How does compromise play out your marriage?
One thing I constantly hear is that a good relationship must involve compromise. Pretty much every relationship book or expert out there agrees on this.
So we’re all on the same page, the dictionary defines compromise as: an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.
I define compromise as each party goes away equally unhappy.
I don’t believe in compromise.
When you get right down to what happens in most every marriage, most people don’t compromise, they cave.
Most people, especially Nice Guys, pleasers, and fixers, give in to others as a way to manage their own anxiety and discomfort with conflict. They also give in hoping that it will make their partner happy. The problem is that they’ve just done damage to themselves and the relationship.
Any time either partner walks away from a compromise even just a little bit unhappy, they have done damage to the relationship.
This sets the stage for unspoken, but expected, reciprocity.
I bet you’ve had these same thoughts as I have, “I gave in and we went to visit your parents even though I didn’t want to, so I’m expecting some sex to make up for it.” Or, “You got to go play golf on Saturday so you better make up for it by helping out more around the house.”
In the classic exchange based type of relationship, where giving is expected to be returned in kind, you will fall victim to keeping score – and no relationship will ever be “fair” or equal when viewed this way.
Instead, the lack of reciprocation will create frustration and disappointment. And these little bricks of disappointment will build up over time and become a wall of resentment.
True compromise can only occur when two equally powerful people both clearly state their needs. Let me say this again: True compromise can only occur when two equally powerful people both clearly state their needs.
From this place, an elegant solution can arise that is satisfactory to both partners.
Strong, grown up people don’t cave. They can put the needs and wants of the people they care about ahead of their own, but they do this from a differentiated and non-attached place, not a place of anxiety management or approval seeking.
The next time you are tempted to compromise in your marriage, ask yourself this, “Am I acting with love and integrity, or merely caving to keep the peace?”