Compromise should be a last resort for resolving differences in a relationship and here’s why:
When you “compromise” you are giving up some of what you want/need to meet in the middle somewhere with your partner. If you do this often enough you will find yourself sacrificing too much to make the relationship work and will resent your partner and be unhappy.
Here’s an example: In my first marriage my wife and I always compromised on movies. She loved “chick flicks” and heartwarming animal movies that bored me to tears. I loved war movies, action/adventure and science fiction, which she hated. So for the ten years of that marriage we compromised to watch comedies and some dramas. Neither of us got what we really wanted and it wasn’t until after divorce I was able to catch up on Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, and realized the huge downside of habitually relying on compromise to resolve differences and make a relationship work.
Four Alternatives to Compromise in a Relationship
If compromise should be a last resort, what to do instead? Here’s four options in rank order:
- Negotiation: Find a solution that works 100% for both partners. While compromise is about sacrificing some of what you want, assume you can find a way for both partners to get 100% of what they want.
- The Third Option: If you truly can’t find a way for both partners to get 100% of what they want, assume that a creative solution exists, even if it takes time to explore and find what that is. The best solutions in a committed relationship are unique and creative and don’t show up immediately. Stay in the question long enough and when you both apply determination, creativity and resourcefulness you’ll be amazed at the creative solution that emerges that you couldn’t have thought of in a million years unless you assumed it’s possible and allowed it to emerge.
- The Gift: You initiate giving your partner what they want/need even if it doesn’t work for you. If you give a gift, you need to be able to give it without attachment and live with it and be happy with it. Wouldn’t it be great to be in a relationship where your partner loves and cares for you so much and are so committed to your happiness that they freely say “YES!” to what you really want? Most would agree, but you need to do this for your partner as well. Doing so is one feature of a truly advanced partnership.
- The Gimme: You make a request of your partner to let go of their attachment to what they want in the situation to give you what you want or need, even if it doesn’t work for them. “Gimme” is shorthand for “Please just give me what I want.” and there is a child inside all of us that would love to be able to say “GIMME” and our desire magically appears. This option is saved for special occasions when something is truly big and important to you. Granting a “gimme” is a huge act of love and not to be asked for, given, or accepted lightly. The ability to willingly do so because your partner’s happiness is as important to you as your own is another feature of a truly advanced partnership but only if you do this for each other. Wouldn’t you like to be in a loving, reciprocal relationship like that?
We suggest starting with Negotiation as the first choice win/win option. The Third Option requires allowing enough time to find it, which isn’t always possible. Compromise is OK as a last resort but would be fun to try The Gift and/or the Gimme in your relationship and see if making each other happy can supersede neither getting what they really want.