Everyone has met a couple like this: She loves sushi; the smell of raw fish makes him nauseous. He loves horror films; she finds even mildly scary movies unwatchable. She’s Catholic and regularly attends mass; he’s an atheist.

They are two people who don’t make sense as a couple on paper, but when you see them together in the real world, it’s clear their relationship is a happy one. “How do they do it?”¬†you ask yourself. You imagine they must have some magic, secret relationship sauce only they’ve discovered. After all, you and your partner bicker even when you agree on 99% of things. If only you could have some of the magic that they have.


You can.

What is the secret to a happy relationship?

The secret sauce in a happy relationship isn’t magic; it’s empathy.

Feeling empathy for another person means putting yourself in their shoes. It is the ability to imagine what someone else is thinking and feeling. Unlike sympathy, which means feeling compassion or pity for another, empathy is putting yourself in the other person’s place and seeing the world through their eyes. Sympathy is “I’m sorry that happened to you”; empathy is “I feel your pain.”

Empathy means caring as much about your partner’s well-being as you care about your own, and it can make the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one.

How can you tell if your relationship lacks empathy?