The art of compromise

At some point in every relationship, compromise will be required. You want to renovate the bathroom, he wants to spend the funds on a trip to Thailand. You want to sleep, she wants to have sex.

This is no cause for despair. In fact, finding yourselves at a “couples crossroads” is a sign that your relationship is inhabited by two individuals — two people whose identities haven’t been subsumed into one lumpy gelatinous glob called “us”.

Sure, finishing each other’s sentences is cute, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the strongest partnerships are those that allow the full expression of each member’s glorious uniqueness.

And that’s where the compromising comes in. Here are tips for making it work for and your partner:

Know what you want. Any good negotiation leaves both parties feeling satisfied. But in order for you to leave the bargaining table happy, you have to start by knowing what you want. Get clear on your own wants and needs. Spell them out to your spouse before you begin any sort of bartering. A win-win is way better than a kind-of-maybe.

Be creative. At its core, compromise is an act of creativity. It requires us to plug in to our creative selves. Don’t think of yourself as creative? Think again. Creativity comes in different forms. Just because you don’t spend weekends in front on an easel, paint pallet in hand, does not mean you lack imagination. We create the quickest route to work, we create the words we use to strike up conversation, and we are constantly creating solutions to life’s challenges. So, when she wants pasta and he wants wings, creativity will yield a world of compromise: pasta tonight and wings tomorrow, or pasta with wings on the side, or a brand-new custom crafted pasta and wings dish! Most of the time total acquiescence is not the name of the game.

Be prepared to give in sometimes. There are some situations for which mutual concessions just don’t work. He wants another baby, you don’t. Hmm. Half a baby? My neighbours are in the process of packing up and leaving our kid-crazy, fun-filled street for a small apartment in a European capital. It’s the professional opportunity of a lifetime, for him — for her it’s a sacrifice. But it’s a sacrifice she’s giving freely because she knows he’d do the same for her. No, she’s not using this move as a bargaining chip; rather, my wise friend appreciates that sacrifice is the ultimate act of love.

Sometimes we get what we want, and sometimes we give up what we want so our partners can fulfill their dreams. But in the lifetime of a relationship, the tide will turn. In the ebb and flow of a relationship, we will get our turn.

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