Expressing Compassion Takes Less Time

Last night, my husband and I were out on a date when I received a text from a friend that upset me. I began to talk to my husband about the issue, and he made a comment that fed the fire to my worst fears about the situation. I asked him not to say that and he understood. Then, he quickly changed the subject….but I wasn’t done talking!! Now, those of you who know me, are probably laughing right now because you are probably thinking, when am I done talking about an issue? However, the rapid change of the subject left me feeling like my husband didn’t care (even though down deep I know he does). We proceeded to “discuss” the change of subject for the next fifteen minutes and I almost let it ruin our night.

I woke up this morning thinking about this ever-so-common scenario. Here are my thoughts: my sweet husband has explained to me that his first thought is not always the best one to say aloud, so sometimes he doesn’t say anything at all. My “Normie” husband understands this concept without years of 12-step training. For those of you who are not in recovery, a “Normie” is a what recovering addict/alcoholics call people who don’t have the disease of addiction. The problem with not saying anything in a situation like this is that then one person can feel like the other is not expressing care or concern.

My husband is a logical thinker, a problem-solver, and a numbers guy. So, it occurred to me to explain to him that it actually takes much less time to express compassion than to have a fight about it. I put my hand on his arm and said, “Karen I am sorry that you are having a tough time” as an example of a quick solution to show empathy. Of course, my side note was that it should be authentic! My husband was impressed with the logic and I swear I saw an mental light switch goes off in his head. Then I got to thinking about how this concept not only applies with couples, but also teenagers. I am blessed with raising a 15 year old stepson and I work with teens.

As parents of teens, often we want to snap back at their moodiness, lecture them, send them far away, or keep them as close as possible. If addiction, drugs, or alcohol are involved we may feel even more confused, or angry. With our teens, if we express one kind sentence of compassion when they are being the most difficult, we see their upper lips come down and the snarls erase from their faces. Then, if necessary, we can have a conversation. Or just hang out. Or perhaps even a hug.

Even though it may be completely counter-intuitive at times to provide these kind comments to our partners and our teens, or any of our loved ones, remember that it takes way, way less time than an argument and almost always feels better.

 January 21, 2012