Emotional abuse: the last thing you want is love without compassion

The most powerful attachment emotion is not love; it’s sympathy. Compassion makes us sensitive to the individuality, depth, and vulnerability of loved ones. It makes us appreciate the fact that they are different from us, with a separate set of experiences, a different temperament, and different vulnerabilities, all of which cause them to give different meaning to similar emotions. For example, when you tell your partner that “you need to talk,” you mean that you want to feel closer to him. He thinks you want to tell him again that he is failing you. Without compassion, neither of them can understand their differences, even though they love each other completely.

The very intensity of love, when it exists without high levels of compassion, seems to make us merge with one another and assume that our loved ones see the world exactly as we do. This obscures what they really feel and think and, in large part, who they really are. They simply become a source of emotion for us, rather than separate people in their own right. If they make us feel good, we put them on a pedestal. If we are made to feel bad for not seeing the world as we do, we feel betrayed and sometimes vindictive. Love without compassion is shallow, possessive, controlling, and sometimes dangerous.

Is it compassion or is it betrayal

Think about what angers you the most and hurts you the most in your relationship. We give you a hint, it’s not about getting what you want; it is the perception that your emotions are not important to your partner. Power struggles occur when you feel that your partner has failed in compassion. It feels like a betrayal. Most of his resentment and anger stem from the betrayal of the implicit promise, not to “Do what I want,” but to “Care how I feel.” All power struggles in relationships can be rephrased as: “Since you don’t care how I feel, you’re going to do what I want!” Even if he gives in and does what you want, it will have little effect if it is not accompanied by compassion. Think about how you feel when he resentfully does what you want.

Relationship conflicts aren’t really about money or sex or who you’re going to do in the future. We fight for the failure of compassion. If you feel that your feelings are valued, if you feel the compassion of your partner, you will be much more open to negotiation. In general, people cooperate when they feel valued and resist when they don’t.

To learn more about the need for high levels of compassion in your relationship, read, How To Improve Your Relationship Without Talking About It: Finding Love Beyond Words, by Drs. Patricia Love and Steven Stosny.

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