Mark D. Roberts

I’m the seventh stop in a book blog tour for Trading Places: The Best Move You’ll Ever Make in Your Marriage by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. If you’re interested, you can find the other stops here.
Here’s the Parrotts official bio:

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are founders of and the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University. Their bestselling books include Love Talk, Your Time Starved Marriage, and the award-winning Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. Their work has been featured in the New York Times and USA Today and they have appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, and Oprah.

They are well known for their excellent work on marriages, as scholars and especially as people committed to helping others. Trading Places falls into the later category.
So, with no further ado, here are my question for the Parrotts and their answer:
Question from Mark for Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott
Les and Leslie:
First, thanks for stopping by my blog on your blog tour. It’s a pleasure to have you here.
Second, thanks for your consistently excellent efforts to strengthen marriages. Your books, conferences, and other resources have helped literally millions of spouses to have healthier and happier marriages.
Third, thanks for writing Trading Places. This is a fine book: focused, readable, engaging, relevant. In reading Trading Places as a part of my preparation for your blog tour, I was challenged personally as a husband. (I say this as a dyed-in-the-wool Analyzer who has to work hard at the feeling part of empathy.)
Okay, now my question: You make a solid case for the importance of empathy in marriage. I’m convinced. So, why do you think so many marriages lack empathy? If it’s so important, and if the fruits of empathy are so delightful, why do husbands and wives struggle with this stuff?
Thanks for taking time to respond to this question.
Answer from Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott
We’re glad we’ve convinced you to practice more empathy!  That’s terrific.  And we’re so glad you like the book.  You’ve posed a good question.
We’ve often felt that if we could give a couple about to be married anything in the world, we’d give them a box of empathy.  Can you imagine who nice it would be if this quality would be that simple to instill?  Of course, it’s not that easy.  And that’s precisely why empathy, or “trading places,” is lacking in so many marriage – it takes intentional effort.
Many of us think we’re already empathizing with our spouse.  We think we accurately understand his or her circumstances.  We believe that we have feelings that are in tune with his or her emotional world.  But truth be told, we’re often missing the mark.  We make assumptions about our spouse’s circumstances and experiences that are simply not accurate.  So, even if we are well intended when it comes to empathy, we too often miss the mark because we lack the skills.  Of course, that’s why we wrote the book … to hand off these skills in a way that you can put into practice.
But there’s another reason that so many couples don’t take advantage of empathy in their relationship – and it’s a selfish one.  We mistakenly believe that if we empathize, if we try to see the world from our partner’s perspective, that we will be setting out own needs aside.  We erroneously believe that our own needs will not get met.  But nothing is farther from the truth.  Empathy, in fact, is the quickest way to get your own needs met.  Why?  Because once your partner senses your empathic investment in him or her, the act is contageous.  He or she is soon beginning to empathize with you.  Empathy begets empathy.  And that’s precisely why we believe that “trading places” is the most rewarding skill you’ll ever practice in your marriage.

Response from Mark
Thanks, Les and Leslie, for this thoughtful and helpful response.
Speaking as a husband and a pastor, you answer hits the spot. It’s easy for folks, including me, to assume that we’re empathizing with our spouse, when in fact we are not giving the “intentional effort” required. I know I can simply take it for granted that I’m in touch with my wife’s feelings, when in fact I’m simply wrapped up in myself.
One of the things I appreciate about Trading Places is its focus. Often books on marriage offer too much advice for me to take in and act upon. I can feel overwhelmed. Trading Places, by focusing on empathy, encourages me to grow in this crucial characteristic of marriage, without feeling like I have to get it all right.
Final Word for My Readers
If you’re married, Trading Places will help you have a better marriage now. If you’re on the way to marriage, buy Trading Places and get a head start on empathy.

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