Compromise is like the side of vegetables that comes with a delicious, perfectly cooked steak. Boo, nobody wants you (sorry vegans)! But, those veggies are necessary. And so is compromise. Sigh. Stellar relationship compromise skills are something you're probably working on every day, without even realizing it, though, so when it comes down to the big issues, you're probably more prepared than you think.
Every time you go for pizza when you were really craving sushi, or spend half of the holidays with your parents and half with your partner's, you're adding another feather to your compromise cap. But when the compromises get bigger, like when to have children or whether to move across the country, you might still feel like a compromise rookie, at a loss for what to do.
Fear not. As a former Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I've been the calm eye at the center of many a compromise storm, and I have some tips that will make your life easier. Not necessarily more fun, because compromise doesn't always mean you get what you want. But at least you can emerge from sticky situations feeling like a proud grown up instead of an angry bear.
1. Remove The Ego
The need to win or be right might be pushing you toward getting your way without you even realizing it. You can't be a princess when it comes to serious life compromises, especially ones that will drastically change your lives. If this is you, take a step back and try to remove your desire to win from the equation. If you can do this, more often than not, you'll realize that you don't really care about the outcome as much as you care about winning. If you only take one tip from this article, let it be this.
2. Zoom Out
Life is long. If you're in it for the long haul with your partner, sometimes the best thing you can do is to step out of the current situation and look to the bigger picture. Will this make your lives better in the long run, even if it sucks now? Will you be able to live with yourself if you keep your partner from that big promotion? While you're zooming out, it's also important to remember that there are very few decision in life that can't be reversed. If you move and you hate it, you can move back, etc.
3. Get To The Heart Of The Matter
If your partner is fighting you tooth and nail to keep all their childhood memorabilia (which you see as clutter) in the garage? Maybe it has nothing to do with the stuff and everything to do with the memories. What about absolutely refusing to go to a friend's wedding? Maybe it's really about the fear of seeing someone from their past. When you examine the issues that seem irrational on the surface, you'll probably see that there's a bigger motive driving your partner. Be considerate of those emotions as you move forward with discussions.
4. Go For Fair
This is really what all compromise comes down to, You give a little. They give a little. You both win, you both lose, and the problem is resolved. You have to go back and forth a little bit until you can come to an agreement that's truly fair to both of you. And for those times when there's no fair resolution, one of you has to suck it up and trust that next time, it will be your turn. This is perhaps one of the hardest pills of adulting to swallow, but it's how healthy relationships work.
5. Agree To Disagree
You don't have to agree with your partner to be on their side. You could think they're having the most ridiculous business idea ever, but respect their passion and vision, and agree to support them. You can be super pissed that your partner insists on keeping their stupid junk car, even though you get to keep your childhood canopy bed. You could be super sad about leaving your hometown to move to where better job opportunities exist, even if it's best for your family. Compromise isn't always easy.
6. Be Honest About Your Feelings
Once the issue is resolved, that doesn't mean it's done with. Depending on the size of your compromise, you might have lots of mixed feelings for a long time. That's natural and OK. You don't have to (and you shouldn't) pretend everything is fine. That doesn't mean you have to make your partner feel bad, but it does mean you can ask for a little consideration for the fact that things are difficult for you. You're true partners, and that means you get to lean on each other, even when you'd rather be excited about your happiness than supportive of your partner's disappointment. Next time around, when the tables are turned, you'll want that support.
7. Revisit As Needed
OK, so you've made the big decision. You've compromised and that's that. Right? Not necessarily. In some situations, the healthy thing to do is to make a decision and then move on, never looking back. In other circumstances, you might need to revisit the compromise, especially if one partner is particularly unhappy. That's the beauty of being a team. You get to make the rules, and change the rules, as needed. Sometimes tiny tweaks to a compromise you've already made are all it takes to get your partner back on board.
And no matter what the issue, always remember that you love each other, and that's the most important thing. There are very few decisions you can't get through together if you keep that in mind.
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