What does it mean to compromise in a relationship?
There is good reason that some of the oldest advice when it comes to marriage and relationships is the need for compromise. When I was studying marriage therapy, one of my professors said something that really stood out and puts a great perspective on compromise. He said, “One of the hardest things for people to realize is that you are not married to yourself!!” What does this mean exactly?
Many people view the world based on their own life experiences. Every person has had different life experiences. Family-of-origin experiences are unique, people experience different types of trauma, have accomplishments, etc. All of these contribute to how people behave and react to different events in their lives. However, despite the unique experiences, people often still expect others to view the world as they see it.
This is often what leads to lack of compromise and understanding. It can contribute to partners having expectations of “mind-reading” and can cause a general feeling of not being understood. It is so important to try and think of your partners’ experiences and feelings when trying to discuss difficult topics. Typically, you can have empathy for your partner’s challenging life experiences, yet somehow in the midst of a difficult conversation or an argument, empathy leaves and typically you are thinking of how you feel.
This is normal and a means of self-protection, however it is not productive problem-solving. This is why compromise is so challenging. It takes extra effort and thought. When you are able to maintain an understanding of your partner during these difficult times, you’re more likely willing to compromise which will lead to more productive decision making.
Making the change: learning to compromise in your relationship.
Compromise is not only useful when it comes to challenging topics; it’s also very important in your expression of love! The idea of The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, is a good example of this. It’s the idea that people give and receive love in different ways. Words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. If you and your partner have different languages, when you attempt to show your love to your partner they may not receive it because it is not their language.
If you can understand that your partner appreciates gifts, although you do not, it’s important to put effort into this area of showing your partner love and that they do the same for you in your language. While this is a more pleasant example of compromise, it still takes effort because it is attempting to do something that does not naturally come to you. Couples therapy can help you break that barrier.
When we learn to compromise it reflects a deeper understanding of our partners. This leads to a happier and more fulfilling relationship.