Compromise Is Not The Answer
Compromise is a way of reaching agreement in which each person gives up something that was wanted to end an argument or dispute. This may sound reasonable, but it rarely happens in intimate relationships. Say one of you wants to vacation at the beach and the other wants the mountains. A compromise might be to go to the beach this year and the mountains next year. But what if you really don’t like the beach? Do you go to the beach and sulk? Or, do you go and put on a happy face while silently letting your resentment grow?
Do you keep track of the compromises, that is, keep score? Do you get in arguments about what is fair? How do you keep from feeling like you got the shaft when you make a compromise? And what if compromise is usually about you giving in just to end the argument? This is not uncommon in many relationships – one partner repeatedly sacrifices themselves on the altar of keep-the-peace. After enough sacrifices, the resentment grows to the point where that partner explodes at some minor infraction that triggered the hidden reservoir of bitterness.
The truth is, real relationships are full of decision points that don’t lend themselves to compromise: you are either getting what you want or you aren’t. So how do you stay invested in your relationship if you don’t always get what you want? In a real relationship, where things can get messy, complicated, and sometimes heated, the question you must continually answer is, “Am I getting enough of what I want to make it worthwhile to grieve (let go of) what I’m not?” This is the tough truth about relationships.
Once you come to accept this truth, there is a prize that comes with it: when you grieve the loss of something, the resentment from not getting it dissipates, and no longer poisons the relationship. A kind of peace descends upon you: you know why you made your choice, and you have the satisfaction of knowing you made your decision consciously and willingly. You no longer have to beat yourself up because, yet again, you gave in. You start looking at the relationship differently – it’s no longer a contest to see who gets what, it’s more about “This relationship is a big part of my life, but it’s not everything. It doesn’t define me or my value.” That’s when you enter the realm of what couples therapist Terry Real calls “Full Respect Living.”
So how do you get enough of what you want from your relationship? You start by speaking up for what you want with love and savvy. If you’d like to learn how to do this, attend one of my Relationships 101 workshops or contact me for personal or couples coaching.