If you have been in a relationship for any period of time, you have probably heard an older person tell you “relationships are about compromise” or “you will have to compromise with your partner”.
Great, thanks for the detailed advice, Boomer.
“Relationships are about compromise” is actually some of the only relationship advice I ever received from my parents when I started dating in high school.
Yet, what I saw of the relationship between my mom and dad was not one of compromise but of separate spaces. They both did their own thing and didn’t interfere with each other. That didn’t seem like compromise to me then and it doesn’t now. So I had to figure out what compromise was on my own, and what I can tell you is that – like many aspects of a relationship – it’s going to look different for everyone.
Compromise is deeply rooted in knowing one’s self. You cannot begin to compromise without knowing what it is that you want, and what you are willing to give up in order to get what you want. So I’m not going to tell you how Imani and I compromise nor what you need to do to compromise with your partner.
At the end of the day, this is about you. So instead, I’ve included some questions to ask yourself that can help you understand how you feel in any situation that may require compromise.
I’ve also included our answers to these questions from a specific instance when Imani and I had to compromise, just as examples.
If you can answer these questions, I think you will be well on your way to compromising with your partner:
1. What is the issue/difference of opinion that you and your partner need to compromise on?
Our example: When we graduated from college, we had to figure out which city/location we were going to apply for jobs.
2. What is your ideal outcome?
What do you really want?
John: I wanted to move back home to Colorado. I could get a teaching job there and I would have access to the mountains which I had been sorely missing since I left the state in 2010.
Imani: Imani wanted a job in sales which meant either New York City, Washington D.C, or Atlanta. She preferred NYC.
3. What is non-negotiable to you?
What are you unwilling to give up or sacrifice?
John: I had to have access to the outdoors. I was also unwilling to live in a huge, urban city (NYC).
Imani: Imani didn’t want to live in a rural place.
4. What are you willing to give up?
John: As a teacher, I would have the summers off. I was willing to live somewhere besides Colorado, as long as I could travel during my summers.
Imani: Imani was willing to move to an urban area other than NYC as long as she had access to nightlife, art and culture, and she had friends in that city.
5. If you compromise with your partner, are there other ways that you can gain access to your ideal outcome, or something similar to it?
Our Resolution: Imani was looking for a job in sales and the majority of sales jobs were in Atlanta, D.C. or NYC. I vetoed NYC because I didn’t want to live in a super dense urban environment. D.C. gave me access to national parks in both Virginia and North Carolina and Imani was ok with me taking off for summer breaks without her (I traveled without her each summer we were in D.C.). We both got what we wanted. Imani found a job in sales in an urban environment, and I was able to teach while still having access to the outdoors.
If you and your partner are struggling to compromise on a specific topic, I encourage you and your partner to take the time to answer these questions.
Once the two of you have answered them, have a discussion and communicate how you feel and what you want. This could require more than one conversation.
Remember, always stay true to yourself. Compromise is not about giving up what you want, it’s about finding a way for both members of your partnership to be happy.
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