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Why Compassion Is So Important for a Romantic Relationship

While poorly understood, compassionate love can be the foundation for romance.

Key points

  • Research shows that compassionate people are happier people.
  • Considerable research has explored passionate, companionate, and attachment love, but not compassionate love.
  • Creating compassion requires desire and a commitment to converse together with compassion.

Research shows that compassionate people are happier. Couples that are compassionate with one another have more joy and understanding in their relationships. Compassion, a combination of empathy, concern, kindness, and consideration, is a cornerstone for those wanting a fulfilled love life. However, there is very little research on compassionate love.

Interest in understanding love has grown since the mid-twentieth century, but much remains to be understood. In a contribution to the scientific study of love, Berscheid (2010) laid out a quadrumvirate model in which compassionate love is one of the four types of love experienced by romantic partners, along with passionate, companionate, and attachment love. She posited that although these types of love can co-occur in romantic relationships, they are distinct. Considerable research has been directed at understanding passionate, companionate, and attachment love; however, compassionate love is still poorly understood (Berscheid, 2010; Fehr & Sprecher, 2009; Neto & Menezes, 2014; Oman, 2011).

Let's start with the obvious: When you are sad, a compassionate gesture from your mate can make all the difference in your mood. Warm hugs and words of encouragement take away a lot of discomfort. To have someone hold your hand—offering emotional support by just being there for you—can ease your pain, no matter what it is about.

Without compassion, a relationship can become hardened. When that happens, your interactions are less caring, and you may start to build resentments, which might make you feel that you are in the relationship by yourself.

Developing and expressing your compassion creates a safe zone for your love and all the feelings and issues that may arise. You cannot replace the soft touch of your partner and his or her sympathy with anything else. It is what heals you both and gives you much more emotional security than you may think.

Creating compassion is not difficult. First, it requires desire. You will want to ask your partner what his or her needs are and explain your own. This discussion will make being compassionate toward each other much easier, for you will know where to focus your energy.

The next part is more challenging, as you will need to commit to always dialoguing together compassionately. There is no room for harshness in a compassionate relationship. And if negative behavior occurs, you will need to identify it and shut it down so you can get back to relating appropriately.

A great and simple exercise to help enhance compassion is to look into each other’s eyes. This action has been highly romanticized in the movies but is seldom taken in modern relationships. We usually look at the television instead of each other. Looking deeply into the eyes of the one you love and feeling his or her emotions will create more depth and compassion.

Showing compassion is good, but being compassionate is better. When your mate shares an issue with you and you demonstrate your concern, you make it known that you are not just there for your partner but also care about what he or she is going through. Your mate will feel it and be able to return the gesture in kind.

Practice compassion as part of your daily life. The good feelings you get will only make you want to have more. The depth you feel in your relationship when you know how much your mate cares is palpable. It changes the way you relate. You will become softer and more considerate toward each other–a plus for any couple.

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