When couples have compassion for each other, here is what they hear from each other in words and actions: I’m interested in you……. I hear you……..I understand how you feel…..I’m with you……I’d like to help you (whether I can or not)…..I’d like to be with you (whether I can or not)….I accept you (even if I don’t accept all your behavior).
When marriages end, the final rupture is usually not caused by too much anger or abuse or infidelity. Rather, most marriages die a slow, agonizing death from too little compassion.
Compassion is sympathy for the hurt or distress of another. Compassion is empathy. Compassion is experienced as attunement, i.e., the feeling that your partner is there for you. At heart compassion is a simple appreciation of the basic human frailty we all share, which is why the experience of compassion makes you feel more humane and less isolated. Compassion is love. Love is an act, not just a feeling. Compassion is the antidote for criticism and contempt.
Compassion is necessary for the formation of emotional bonds which are the ground of strong, healthy marriages. Think of when you were dating someone you eventually came to love. Suppose you had to call that person and report that your parents had died. If your date responded with, “well, that’s tough, call me when you get over it,” would you have fallen in love with that person? Chances are, you fell in love with someone who cared about how you felt, especially when you felt bad.
Most of what you really fight about in your relationship is not money or sex or in-laws, or raising the kids. Those are common problems that seem insurmountable only when you’re hurt. What causes the hurt, i.e., what you really fight about, is the impression that your partner doesn’t care how you feel. When someone you love is not compassionate, if feels like abuse.
As compassion decreases, resentment automatically rises, making common problems insoluble. That’s why most of the time, the problems couples fight about are not the issue. The issue is the lack of felt compassion in their relationship. If unfettered by the better angels of our nature, resentment builds and will inevitably turn into contempt.
Remember: Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom when we love the ones we marry. -Jim Covington