Compromise. That’s a word that can come with some stigma. When we say that security in a company has been compromised, or that someone has compromised their values, it is a very bad thing. But, in those cases, when people say compromised they really mean destroyed. In a true compromise, each person involved in a decision has to make some concession. In a true compromise, people meet each other half way (or 60/40, 70/30, you get the idea…) It can be hard to know, in a relationship, when you’re compromising too much, and essentially sacrificing what you want at that point. It can also be hard to know when you’re being a bit too stubborn and forcing your partner to sacrifice. Let’s take a look at the art of compromise in relationships, and what it really means to compromise rather than sacrifice.
Forget right and wrong
Throw the notion of being right or wrong out the window. The only thing that’s right is the decision/solution/result that allows you both to feel that the other person was willing to meet you halfway, and you didn’t give up too much. The only thing that is right is the result where you each feel as happy as possible, without making the other person feel decidedly unhappy.
Not all compromise is created equal
Let’s say, for example, you argue about the fact that as a couple, you spend more time with his friends than with yours. But you know, deep down, you have far more in common with his friends than he has with yours. The truth is, your partner does make more of a sacrifice when he sees your friends than you do when you see his. You have a lot of fun with his friends; he doesn’t have much fun with yours. So maybe, in that case, you shouldn’t be spending exactly 50 percent of the time with his friends and 50 percent of the time with yours. Just go see your friends without him, sometimes.
Never keep score
Your partner doesn’t “owe” you something because, in the last dispute, you made the sacrifice. That isn’t fair, and it will take you down a never ending road. If you tell your partner that you should get what you want this time because he got what he wanted last time, get ready for him to remind you of every other time you got what you wanted. It could go on for hours, back and forth. Just solve the issue in front of you.
Well, keep the good score
Alright, there is one score you should keep: the good score. Every time your partner makes a sacrifice to make you happy, make a mental note of that. Keep a physical list of these moments somewhere. Look at this list when you’re solving a problem so you can remember that your partner is not your enemy.
Recognize when you, honestly, don’t care that much
While you both, in theory, should have a 50/50 say in most matters, this isn’t in theory: this is your unique relationship. So, let’s say it’s time to decide where you spend your spring vacation. Your partner really, really wants to go to one place, and you feel perfectly fine about all options. So just go where your partner wants to go. If only one person feels strongly, either way, about a decision, then let them have their way that time. Why push for having things your way when you’d really be happy either way?
Don’t let others weigh in
Do not tell your friends and family about every little dispute you and your partner have. You’ll inevitably paint an inaccurate picture that portrays you as always right and selfless, and your partner as always wrong and selfish. Then your friends and family will feed you with ideas about how you should push for what you want more, and you’ll go home with a head full of steam, ready to argue.
Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that will happen?”
Always ask yourself, “What’s the worst that will happen if my partner gets his way?” If it’s really not that bad, that’s something to think about. So, if your partner wants your children to get a few pieces of candy in their lunchboxes, what’s the worst that will happen? They each gain one or two pounds?
Remember your partner isn’t trying to be selfish or mean
Always remind yourself that your partner isn’t pushing for what he wants out of a desire to make you unhappy. He is simply trying to prevent his own feelings of unhappiness or dissatisfaction. It’s important to remind yourself of this, so you don’t become angry and mean in discussions.
Know that it will feel difficult
True compromise feels difficult. Compromising means changing your behavior and attitude. Know that a little growing pain, when you compromise, is normal. Don’t automatically think that because compromise feels difficult that it was the wrong thing to do.
Remember where your partner is coming from
Think of his past experiences, his upbringing, and his day-to-day life. Really put yourself in his shoes, so you can better understand how this compromise will affect him, and feel to him. Try your best to imagine how the decision will affect everyone, with their unique lives and backgrounds.
Always tell him how you feel
It’s also important that your partner knows what you feel. You’d be surprised to find that, sometimes, your partner just doesn’t understand what a certain decision means to you. If you tell him how having things your way or his way could make you feel it could actually make it easier for him to meet you halfway. Your partner loves you, remember? Knowing he can help you be happy, or prevent your unhappiness, is important to him.
Remember, whatever happens, it happens with him
Would you rather go on your dream vacation by yourself, or on a still really nice vacation you and your partner settled on, with your partner? If you think about it, your real dream vacation involves your partner. Hey, your real dream life involves him! So if you’re making compromises that mean you get to be together and get along, you are winning. There is no version of reality anymore where you can actually be happy getting what you want if it makes your partner unhappy.
Look into the future
Always ask yourself how much this decision really matters. So few choices will actually affect us in a year, or even a month, or even a day! The couch you buy for your living room, the color you paint the wall, where you have dinner—you won’t even notice these things in a few months. You won’t even remember what you originally pushed for.
Don’t be grumpy after you compromise
Have a good attitude, even if you didn’t get exactly what you wanted. If you resent your partner for having had to compromise, then you didn’t really compromise. Part of compromising is deciding to be happy about the outcome.
Recognize it wasn’t that bad after all
Really sit with the feeling you have after compromising. It feels kind of good, right? You feel mature and patient. You and your partner are getting along again. Remember this next time an issue comes up, and you think you may just want to be selfish.