I remember from a young age being told “you can’t always get what you want.” Through our formation years, we are taught to share, make decisions with others needs in mind, and build friendships through collaboration. When deciding what to do on a Friday night with friends, there is a sharing of ideas and we work together to make a decision. In essence, we come to a compromise on what the group would like to do. Easy, right? Compromise comes in all shapes and sizes, but it seems to become more difficult when situated within a romantic relationship. Agreed?
I’m sure many relationship gurus and elders you have come into contact with throughout your life have emphasized the importance of compromise in relationship. I think we all have a notion of what compromise is, yet, why do so many couples struggle with it? How can we frame compromise in a positive light instead of pulling out our hair at the thought of having to confront critical situations where compromise is necessary?
The key problem is that many view compromise as having to give up part of their identity in some form or another to maintain a happy relationship. This view is limiting and doesn’t properly describe or get down to the root of what compromise is. It is true that within compromise, you may have to sacrifice your time, resources, opportunity, or a variety of other things depending on the situation. Though both parties actively sacrifice surface level elements of his or her life, it doesn’t mean they have to lose their identity or forget about their authentic self.
Instead of feeling like you have to give up part of your identity to compromise on an issue, bring your authentic self into the new situation that you and your partner have formed through the compromise. Just because you may have to give up a few hours you spend doing a recreational activity to help around the house more doesn’t mean your partner is attacking the core of who you are. Transform the energy you would have put into your desired activity and reapply it to the new situation.
There is always an element of give and take within relationship, but the true test is when you have to compromise on an important and critical issue. It is difficult when both partners feel strongly about a situation because the ego starts showing its teeth, but this is a great opportunity to find the fruits that dwell within compromise. A critical situation demands that both partners open up and be completely honest about their opinions. It requires both parties to loosen the ties to their egos, and in doing so, opens the door to a more dynamic outcome than if one partner just had his or her way. Many couples grow stagnant because one party always gets their way instead of growing together and being open to change.
Though it is difficult to perfectly balance out the sides of a compromise, it is a valuable endeavor because you can understand the needs of your partner more deeply and have your needs met in return. With anything in life, compromise takes practice. The more we engage in it though, the more we can see the benefits and gain clarity into the new doors open to our relationship.