Compassion in Relationships: Learning to Really See Each Other


Developing compassion in relationships, like this man comforting his wife.

Compassion in relationships is essential. Compassion is true understanding of another person’s pain and hurts. And compassion is what leads to healing for all of us.

When I work with couples, I sometimes hear how one partner wishes the other could show more compassion. The person asking for this is often unhappy because they are expecting something from the other person and they are not getting what they want.

Compassion in Relationships Comes Not from Books, but From Experience and Suffering

Compassion in relationships comes from suffering like the woman pictured here.

But how do we learn compassion? If you were cared for tenderly as a child and as a young adult you might have an idea of what it feels like. But even after we have experienced feeling compassion, are we able to give it?

Many of us who are compassionate know that we have developed this trait after some difficult experiences. In fact, some of the things I have read about compassion, which matches my own personal experience, say that it is only when we enter into our own suffering that understanding and compassion can be born. And without suffering ourselves, we don’t really have the opportunity to cultivate compassion and understanding.

And understanding and compassion lead to true love. So, when people say they are looking for compassion from their partner what they are really talking about is a deep understanding with their mate.

This is not something that we as humans can learn from reading a book or attending a class. This aspect of being human, developing compassion can only be experienced.

Our Wounds Become Our Tenderness for Others

Demonstrating tenderness in relationship, like this woman comforting her man, is essential.

I remember when I used to be a reporter. A family member died suddenly and I was heartbroken. Still in my grief I remember working as a reporter and going out on a story. It was about someone losing a loved one. I saw this older woman crying.

The reporter in me was supposed to interview her for a good quote, but the human who had just suffered her own grief just wanted to comfort her. And that’s what I did.

Compassion in Relationships is What Guides Our Ability to Help One Another

Compassion in relationships lets us help one another, like this Asian couple mutually supporting one another.

It was my compassion for her suffering that I understood because I had suffered a similar difficulty. My compassion was born from my own suffering, and that experience pointed the way for me to become a therapist.

Maybe it was my own grief that led me to become a counselor. I know it came from my own pain, and I realized that I could help others through theirs. Then I could hold their difficulty and pain.

I don’t wish a terrible loss on anyone. But all of us have suffered in our lives. Look into your own past and try and understand your own suffering. If you can, you are on your way to sharing your compassion. It is in all of us. We just have to look.


Develop Compassion in Your Relationship

Read a Book About Relationships

'Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship.' A book by Linda Nusbaum.

Learn how to come from compassion when communicating in your relationship, by reading Linda’s book Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. It might just help you communicate your needs more gently, helping you feel closer and happier together. Give it a read.

Get Couples Counseling

Come in for couples counseling. Couples counseling can help you and your loved one get the most out of your relationship. It'll equip you with coping strategies and tools for communication that can help you argue less and love more.

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