Many years ago, one of my students asked me, ‘Mr. Campbell…how do you stay married…much less in love….with the same person for 44 years?”
Good question! And I didn’t have an answer.
So I went home and asked Mary
“Easy…we’ve had SEVEN marriages!”
“Errr…did I miss something here? I remember only one.”
“We’ve had ONE marriage ceremony, Steve. But we’ve had seven marriages.”
- When we were married for the four years before our two daughters were born.
- Then our daughters were born and we raised them.
- Then they left.
- Then they returned to live with us again.
- Then they left again.
- Then they got married and brought two additional men into our family.
- Then we retired.
In each ‘marriage,’ we had to make a decision to change, for each of them required a new relationship….and to reset our compassion for each other.
Compassion is far more than sex!
Most of us think that compassion is sexual. However, compassion begins as a feeling, in fact, at its very heart, psychologists regard compassion as the feelings we have for the human frailties that ALL of us experience, especially as we must deal with the world around us. And giving compassion makes you reach out to the other, and feel more humane and less isolated yourself.
In fact, compassion is necessary for connecting our feelings with another. We can only fall in love with those who care how we feel.
This is the reason that most of our deeper fights in marriage are not about money or sex or in-laws or raising the kids. They are about our impression that our partners don’t care how we feel.
Think of this: Imagine that when I was first dating Mary, her parents suddenly died, and when she told me, my response was, “Call me when you get over it.” She would never have loved me after that.
In fact, when someone you love is not compassionate, it almost feels abusive.
And as compassion decreases, resentment automatically rises. And over time, resentment inevitably turns into contempt.
We now know that contempt is powered by adrenalin, which is the hormone that can make us feel self-righteous in blaming our bad feelings on our partners. But we also feel less humane…and compassionate…and when the adrenalin wears off, our compassion is replace by depression.
Two Steps for Replacing Resentment with Compassion
So just how do you replace that resentment with compassion?
First, remember this. YOUR FEELINGS OF COMPASSION…OR RESENTMENT…ARE NOT COMING FROM “SOMEWHERE OUT THERE.” THEY ARE COMING FROM WHAT YOU ARE BELIEVING….RIGHT NOW!
In fact, the basis of cognitive psychology is that our feelings FOLLOW our beliefs! Our feelings do not come from how we were raised, or what happened to us when we were children, or events in our lives. They are coming from our BELIEFS ABOUT HOW WE WERE RAISED, OR OUR BELIEFS ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO US AS CHILDREN, OR OUR BELIEFS ABOUT EVENTS IN OUR LIVES.
Why is that so encouraging? BECAUSE YOU CAN CHANGE THOSE BELIEFS…TODAY!
You have, no doubt, met people who have lived in horrible situations, and yet have such a calming inner peace. However, you have also met other people who live in “situations to die for,” and some of them wish they could!
What is the difference? It is not the situation; it is what they believing about the situation.
Second…your brain is telepathic. It focuses on what YOU focus on. It locks onto what YOU decide to lock onto.
For instance, last weekend Mary and I decided to take a two-hour drive down to Stimson Beach with Molly our dog and spend a day at the ocean. When we arrived, the sign said, “No pets!” Twenty years ago, we would have been very upset. However, we looked at each other, groaned, and then laughed. “Oh well…what should we do now?”
What was the difference? It wasn’t the “No pets” sign. It was what we believed about the “No pets” sign. (And we still had a great day!)