In the next chapter of our new book, Snap Strategies for Couples: 40 Fast Fixes for Everyday Relationship Pitfalls, Dr. Pepper and I discuss the topic of intimacy and how it is essential for any modern relationbship. Enjoy another free sample!
Intimacy, a deep knowledge and acceptance of each other, is one of the most desirable and complicated connections we seek with a partner. Compassion for your partner will help create intimacy more quickly than any other pathway. We define compassion as learning and then understanding the sources of your partner’s distress or disability and showing that you care. Part of the way you can show that you notice and care is to express a desire to relieve their suffering, or not put them in a position in which that distress, suffering, or even just discomfort is likely to occur. Compassion is different from empathy; you feel the latter when you have been in the same position as the person for whom you have concern and sympathy, but compassion is felt even if you have never “walked in your partner’s shoes.” Compassion is a primary pathway to intimacy because it allows the focus of attention to be completely on the other person, not yourself, making your partner feel understood, accepted, and protected. A person who believes that he or she has a compassionate partner usually feels able to be vulnerable and open, which is another way of saying that compassion allows the relationship to be intimate.
Intimacy is a modern requirement of successful relationships. It may not have been essential in past generations, but it is today. It allows a couple to trust each other enough to explore past and unknown territory with one another. They can talk about painful parts of their personal histories, as well as present difficulties, and expect loyalty and respect. In order to do this, each person has to feel that real vulnerabilities such as a physical disability, a tendency to “put her foot in her mouth,” or a reactive temper stemming from a damaged childhood, are understood and factored into the relationship with kindness and care. Being a compassionate partner sometimes requires putting yourself, your emotions, and your thoughts aside and taking care of your partner when he or she is weak, hurting, or fearful.
Keeping your own emotions in check while being fully available to see, hear, and touch the one you love takes skill and discipline. Learning to be fully emotionally present and receptive can come naturally, but sometimes it is a learned capability.
Interestingly, research on brain scans reported in the Psychological Science in 2013 has indicated that one way people become more compassionate is to meditate. After twenty minutes a day of meditation, individuals in the study found themselves more able to focus more intently and kindly on other people. The Dalai Lama says, “The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes.” Compassion comes without judgment, either good or bad, without advice (definitely not criticism), and without “Why?” questions.
Compassion comes without judgment, either good or bad, without advice (definitely not criticism), and without “Why?” questions. Compassion encourages confession, revelation, exploration, and self-knowledge that you can share.
As always, for the other pages of the chapter and the rest of the book, order here!