover what may help marriages thrive over the years: empathy.
Apparently, happily married women (the study used women, not men) displayed a high level of empathy for unexpected positive emotions in their husbands. In other words, they were prepared to “laugh when he is laughing” and try to enter into his happiness. The data showed that these married women—who had been married an average of 40 years—were especially sensitive to positive emotions displayed by their husband, over and above a stranger. In other words, they were not just extremely empathetic individuals; there was something about their relationships with their husbands that seemed to trigger the response.
This is useful information for marriages, especially if spouses are experiencing a dry period. It reveals that celebrating with your spouse, and entering into their joy, can strengthen the marriage bond. Setting aside your own hard day in order to rejoice at an amusing episode in the other’s may prove to be more powerful than trying to “bring them down to earth” or seeking consolation for your own woes.
The wives in the Canadian study put their minds to work to try to figure out what was going on in their husband’s minds; turns out, that’s a good practice for a lifelong marriage.
About the author
Emily Macke serves as Theology of the Body Education Coordinator at Ruah Woods in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received her Master’s in Theological Studies at the John Paul II Institute in Washington, DC, and her undergraduate degree in Theology and Journalism at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Emily shares the good news of the Catholic faith through writing, media appearances and speaking opportunities, which she has done on three continents. She and her husband Brad live in southeast Indiana.