Infusing Relationships with Compassion … part 2 of 2

“I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating close, warm-hearted feelings for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It is the ultimate source of success in life.” –Dalai Lama


Like a child rushing to open a Christmas present, I awaken this birthday morning with excitement. I am anticipating the joys of seeing life this year through a softer and more flexible lens.

After spending a week in review of my life to date—and walking through some uncomfortable and painful moments of confronting my “flaws”—I am relaxing into my innate goodness, a trait with which we are all born.

Although I am personally honoring a new beginning, I know at the end of life, from those who have witnessed the deaths of many, what really matters is how well we loved.

And, if loving well is so crucial to our life journeys and reason for being, then why aren’t we taught these skills early on? Instead, many find themselves struggling through singlehood to find “the one,” or dealing with empty, flat or disconnected feelings within a long-term marriage. Others, who have lost the physical presence of someone they love through death or divorce, are grappling with learning how to risk opening their hearts again to someone new, and perhaps even in another way, having absorbed many lessons from their previous relationships.

Taking time to heal, clear our subconscious limiting beliefs, and feel our intrinsic wholeness before entering a new relationship is important, for the number of marriage break-ups is staggering. Statistically, 50 percent of first marriages, 67 percent of second, and 74 percent of third marriages end in divorce. When we begin a new relationship with a sense of fullness and more awareness as to our personal responsibility for bringing harmony–versus looking for someone to complete us or provide happiness– we have a greater chance for success.

Passionate to teach what I know of love within my coaching practice, I participated experientially in many healing techniques, read more than 30 related books and trained in relationship coaching based on principles of Imago therapy.

All the insights helped. Yet, after dating as a single person post-divorce in mid-life, I also discovered putting into practice some of the principles learned is not quite easy as “the books” make it look. Relationships are fluid and each one is different.

Meeting someone compatible is only the beginning. Learning to deepen and sustain intimacy to keep a relationship alive and vibrant requires courage, stamina, mature readiness and other sets of skills.

For all the fun and joys of love, and the many romantic ways it is depicted in movies, it is also a growth journey requiring what I call “disciplined spontaneity.” Learning to listen and communicate without reacting—and giving one another the space to reflect and share without interjecting our own agenda– is the discipline part (especially when the ego wants to jump in and have its say or lead us to run away by withholding or retreating). Living in the moment, undefined by the past and without projecting onto the future, is another way we can more freely and powerfully co-create an enlivened relationship with spontaneity. Both these skills require a healthy dose of stamina, detachment and living increasingly in a state of wonder versus control.

Today, after 50-something years of living, I also understand more fully that the love and compassion we need to give ourselves, deepens when it is extended to those placed in front of us. Each of us, whether we are 20- or 60-something, brings to our relationships an internal set of limiting beliefs (often hidden from our initial understanding) that will play out with those we love. The husband sitting stoically in front of you has vulnerabilities from not receiving unconditional love or adequate nurturance during significant moments in his life. The sweet girlfriend you adore has her own set of defenses formed in earlier years from constantly being criticized. Instead of judging others, if you can look at those within your circles with forgiveness and kindness, you may find your own heart opening more to receive the great love you desire or is already present in your life.

It takes such great courage to go within and unravel the layers of our defenses, that often we postpone confronting these internal blocks, believing erroneously that time is endless. Birthdays, particularly at mid-life, remind us that our time on earth is finite. By holding those we care about with compassion, we give them the opportunity to dive in and confront their pain now, to more fully embrace every day. And, if we need another reason beyond our limited time span to summon the courage to heal in order to love more deeply, think of our children. Perhaps, our legacy could be to model for them what healthy love entails.

In the book, Undefended Love, and in the relationship trainings I have participated (listen to my coaching on-air about “Deepening Love” at, it is suggested that when in conflict or disconnected from those we love, we attempt to see them differently. Rather than focus on the current discord, picture them as they may have been as a young child. Then, by viewing them as that three-, four- or five-year-old, we can offer them the same levels of encouragement, support or non-judgment as we would give their younger versions of themselves. This very generous act in itself helps us increase intimacy in a relationship, by compassionately witnessing another’s pain (or emotional spot where they may be stuck) without interjecting our own needs at the moment.

“In the end, the level of peace, love and pleasure we are capable of enjoying corresponds to the depth of emotional pain we can tolerate,” the authors of Undefended Love contend. “It is our depth that defines the fullness and intensity of intimacy we can experience with another. To live an undefended life, we must love all that it is—what we consider desirable and undesirable, good and bad, natural and unnatural—and know it to be part of who we are. As we rest in this radiance, intoxicated at times, full and complete, our love becomes like an eternal spring.”


 Write out the statements below long-hand a few times each day. Then, repeat out loud as frequently as you desire, but especially in the morning and at night when in restful states

1. I allow myself to know I am fully capable of responding to any situation flexibly, appropriately and compassionately.

2. I allow myself to know my partner has separate needs and concerns versus seeing him or her only as extensions of myself.

3. I allow myself to risk exposure in relationship—to be open, vulnerable, present and awake.

4. I allow myself to fulfill my yearning to know myself as a path to loving my partner without limitations or barriers.

5. I allow myself to know I can emotionally stand on my own, relating to my partner as he or she is, and not as I require him or her to be.

6. I allow myself to experience the liberation, joy and spontaneity of unconditional love, free to meet my partner fully and wholly, without defense or fear.

 OPEN TO GREATER LOVE —A unique offering exclusively to my BLOG Subscribers

…Clear blocks, instill positive beliefs, and learn new skills for creating healthy relationships.

Three-Session Relationship Coaching Package $295 (which is a 30 to 50 percent savings) if you register between now and Sept. 30th; sessions done by phone. To sign up, call Gail at 978-887-1911 or send an email to

Beth Shedd’s photo of the seagull jumping exemplifies that soaring individually and together is part of the joy of sharing our lives in relationships.


Share this post

  • bill dinardo says:


    I have found myself in a similar situation to yours and have had the good fortune to recently find my soulmate (Molly). I am starting the second phase of my life and with the help of Molly we are practicing most all of the points mentioned in your article. Our relationship continues to grow daily so we recently decided to get engaged. I can honestly say that I have never experienced the joy and love that I’m now feeling in this new relationship. We realize that maintaining a strong relationship is hard work, but the fruits of our efforts and beyond description.

    Best regards,


    • Gail says:

      Congratulations on your engagement, and for sharing all the joy and love you are now experiencing. Also, I appreciate your candor in sharing your commitment to doing “the work” to keep it alive and vibrant. May you and Molly thrive! Happy new second phase of life. My best to you both, Gail.

  • Florence says:

    As a psychiatric nurse, psychotherapist and a parent I continually need to respond to situations “flexibly, appropriately and compassionately” as the #1 tip recommends. “To be open, present and awake yet emotionally stand on my own”. It is critical for me to understand and exemplify what compassion is and is not. The word compassion comes from the Latin meaning “to suffer together with.” It is a virtue in which the emotional capacities of empathy and sympathy (for the suffering of others) are regarded as a part of love itself, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection. I have found that it is often a balance of caring from the heart along with setting firm limits and taking care of oneself in the midst of some very difficult situations. How I want to feel at the end of the day? i.e, bitter, resentful, burned out or calm peaceful and letting go of what I can NOT control/heal, yet being present for a patient or adult child. Sometimes my ability to be compassionate is truly tested and I can offer emotional support or encouragement, a compassionate word, a therapeutic perspective on a problem –yet stepping back to realize there’s only so much I can offer without the person also doing his/her part to remedy the problem or issue. “Compassionately witnessing another’s pain” is not running away, ignoring, dismissing but having the staying power to be WITH someone in their difficulty. It also is not rescuing or fixing so the other does not have to suffer. Compassion is a paradox of truly caring, loving with an element of detachment vs. enmeshment. It requires stamina of heart and mind, discernment, true self love while allowing one to be a channel of divine unconditional love: “I see your pain. I care and I’m here for you.” It is about defining what you can do to help and what you cannot do.–reaching out yet not rescuing.

    • Gail says:

      Flo, thanks for sharing your exquisite professional and personal wisdom on love and compassion. It was a great help to see how you distinguished between reaching out and rescuing. Your patients and children are fortunate to have such a wonderful guide in their lives. And, I am most grateful you took the time to write such a thoughtful comment to share with my readers. With appreciation, Gail.

  • Gail, I always enjoy reading your writing. We’ve known each other for 10 years or so and we’ve shared our lessons from our respective relationships. You have grown so much in the years I’ve known you and I enjoy the wisdom you have garnered. It’s wonderful to bring what we have both learned to our personal and professional lives, and enjoy the fruits of our hard work. My middle daughter got married last week and I had the privilege of performing the ceremony. I tried to impart some of the wisdom that you and I have gained and talked about over the years into their ceremony along with many conversations leading up to the wedding. I just hope some of it sticks for them. And of course they will have to take their own journey and make their own mistakes. So thanks for continuing to teach others and hopefully more and more people will get your message.

    • Gail says:


      Thanks for writing, and appreciating my teachings. You have inspired many with your own work, and in finding new love again in your late 50s. The joy within your second marriage with Cynde is evident. And your daughter and her new husband now have another model of healthy love…bravo. Gail

    • Gail says:

      Craig: Thanks for writing, and appreciating my teachings. You have inspired many with your own work, and in finding new love again in your late 50s. The joy within your second marriage with Cynde is evident. And your daughter and her new husband now have another model of healthy love…bravo. Gail

  • >