It is common knowledge that every relationship requires compromises. Yet, some see it as an art form, which can be personal, abstract, intuitive or innate. Actually, knowing how to compromise healthily is a skill that can be learned and practiced throughout life.
Dr Gian Gonzaga, researcher for eHarmony.co.uk found that 40% of 1,240 respondents named compromise “as an essential element to marriage, wishing that they had known of its importance before tying the knot.”
As important as compromising may be, it engenders many misgivings about its nature. One belief is that the mere need to compromise signals a poor relationship match. Another equates the process of compromise with loss of control, autonomy, choice or self. Some feel that compromise renders unsatisfactory options for both mates, as others believe that it is the last resort in remediating fights.
Actually, compromise is the healthy, cooperative and positive outcome of negotiating the varied needs, wishes and preference of two loving people transitioning from their individual “I” stance toward the joint ‘We” position. When done well, a compromise fends off disputes, bonds the pair and increases their sense of intimacy.
It is true that some compromises can be unhealthy. If a spouse is disempowered, ignored or overruled during negotiations, or when a compromise is used as a tool for dominance and control by exclusively favoring one party depriving the other of free expression, both mates end up disadvantaged. Even the common option of taking turns may not be a sound compromise if it evokes great dissatisfaction for one or both partners every other event.
The formula for healthy compromise entails three elements: 1. Feeling respect and acceptance of the mate’s being and wishes coupled with the desire to please him/her. 2. Stating one’s preference and clarifying what matters most/least to each person about his/her choice. 3. Selecting a mutual option that maximizes the desired elements and minimizes the distasteful ones.
For example, she relishes big parties he dislikes them. Every invitation encounters his resistance, her disappointment and frequent repetitive accusations about being “anti-social” or an “attention seeker.” Once they sat down and listened to each other’s deeper needs they discovered that being among others made her feel popular, valued, admired, listened to and esteemed. He found the superficial small talk valueless, and depleting.
Their compromise included scheduling small group get together with stimulating friends, attending lectures and staying for the short reception and spending more time at home talking about areas of mutual interest. These options satisfied their needs and jeopardized none.
To create a successful compromise:
• Do not cave in, surrender or yield to your partner’s ways for peace or appeasement if it is likely to engender your resentment.
• Use the compromise method stated in the column. Choose what matters to each of you most and distresses you the least.
• View the healthy compromise not as an individual loss but as a gain to each of you and an enrichment of your connection.