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Passion and Compassion

Compassion is a deep interest in others that comes about from an understanding of their suffering and struggles. Compassion differs from empathy in that it includes a strong desire to connect and to lessen the suffering. Compassion requires passion or it becomes merely niceness. Mere niceness is adequate and expedient for casual or business relationships but tends to work against deeper connection since it is based on a holding back.

Passion is a strong or compelling feeling or desire. When something is chosen with passion, full, unapologetic ownership is taken of the feelings and the actions that arise from it. Passion requires compassion or it becomes harsh and destructive.

Strong attraction or “chemistry” is common early in a relationship, and it provides a strong physical and emotional high that can in and of itself become addicting for those who start and end many relationships. This ‘falling in love” experience has been likened to a booster rocket that will eventually be spent, but which provides the energy for forming a relationship whatever early miscues happens. It should certainly be enjoyed as long as it lasts.

For couples that wish to remain together for a longer time, however, it is necessary eventually to master some balance between passion and compassion to stay “in love.” Relationships with ‘just’ compassion seem to be stable, but often become sexless, and filled with resentment. Couples with ‘just’ passion tend to subject each other to unproductive cruelties and to follow a ‘break-up/make-up pattern. It takes the same skills and balance to really leave a relationship and move on as it does to make a relationship work. Couples therapy is no so much about hammering out solutions to specific conflicts as it is addressing the passion/compassion balance, and bringing more playfulness and flexibility into the mix.