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Monday, December 10, 2012

Practicing Tolerance and Compassion in Your Relationship

Long term relationships can be challenging to maintain.  They require work and a lot of patience, tolerance and compassion.  Two of the biggest destroyers of relationships is excessive criticism and intolerance.  All long term relationships go through tough times and many survive those tough times and flourish.  Both people are often able to grow from these experiences, as individuals as well as couples.  But when the problems aren't part of an isolated difficult time and criticism and belittling have become a way of life in the relationship, over time, many couples breakup because the relationship can't withstand this.

Criticism and Contempt Ruin Relationships

In the worst cases, one or both people in the relationship feel and express contempt for each other.Expressing contempt doesn't necessarily mean that they're telling each other, "I hate you" (although this might be part of it).  Contempt can be expressed in many different ways, including contemptuous looks, back handed comments, and other indirect ways of communicating contempt.  In my opinion, it's the most damaging interaction a couple can engage in.  It erodes the other person's self esteem as well as the integrity of the relationship.

When I was in graduate school, I remember meeting a fellow student's husband after class.  I was appreciative of their offer to drive me home--until I heard my fellow student's husband call her "stupid" several times during the short ride.  Not only did he call her "stupid," but he said it with such contempt, as if she was the stupidest person that he ever met.  She pretended to laugh it off, but I could tell that it bothered her, as it would bother anyone.  Sitting in the back seat, I felt so uncomfortable being around them.  After that, I continued to associate with her, but I tried to avoid being around them as a couple.  Several years later, I was not surprised to hear that they got a divorce.  

Compassion and tolerance in a relationship can be very helpful in preserving a relationship.  Needless to say, I'm not talking about being tolerant of abuse, whether it's physical or verbal.  Rather, I'm referring to the common things that tend to annoy people.  No matter how charming we might find our partners or spouses at the beginning of the relationship, sooner or later we discover that they have annoying ways that irritate us, and vice versa.  Sometimes, the very things that we find charming in the beginning end up being the things that get under our skin later on.  

Rather than overreacting to what annoys you, it's much more helpful to have a larger perspective about the relationship.  If you want your relationship to grow and flourish, treat each other with lrespect, tolerance and compassion.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.