Move Toward Center

All strong, enduring marriages have a hearty amount of compromise. To some, however, compromise seems like the slippery slope to losing oneself. It feels like a capitulation that diminishes individuality and freedom of choice. When a couple marries later and has established their own ways of doing things, compromise can feel like an unwanted sacrifice.

In reality, compromise is necessary if a couple is ever to enjoy true intimacy. In every good marriage, each spouse needs to bend and, on occasion, give up his or her own desires or position for the sake of the marriage. Because all marriages are made up of two individuals who are different, compromise is the best way to move forward, making important life decisions together.

How can you begin to effectively work toward a mutually satisfying compromise? Here’s a few tips:

  1. Pick an issue that has been a source of disagreement upon which you can compromise. Take time, individually, to write your position on the issue briefly. Include the reasons you believe your position to be reasonable.
    • Matt: I want to visit my parents in Florida during our Christmas break. We haven’t seen my parents in nine months and I want the kids to have a stronger relationship with them.
    • Sara: I want to go skiing with our friends during Christmas break. I love to ski and I really wanted to put the kids in lessons so we can begin to enjoy skiing as a family.
  2. Ask yourself if there is anything from your family history that might be influencing your position. (Usually, the more intensely you feel about the issue, the more likely there is an important history to it.) This will give you some clues about why your position seems so right to you.
  3. Get clear about your fears. If you didn’t get your way, what are the feelings that would come up for you?
    • Matt: I am afraid the kids will not feel close to my parents and that my parents are beginning to feel they are a low priority to us.
    • Sara: We both work so hard, I’m afraid our vacation will not be fun and relaxing. We cater to your parents schedule when we visit them.
  4. Before you meet with your mate, ask yourself if you feel ready to be openhearted about finding a solution together. If not, you may have some fears or defensiveness you need to calm before trying to work it out.
  5. Invite your mate to brainstorm possible solutions that would take into consideration both of your feelings.
    • Decide what is nonnegotiable (i.e., we need to visit my parents in the next two months, we need to plan a ski vacation) and what is negotiable (i.e., when we choose to do either).
    • Brainstorm as many solutions to these as possible without evaluating. Write them down. Throw out all kinds of ideas without evaluating them. For instance:
      1. We could visit my folks over Christmas and plan a ski trip for President’s weekend.
      2. We could invite your parents to join us on the ski trip.
      3. We could visit your parents for half of the vacation and ski the other half.
    • Go back and evaluate the pros and cons of each idea. Try to be non-defensive. Make a check by those that are most feasible.
    • Together, decide on one solution, knowing none are perfect.
    • In two weeks, evaluate your compromise and decide if it’s working or if you want to revisit the list and select another solution.

To enjoy a shared life, you will each need to give up some of your own wants. To reach shared goals each of you will need to learn to give and adapt. As you learn to compromise you will be shaped into more loving, generous people. You each learn to give in order to get something greater: intimate companionship.

I’d love to hear how you’ve worked out one of your issues using the tips provided!

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