Putting compassion into practice when you’re in a lighter, joyful connection is easier than practising compassion in a situation where emotions are high, pain, anger, sadness are being felt, or maybe situations where you or another feel unseen or unheard.
Actively integrating compassion in our relationships, through the good times and the challenges, takes practice, awareness and courage.
I say courage, because in many challenging situations to hold onto what you believe is true, and simultaneously open up and bring in compassion for another that you feel has hurt or wronged you, takes a deeper understanding of the whole, which, before you give it a try, can feel very scary and sometimes triggering in itself.
The idea of it is scary, because we as humans hold onto a lot of mind-talk – negative self-talk and negative-talk in our minds generally; and this is where we can use an opportunity to practice compassion for ourselves. This mind-talk sometimes prevents us from seeing what is true and seeing the person right in front of us in an unbiased and unconditional way. This does not mean that we need to agree, condone or accept what’s being expressed, it means we fully accept another at the same time as accepting ourselves, in each moment, and choose to respond from compassion and understanding, rather than emotion.
Once compassion is invited, included and integrated into any situation, it quite often dissolves a lot of the heavy emotions that are present, for both people.
A connection with a loved one doesn’t need to be challenging to invite compassion in. It is also often the case that another experiences feelings within a situation that we might not understand fully, and we can invite compassion in these situations, too.
Invitations To Integrate Compassion In Relationships
Here are 3 ways to consider when inviting compassion into a relationship with another, whether it be a friend, romantic partner or family member.
1. Dedicate Time in Your Romantic Relationship
Allocate at least a day a month for one on one time with your partner. This could be a date where you go for a walk, to a gallery, for some food, anything where you will both enjoy close time together. This shows your partner that you are wanting to ensure that your time together is consistent, holds quality and is always considered by you.
2. Clarify What The Situation Needs In The Moment
When you are with someone who is expressing frustrations or heavy emotions, ask your person:
“I can see you’re experiencing / feeling [fill in the blank] right now, what do you need today – to vent and talk something out loud, or an offer of a different perspective?”
This question allows the person you are with to express what it is they need in that moment. This works as a way to be with someone while they process and release their own feelings, in a way that is then de-personalised, and can say for themselves if they feel they are in a place to receive advice in that moment, or just to release.
You can also flip this to yourself, and say “I just need to talk this out loud, would that be ok?”, or, “I would value your perspective if you would be ok with that”. This clarifies the best way you can hold, or someone can hold, compassion in any space and situation.
3. Can I Love This, Too?
When you see parts of you or a loved one that you are not comfortable with, or that is unpleasant and brings up unpleasant feelings or reactions, can you ask yourself in that moment “Can I love this, too?” All parts of ourselves and all parts of our beloved are worthy of love, and this question invites us to love all parts just as fully as we do when everything is going well. So when compassion feels far away, ask yourself this question, answering in your own mind, or perhaps through writing about it.
You can watch the full (15-minute) chat where Nick, Mel and Michelle talk all about compassion in relationships here.
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