A couple of years ago, Jodi, a client of mine who was working through cheating on her husband, told me something I will never forget. She said, “I took off my wedding ring when I met up with the other man, but it still left a lighter band of skin on my finger. I felt so guilty and awful the whole time and I finally broke off the affair when I realized that my marriage had left a deep mark, not just on my finger but on my heart.”
Jodi and Seth worked hard to get through that very painful time and ended up saving their marriage. The mark Jodi identified on her heart was that she had developed an even deeper capacity for love and compassion than she had ever imagined. As they worked on their marriage week after week for about nine months, they had to learn to experience and express compassion. It sounds like something we’ve all heard about, right? Compassion. But what does it really mean and why is it so important to the health of a marriage, especially as the years pass?
Compassion is defined as a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
I translate that as to be with the feelings of another.
Over time, we all know the “Take your mate for granted” syndrome. Sometimes it sounds like “I’m too busy with work for date night” or “I’m too tired for sex” or the old “Let’s watch television and chill” instead of talking with one another. This is what got Jodi and Seth into trouble in the first place.
Bit by bit the marriage loses the vital emotional connection that grew your love and brought you together in the first place.
Compassion conquers taking one another for granted by keeping you connected to your feelings for each other. It’s important that every day you pay attention to your mate’s feelings as well as your own. Think of maintain good love just as you would maintaining good health brushing and flossing each day, eating well, exercise and meditation.
Here are the four steps to creating lasting compassion and connection in your marriage:
- The Feeling Check-up
Ask yourself: do I really know what my beloved is feeling today? Take a moment and imagine what they might be feeling given what you know what is going on in their life and in your life together. Then tell them what you are imagining and ask “Am I close? Please tell me more”
Jodi had no idea Seth was working long hours because he was afraid they were not financially ready for a baby. Instead she felt angry and cut off from Seth. She had never imagined or asked him what he was really feeling.
- Good Love Daily Exercise
You want your mate to feel loved by you. Ask every Sunday morning “What can I do every day so you feel loved by me?”
Seth had fallen down pretty badly in this arena because of this fear. He had shut down and stopped doing the little things that made Jodi feel loved, like rubbing her neck or even kissing her goodnight.
Tip: if it’s your turn to respond to the question, keep your response simple and positive. For example, “Thank you for asking. I love it when you rub my neck.”
- Good Love Vitamins
If only Seth and Jodi had opened up and let one another in instead of going into their separate corners, feeding on anger and resentment, instead of this vitamin. It’s Vitamin O- openness. Openness and vulnerability are the keys to intimacy and require compassion for yourself and your partner. For most of us, it’s harder to share our fears, flaws, heartache and pain. We want to have others think well of us. In a good love relationship, it is your relationship to take your daily dose of Vitamin-V (vulnerability). Show your true self to your partner.
This was the big turnaround for Jodi and Seth. Even though they both created distance in their marriage, Jodi was the one who pulled the trigger by having an affair. She had a hard time forgiving herself and Seth had a hard time forgiving her. Forgiveness was crucial for both of them. First they had to recognize what had driven them apart, then accept they were human and that all human beings make mistakes and that in a marriage, mistakes can make you stronger only if you learn from them and make changes.
What did they learn? The practice of learning compassion. Marriage is meant to change us, to leave its mark on us because we become better people when we learn the steps to good love. Learn from Jodi and Seth because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, your Granny was right! You deserve good love and it requires daily practice.
“Where your attention is, that’s where you are. What your attention is on, is what you become”
-Le Counte St. Germaine
Dr. Brenda Wade
Nationally recognized relationship expert, author, and trainer
Creator and founder of the Love, Money & Seva Seminars and Power Coaching and Training International, Dr. Wade ignites change and transformation in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every year. Employing her unique blend of Psychology, Science and Spirituality, she has become “one of the most renowned psychologists in America,” earning numerous awards for her TV programs, best-selling books and breakthrough seminars and trainings.
Media: Co-hosting her first television show: HELP! at age 16, Dr. Wade has been transforming lives over the airwaves ever since. She hosted four national television shows, two in syndication, and two for PBS television. As a popular and dynamic guest expert on shows like Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and most recently, Dr. Oz and Dr. Drew, she connects with the audience.
Author: Dr. Wade, author of four ground-breaking books, including: 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Falling In Love, Power Choices: 7 Milestones on Your Journey to Wholeness, Love, Joy and Peace, What Mama Couldn’t Tell Us About Love, and Love Lessons: A Guide to Transforming Relationships., (the latter two co-written with journalist Brenda Lane Richardson). He on-the-money, sometimes in your face advice, regularly appears in: Essence, “O”, Ebony, Ladies Home Journal, Jet, Heart & Soul and Bridal Fantasy magazines, and Huffington Post.