Compassion can often take a supporting role in our relationships, especially if we start to feel comfortable and complacent. Unfortunately, that can lead to escalated arguments and the inability to see your partner’s point of view when you’re in the heat of a disagreement. We tend to think that instead of being on the same side, we’re on two totally different teams.
However, having a little compassion, especially during disagreements, can go a long way in a healthy relationship. If you feel as though the compassion is lacking between you and your partner, try some of the following tips to get it back. Oftentimes, all it takes is a step back, a deep breath, and a willingness to put in a bit more effort.
Think More About Your Partner Than Yourself
Compassion starts with putting others above ourselves. Strangely enough, that can be hard to do with the people closest to us. But, when you’re willing to put your partner’s needs above your own, you’ll find that it may actually end up being an enjoyable experience for you. Think about gift-giving as an example. Sure, everyone likes receiving nice gifts, but there is nothing better than giving a gift, and seeing someone genuinely love it. Imagine that feeling in everyday conversation with your partner – especially during arguments. It can change the entire mood of a moment.
Hit the Breaks
If you feel as though something needs to be said to your partner as a result of something they did/didn’t do, can’t it wait a moment? It’s the intuition of most people to react/respond immediately, especially if something bothers us. Unfortunately, that can lead to saying things we don’t really mean, and fueling the fire of an argument. If something bothers you, tell yourself to pause and take a breath. You don’t even necessarily have to re-think what you were going to say. Simply stopping for a moment can help to take some of the sting away, and you’re likely to speak more clearly, honestly, and compassionately.
Be a Complete Partner
While compassion is all about selflessness and focusing on your partner, you have to start by looking in the mirror. It’s very difficult to show compassion to someone else if something in your own life is off-balance. Maybe you’re stressed out at work, maybe you’re emotionally drained, or maybe you’re not happy with yourself physically. Any number of things can lead to us feeling ‘off balance,’ and that can reflect in our attitudes. Simply put, when we’re not happy with ourselves, it’s hard to feel compassion toward others.
Take stock in yourself, and make the changes necessary to get on the right track. If you’re stressed, find something that relaxes you. Start exercising, find a new hobby, or meditate. When you focus being the best, most complete version of yourself, you’ll likely find it’s much easier to show compassion to the other person in your relationship.
Keep in mind that there is no switch you can flip to start showing compassion toward your partner. It takes time, and for many people, it can take quite a bit of effort. Keep these tips in mind, and remember that you and your significant other are always on the same team, even when it doesn’t feel like it. When you know you both want the relationship to be in the best place possible, it’s easier to show them the compassion they deserve, and vice versa.
Written by Kin Leung, MFT, providing couples therapy Burlingame