“Communication is critical to a healthy relationship.”
We’ve all heard it… and we all know how important it is to be able to dialogue with the one we love, but what about acting with compassion?
In relationships, compassion can sometimes take a back seat. Our lives are busy. During arguments it is often times easy to put blinders on and fail to see things from your partner's point of view. To truly be compassionate to your partner, it’s the ability to recognize when our partner is suffering in any sort of a way – and to be loving and kind to them in return.
There’s no one way to show compassion. In fact, when I started thinking about it, there are plenty:
1. Give your undivided attention.
Have you ever sat in front of your partner and spent more time thinking of how you’ll formulate a response to what they’re saying rather than actually listening to them? When you’re actively listening to someone with genuine attention, you’re more likely to understand them. So put down your phone and listen. After all, we all just want to feel like we are being heard.
2. Show affection
Whether you’re “touchy-feely” or not - everyone requires some level of affection. Affection comes in many forms - a sweet smile, picking up their favorite treat at the store, a gentle kiss on the forehead, big hugs, sex… you name it! Affection can also be expressed through encouraging words and unexpected compliments. Let your partner never go a day without knowing how much they are loved and appreciated.
3. Be kind with your words.
Sometimes it's not what we say but how we say it. Sometimes in moments of stress, it’s easy to skip the step of thinking about what our partner needs to hear. Sometimes all they need from us gentle understanding and support. Need an example? Yesterday I picked up my boyfriend from his office for lunch. On the drive home, I got a speeding ticket. When I called to tell him, we both began apologizing. WHY was he apologizing? Well, according to him, he should’ve warned me that road had a lot of cops pulling folks over. He apologized that I got the ticket driving home from dropping him off. I apologized for speeding in his car. I said it was my fault for speeding and not taking note of the limit. Our conversation could have easily turned accusatory – why were you speeding, you can’t drive my car anymore, this wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t driving home from lunch… you catch my drift. But nope. Reason one million and one why my partner and I (in my humble opinion!) work so well together. We try to be as kind as possible, whenever possible. It’s a funny thing when you begin to put the one you love above yourself. If each of you operate that way, you both come out on top.
Each of us has an innate need to feel valued and appreciated, especially by those we love. What a great feeling it is when your partner shows their sincere appreciation for the smallest of things. Expressing a high level of emotional intelligence allows couples to become intimately familiar with each other’s world and consider the qualities and characteristics that we genuinely appreciate. It can be something as small as a home cooked meal, buying your favorite bar of soap for the shower, or booking the middle seat just so the two of you won’t get split up on a flight somewhere together. All gestures – small or grand – deserve appreciation. Say thank you. Give kisses. Write a romantic card for no reason. Never stop showing the one you love how grateful you are for them and all they do to ensure your happiness.
5. Nurture Your Friendship
Nearly all successful relationships are based on a solid friendship, due in part to a mutual respect for and an enjoyment of each other’s company. Partners who have a strong friendship don’t just get along, they genuinely admire and support each other. Relationships based solely on sex and passion are fine for the short term, but if you’re looking for a love to withstand a lifetime, you need a solid friendship. There will be days when you’re not feeling so sexy, days when you’re sick with the flu and sweating out a 102 fever. There will be times when you accidentally let one slip in the middle of the night and times when your beloved skinny jeans feel a bit snug. So don’t forget to be playful, have fun with each other and above all else – be each other’s best friends.
6. Accept your partner for who they are today
Let’s face it. We all want to feel accepted. Sure – if all things are going completely splendidly it’s easy to accept your significant other. But what if things aren’t going according to plan? What if they recently got laid off? What if their six pack has disappeared? What if they had a bad day and feel badly about themselves, leaving them incapable of expressing their love and gratitude to you the way you would’ve hoped? My point is, it’s easy to show acceptance and love when things are great (i.e.: when you see these couples “falling in love” on the Bachelor – a false reality where they are eating and drinking to their hearts content, not worrying about work or paying bills or complexities of the outside world for 8 solid weeks) – but the real challenge lies in accepting the not-so-desirable qualities our partners may exude. Accepting those we love for who they are – not for who we hope they will become – is love and compassion in its truest form.
7. Let your partner be themselves
“You must love in a way that your partner feels free.” I’ve said this before and honestly never fully grasped the concept until my current relationship. In the past, due in part to insecurity and/or immaturity, I never knew how to love freely. Yet now, I am completely and whole heartedly aware that if I want my partner to love me with his whole heart, I have to foster an environment where he can be vulnerable and share himself fully. Letting your partner know how much you love them, and how you always will – with no judgment toward anything they may think or feel – allows them to be their true, authentic self. Why not tell your partner the ways in which you appreciate and accept them? My man wants to go golf with friends? Go! He wants to stay for lunch and a few beers? Do it! Love with all your heart and let your partner CHOOSE you.
It’s not always easy to love compassionately. It requires patience, emotional intelligence and self-awareness. None of us are perfect – if we look for things to criticize in our significant other, I’m sure we can all find them. The key is to catch ourselves BEFORE we begin to criticize or get irritated. In those moments, bring yourself back to all of the positive attributes of your partner/relationship. If you both operate from a place of compassion and kindness, your relationship will come out on top.