This video explains the difference between empathy and sympathy. It is well worth watching.
A few weeks ago I facilitated a discussion about vulnerability. The discussion was about why it is important to a relationship that both people are willing and able to be emotionally vulnerable. The other important part of the discussion was how one allows oneself to be vulnerable a partner. Many of us have suffered significant emotional pain from past relationships as well as childhood issues that linger into adulthood. We can find it nearly impossible to open up to another person and allow ourselves to let anyone close enough to us to cause us additional emotional pain. Many of us have a strong desire to have a close connection to another person. But, our fears inhibit us from realizing this desire. Too many times people jump from one relationship to another in order to avoid the emotional pain of a break-up. Allow yourself the time to go through the grieving process and to heal before you attempt to engage in another intimate relationship. This is the first step toward making ourselves available for an emotionally healthy relationship.
Building trust is an absolute requirement for vulnerability to be present in a relationship. In order to build trust there must be honest and open communication. We need to reveal to our partner who we are and what is important to us. We need to be honest about our thoughts and feelings. We must also be forthcoming and responsible for our actions even if there is the risk of conflict. Part of a healthy relationship is dealing with conflict and finding ways to resolve it. Most of us fear being judged and rejected. For a person to truly love us they need to know and accept us for who we are not some façade that we project.
Before getting involved in a relationship, work on the issues that have caused problems in previous relationship. Get some counseling if needed. Face your past in order to overcome it. Give yourself to time to grieve and get to know yourself again. We tend to lose ourselves in the “we” of a relationship (especially the long term relationship). Practice the skills of open and honest communication and take emotional risks. This is the way to find the type of relationships we desire.