Monday, May 2, 2011

Beware The Dangers of Compromise

Among the plethora of advice generally given to newlyweds is the old chestnut: “ a good marriage is based on compromise.” Because it is repeated so often by so many, this becomes the mantra for some young couples.  “Meeting each other half way” is their preferred method for dealing with differing points of view when making any decision.  If Bob wants the $3000 large flat screen, and Cindy thinks the $1000 small version will do, then the medium-sized $2000 model is the compromise choice – somewhere between what he wants and what she wants.

The problem is, compromise is not ideal for all situations.   Imagine that, instead of large and small flat screens, Bob and Cindy are deciding to pull up stakes and move to the place of their dreams.  She wants to move to Kennebunkport, because of wonderful memories of family vacations there. He, on the other hand, was raised in a home where Beach Boys recordings started the morning and were only silenced when the television came on. His mother was from southern California and that’s where he wants to go.

So, what’s the “compromise” choice here? Chicago?   When you’re deciding between a large-X and a small-X, medium-X can be a good end result.  But what if you are choosing between option A and option B – does it really make sense to choose option C?  Will that make anyone happy?

A close friend of mine from graduate school was once married to a young man who believed in compromise for EVERYTHING, from the cheese they bought to the movies they rented….just every little dumb thing was a negotiation that had to end in a “meeting each other half way” compromise.  As a result, neither of them ever got what they really wanted. “No one can be happy in a relationship like that,” I thought at the time -  and they weren’t.

The last straw was when my friend wanted to get a small dog -  the kind her parents had at home and that would comfortably fit into their small one bedroom apartment. Her husband on the other hand didn’t want a dog at all.  His “compromise” was to get a big dog of his choosing. (That dog turned out to be a German Sheppard mix that could only be walked with a muzzle and took up half the apartment).   So the husband had to put up with a dog he didn’t want, and the wife got the wrong kind of dog.  Some compromise. The marriage didn’t last more than a few months after that foolish decision.

Relationships need compromise, but they also need give and take.   Sometimes there is no middle ground, and one person has to just give in to the other.  Giving in is not a bad thing – in fact, both people get something out of it.  One gets the choice they desired, and the other gets the satisfaction of knowing they made their partner happy (and some serious brownie points).

The key is recognizing if the decision in question has a true middle ground.  For instance, we recently had our house painted and were actually in agreement about the color of paint (blue), but my husband liked a much brighter version than I did.  We compromised with a shade in the middle and are both happy.   But if the choice is between painting the house red and green, then there is no true middle ground – someone has to give in.

If you see that your loved one really has their heart set on something you don’t really care for, why not give the gift of giving in, letting them know that ”your happiness is important to me”?   This is the stuff that happy marriages are made of.  And besides, next time it will be your turn.

Good luck with your goal!

1 comment:

  1. One point overlooked here is to carefully examine the underlying reasons for choices. Perhaps the stated desire is only a symbol of an underlying wish. For example, if He wants to go fishing in a sailboat and She wants a glamor resort vacation with shows and restaurants, instead of compromising, finding alternate ways to meet key desires may uncover options they would never think about and allow them both to get what they want. For example, consider Lake Tahoe. It has sailing, resorts, shows, pretty much everything but salt water.

    Taking turns is another great option: "You choose this year, next year will be my turn."