Ask anyone what makes a successful relationship, and the necessity of compromise is bound to come up. Most people – including psychologists, marriage counsellors and relationship experts – believe that willingness to compromise is essential for a happy relationship. Here is an example: John wanted to spend his holiday golfing; his wife Catherine did not mind the destination as long as she got some to spend time with her husband, and their children wanted to visit Disneyland. In order to keep everyone
happy, John decided to take the family to Florida but asked Catherine if she would be willing to let him spend three days on the golf course instead of in the theme parks. Catherine felt this was a fair compromise, provided they scheduled a few romantic dates together after the children had gone to bed.
John agreed. In this instance, John and Catherine reached a compromise that allowed them, and their children, to get what they wanted from the family holiday.
We all know that compromise can be tricky. Here is another example. Thomas and Gina were engaged and planning to marry. Gina wanted to keep her surname instead of taking Thomas’, but he was unhappy about her decision. They considered using both surnames, but they agreed that this double-barrelled name was too long and unwieldy. Gina suggested that Thomas take her surname instead, but he was unwilling to do so since this was not ‘tradition’. Because neither of them wished to change their names, the couple reached an impasse and they were worried that their inability to find a compromise meant that their marriage was doomed. Interestingly, psychologists have found that sometimes compromise is the worst thing you can do. If one person always compromises – particularly if this is done automatically without letting his or her partner know – there is a good chance that, sooner or later, he or she is going to feel resentful. In a case like this, it is the compromise that has caused a problem. We find it hard to compromise when we are asked to give up our ideals, dreams or something we believe is central to our sense of self. This is why Gina was unwilling to take her husband’s surname – she felt her surname was a part of who she was and losing it would mean giving up her identity as a person. If we agree to compromise our ideals simply to resolve an argument, our feelings are unlikely to change, and again, we may feel we have compromised too much of ourselves for the relationship. This is not a successful strategy for long-term happiness.
How to Compromise?
There are instances when you should compromise and times when you should not. It is never a good idea to compromise your values and principles – doing so may lead to far greater problems in the long run. Instead, you should accept that you and your partner are individuals who see the world differently and that neither one of you has all the answers. Always look at the situation from your partner’s perspective before deciding whether or not you need to compromise. For some ‘hot-button’ issues, such as money and sex, you both may have to compromise. For example, if one person wants sex to be romantic and the other prefers something a little more daring, you may find that agreeing to do what your partner wants means that he or she will be more willing to please you as well.
Be willing to compromise for each other’s families. In-laws can be difficult and demanding, but when you marry someone, you marry their family too – at least to some extent – and finding a way to get along will help you to avoid conflict. It is necessary to find a workable compromise when it comes to childrearing and discipline. Children, even young children, learn very quickly that their parents disagree, and are well able to pit parents against each other and exploit this to their own advantage. Psychologists such as John Gottman believe that we have to learn to accept conflict and difference as part of a good relationship. Gottman tells the story of how he and his wife Julie, who is also a relationship expert, once had a problem that took five years to resolve. Couples who are happy and have strong relationships still have terrible fights now and again and are not always able to find a neat compromise to solve the problem.
Compromising In A Relationship
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