Keeping The Promise In Compromise

Compromise comes in a few different forms and has different effects and outcomes when coupled with other issues and key needs in a relationship. Breaking this all down would be a whole chapter or even a whole book so I’ll just highlight a couple common issues for now.

Saturday we agreed that I could go for a ride while Rachel took the girls shopping for Brianna’s friend’s birthday present. It was an absolutely beautiful 70° February day in NorCal. I rode with no arm warmers or leg warmers and even ended up with tan lines when all was said and done. The closer I got to a place in the ride that I had to make a route decision that would add and hour to my journey I started to think more about compromise. The deal was that I would ride while they shop. So I happily made the decision to turn right and head home knowing that the average adventure the girls have while shopping takes about two and a half to three hours. We arrived home simultaneously. I was pretty fired up that I made the right decision and was happy to be home. Unfortunately I was met with a glare from Rachel… “They’re all yours tomorrow.” That’s it…

I’ve been attempting to join a Sunday group ride for the last few weeks but Rachel and the girls have been sick so I’ve been off the bike and doing my best to take care of them and be a good dad and husband. They were feeling better so we agreed that I could join the ride on Sunday. Then, suddenly, boom I’m hit with this remark. Now, I frequently feel guilty when I ride because it mysteriously seems that the girls are bad when I’m gone or at least Rachel gets more irritated when I ride. I am gone from 2 to 6 or more hours so I do get it. She needs a break from the kids. Regardless, I recognized that riding with the group at 9:30 the next morning might not be in my best interest. I also realized that bringing up the subject of riding tomorrow probably wasn’t the best idea either. So I sat on it for a few hours and thought of a compromise. “What if I ride at 7:30 and I’m back by 9:30ish? The girls are pretty self sufficient in the morning and you seem to not get up till 9 anyway.” After that its all me. She agreed. It was during this ride that I thought I understood the importance of “compromise” once again and thought it would be a great subject to write about.

The One-sided Compromise – This one is tricky and dangerous because it often falls into two subcategories, neither of which is healthy. First the idea of compromising to get your way, or if you give in then you are angry and blurt out a “well now you owe me,” which in my opinion is not what compromise should be. If the motivation behind the negotiation with your husband or wife is so that you can get your way then you are most likely not giving up anything at all. In fact you will most likely construct a conversation around everything you give up for them on a daily basis and how they don’t understand your needs and never see things your way or are not willing to bend etc. Though some of these statements may be true, which is a totally different issue with the relationship, this is not compromise. It is manipulating and “guilting” to get your way, which just further damages the relationship. Second is compromising because you hope it will make your partner happy and make them love you more. People pleasing and fear of confrontation are the most common vehicles in this occasion. Although the intent here is most likely driven by a form of love at the core, I think it is a damaged love.  Most likely you silently sacrifice your needs and desires for your partner to make them happy and hope for the day that they “pay you back” with love, respect, admiration and adoration. Meanwhile you rarely ask for anything. You become a martyr… If you are compromising like this then it may also be a sign of a few other common issues in marriage which will continue to get worse because you will incessantly grow resentful and your partner will either intentionally or unintentionally continue to walk all over you.

The flip side to the above is finding compromise within open and sincere communication. Communication is perhaps the most underappreciated, mysteriously feared and single most powerful tool in building a concrete relationship followed by sex and money. Issues in these arenas can lead to cracks in the foundation of your relationship, but if you can always talk about it, then there is always hope. We all have needs and desires that we hope will help make our lives feel complete if they are met and realized. Many of the compromises we make in a relationship often seem to revolve around these personal needs and often do not include the spouse and may in fact seem trivial or ridiculous to one or both of the partners. Remember that something small to you may mean the world to another and vice versa. By being open and honest about your needs no matter how big or small they seem to be helps nourish a growing and healthy relationship. It is essential that both sides communicate their needs and concerns about every given situation regardless of which side of the coin you are on. Compromise has two sides and you both need to give and receive. Taper your objective while openly talking about it to please the other person and find genuine happiness in that. Voice your thoughts; especially the ones that make your compromise hard, so that you don’t keep them inside and let them fester into something uglier than they really are. Give and take in a manner that is not actually “tit for tat” but truly a compromise grounded in honest communication and love. Both partners need to feel like they gain, tangibly and/or emotionally, one of them should not feel a sense of defeat. Remember that you may not get exactly what you want but perhaps some version of it. We are not children, we are adults, we are husbands and wives, parents… so we need to grow up, think, love and communicate. This doesn’t mean we can’t have fun and live a little or a lot, it just means we shouldn’t be petulant fools. Instead, approach everything as a team. This, I promise, will help feed a healthy relationship.

Sure this all seems obvious right now while reading it, or perhaps you think it is ridiculous or unrealistic or maybe it strikes a chord with you and you are stuck wondering how to take then next corner. It’s hard to break habits, it’s hard to recognize your own misdoings in a relationship and it’s hard to give up what you believe are your essential rights and freedoms as an individual… but this isn’t politics, this is a relationship and you owe it to yourself and your partner to be honest, open and loving in your listening and communication of each others needs. So respect each other, talk and try to understand each other’s needs. Hold up your end of the bargain and do not take advantage. If you need more or feel uncomfortable or resentful please speak up, never try to bury it. Most importantly never give up on trying to learn more about yourself and your partner by asking and talking about each other’s needs and expectations, dreams and fears and always wholeheartedly try to follow through and keep your promise in the compromise.