Many young couples learn early on that compromises are going to be a big part of their marriages. A compromise means that you need to make concessions and often accept something that is less than desirable for the benefit of the relationship.
Marriage demands both small and big compromises. If you are used to late-night snacking and your partner prefers an early dinner, then it will only take a bit of flexibility on your side to eat earlier. This type of flexibility should obviously extend to your partner offering to adjust his game of golf so that he can take care of the kids when you want to go shopping on a Saturday – not because you expect it, but because he loves you and he wants to do it.
Compromise is about meeting each other halfway, and it’s an agreement that is achieved through adaptability. If you are crazy about stand-up comedy, but hubby wants to watch old war documentaries and there is no way to record one of them, then you need to join forces and mull over your options. The problem is that human beings are selfish, and it’s almost natural to want more than you are giving.
So how do you reach a compromise with your partner? On Articlesbase.com, Gillian Reynoldts says you need to decide which wars are worth fighting. It’s about deciding when to stand up and when to step down, because a compromise can easily become a sacrifice.
A compromise is essentially trying to negotiate a situation where everybody wins, while a sacrifice means giving up something you value or deem worthy. Both compromises and sacrifices are noble and necessary, but many marriages encounter problems when there is an imbalance between these two concepts, explains Rodney Southern in his article entitled “Is your marriage filled with compromise or sacrifice?” (Associatedcontent.com).
A compromise is reached when each person leaves the discussion feeling a sense of happiness or success, says Corey Allen, a licensed family and marriage therapist and professional life and relationship coach. But Corey doesn’t believe in compromise, because instead of compromising most people simply give in.
“Most people, especially nice guys, pleasers and fixers, give in when they are opposed, because giving in helps them to manage their own distress and discomfort with conflict. They give in because they hope to make their partners happy, but if they consistently feel like their needs aren’t met in return, then the relationship gets damaged,” says Corey.
This can create certain expectations in a relationship. If one partner agreed to visit the in-laws when he or she didn’t want to, he or she may expect sex or something else in return for their sacrifice. If your husband wants to play golf on Saturdays, then you may expect him to help around the house more during the week.
This creates friction because a marriage doesn’t work according to a scoring system. How nice would it be if you raked in ten points for meeting his friends? Then you would know that you had ten points in credit and you could claim it back when you want your partner to take care of some household chore or family obligation.
Unconditional love makes this kind of point scoring a complete no-go. If you are only doing something for your partner because you expect to get something in return, then your relationship wouldn’t survive or thrive.
“Instead of thriving, the lack of a ‘return’ will create frustration and disappointment. These tiny disappointments will accumulate over time and create a big wall of contempt,” says Corey.
Many people can relate to starting with making a compromise, but the situation turning into a sacrifice on their behalf over time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t usually happen the other way around (with a sacrifice slowly turning into the more beneficial situation of a compromise).
Lindsey* says: “My husband is the type of person who is always open to new adventures and opportunities. He has been yearning to move overseas for a while. I’m a pharmacist and the pharmacy where I work, regularly gets brochures with the headline: ‘Do you want to work in America?’
“In the past, the postcards have ended up in the trash, but when Daniel* recently got his hands on them, he suggested that we investigate this opportunity. I was totally against the idea, and this is where a two-year-long struggle about the issue began.”
Lindsey and Daniel’s son was only one year old. They had recently cancelled the lease on their apartment and were looking for a larger family home. Lindsey wanted to start building a home and raising a family, while Daniel was intent on conquering the world.
“We were on completely different wavelengths about the move, but I conceded and accompanied him to his first meeting with the emigration consultants. To keep the peace, I even went along to the second meeting. When Daniel asked me where in America I would like to live, I said: ‘Anywhere, because I’m not going to go.’”
The next stage was writing an exam so that she would be able to work overseas. She refused to write the exam and stopped taking her contraception with the hope of conceiving again. Daniel started questioning why she wasn’t completing her exams and during this time, she fell pregnant with their second child. Then she decided to write the exam so that she would theoretically be able to work in America.
“We were constantly fighting about the move. Daniel said it would be better for our family, but I felt that we would be far away from our friends and family. Daniel’s response to this argument would be that we would make new friends.
“He said the move would be better for our children because they would have more opportunities in America. Each valid point had a totally valid counter-argument, so we were not getting anywhere,” says Lindsey.
Lindsey passed her pharmaceutical exam. Moving to America, would now mean that Lindsey would be the breadwinner and Daniel would be a stay-at-home dad.
“It was really tough on our marriage. We fought constantly, I was miserable and I didn’t even want to pray about it,” says Lindsey.
In the end, Daniel decided to stay. Lindsey’s resignation letter was typed by Daniel, but the letter was never handed in.
“I started to realize that Daniel really wanted this move. It was as if something inside him was driving the move and he couldn’t fight it . . . and I decided to give in. I accepted that this would be a sacrifice that I could make, and I didn’t want to regret not going if our lives didn’t pan out as planned.”
Lindsey told him this, but Daniel said he didn’t want to go if it would make her this unhappy, because the move wouldn’t work if they both couldn’t see it as a positive change in their lives.
“A paradigm shift took place when my name was drawn for an American Green Card. While I never asked for a sign that this is something we should do, I realized that this could be a sign from God that maybe He had a bigger plan for our family in America . . .”
The Green Card changed the whole situation, as it meant that Daniel would be able to work overseas. The paperwork is still being completed and they don’t have Green Cards yet, but the outcome looks positive.
“We are in a different phase of our lives now, and I trust that God will let things unfold as they should. I also know that if Daniel and I are not united about a decision, then it won’t work.”
Daniel is worried that Lindsey is only agreeing to the possibility of the move because she is sick and tired of fighting about the issue, but Lindsey argues that it isn’t the case.
“Now it’s also my decision. The past two years have been hell and moving would have been a complete sacrifice on my behalf, but now I see it as a compromise. I also trust that we will make a success of any situation – wherever he goes, I will go with him. I also learned that even if we move away from God, He doesn’t move away from us. I believe with everything in me that things will work out.”
How should you handle compromises?
Start by asking yourself whether an issue will be important in a day, a week or a month’s time? If the answer is no, then you can give in (this is a pretty broad way to categorize compromises, and obviously it can change according to the situation). When it comes to important decisions that can change the dynamics of your relationship, a compromise may seem impossible, but there is always a solution.
Give yourself and your partner space to think thoroughly about your point of view and your reasons. Determine why you think and feel that you are right in this specific situation, and give each other the opportunity to present your cases. If both of you do this, there is a good possibility that you will be able to understand your partner’s perspective. This won’t necessarily lead to a solution, but it can make compromising easier.
Compromise can only happen when two people who feel equally strong about something can clearly communicate their needs. Strong, mature people can still put their partners’ needs above their own, but they can do this from a place of calm independence, as opposed to fear, conflict or a need for approval.
Ask yourself: “Am I acting from a place of love and integrity, or simply to keep the peace?” If it’s to keep the peace, then you’re not reaching a compromise. You’re sacrificing.
Additional sources: www.ezinearticles.com, www.simplemarriage.net.
*Pseudonyms were used.