Professor's House

Marriage is All About Compromise

She wants red walls in the living room, he wants dark brown. She wants a crystal chandelier, he wants brushed metal. He wants ‘it’’ 4 times a week, she is happy with once. She wants to have 4 children, and he is satisfied with one. She wants a minivan while he wants a Hummer. In many ways, marriage is all about compromise. And compromise is defined as giving up one thing for another. It is very important to realize that there is a huge difference between compromise and sacrifice. In order for couples to have a long withstanding marriage they need to learn how to compromise and not sacrifice, which means giving up completely, for the sake of their spouse.

When two people get married, suddenly nearly every decision is made by the metaphorical two heads instead of one. And this doesn’t necessarily mean that one person in the households opinion is more worthy than the others. For obvious reasons the dining room cannot have two chandeliers. And if both of you have a different one in mind, the bottom line is that one of you will have to compromise. Using the chandelier example, compromise can be made which can be suitable to both parties. In other words, neither of you should have to completely sacrifice your ‘dream’’ chandelier to make the other person happy. But instead, the two of you should set out to find a chandelier that is mutually pleasing, and that works for the both of you!

If only life’s biggest problems were over chandeliers and dinner plans. In a marriage, nearly every decision and every problem is in need of compromise. It is virtually impossible for two people to agree on everything. And since marriage is involved, the points of disagreement can be pretty impressive. For instance, you might disagree about politics, religions, or child rearing principals. You might disagree about money, or sex or about how much influence the in laws should have in your life. And unlike the chandelier, which will make great dinner time conversation but isn’t a big deal these issues can fall under the category of ‘deal breakers’’ in a marriage and have you headed straight for divorce.

Worse, is it can be difficult to compromise over things that are extremely important to you. Like your mother for instance. If your husband despises the fact that your mom is at your house each and every time he comes from work and you refuse to draw a boundary line, trouble WILL ensue. The key is finding the compromise, not the sacrifice. Perhaps you could set up several days per week when it is acceptable, and save Thursday and Friday nights to be alone with your spouse. This way, neither of you has to completely concede.

Relationship experts agree that sacrifice is not something that should be a standard part of marriage. If a man loves to ride his motorcycle, and his wife throws a fit every time he and his friends go for a ride, arguments will arise. However, if this motorcycle bonding is an important part of the man’s happiness and he is forced to ‘sacrifice’’ it to make his wife happy then resentment will settle into the relationship. In other words, each of us comes to a marriage with personal passions and ideals that make us happy. And we shouldn’t be expected to conform completely to a spouses wish as an ultimatum to the relationship. Even more meaningful is the fact that partners shouldn’t want their spouse to completely concede and sacrifice their inner beliefs and passions for the other. Sacrifice unlike compromise, can eventually lead to the great demise of the relationship.

What happens in most relationships is that compromise is reached because one person is unwilling to argue or fight about something. So instead of compromise they simply give in, or cave making concessions to make their partner happy, but not really being happy about it. For the sake of the marriage this needs to be avoided.

Instead when a disagreement arises try to sit down with one another and talk about what is really important and why. Each of you should have 3 supporting statements about why you want to hold on to your own point of view. For instance, write down the three reasons why you want a certain type of chandelier in your dining room. These three reasons become your anchor, and should be placed in order of importance. Your spouse does the same. Then, you compare lists and you come together with a clear list of what is important to the other person and why. Most importantly in this step is not to assume anything, or simply believe that your way or opinion is best. Then, try to find, in this case a chandelier, which meets at least one criterion point on both of your lists.

Next, avoid being the doormat, or allowing your partner to be the doormat. In most relationships, one half of the couple is the ‘caver’’ who resigns him or herself to the ‘It doesn’t matter to me, do what you want to do,’” type of response. If your spouse is always conceding, be ready to ask questions and then listen and respond so you can truly hear what they are saying. And if you are the ‘caver’’ make a diligent attempt to stop sacrificing your opinions and feelings so easily.

Be willing to make deals when it comes to compromise. You will go to your husbands work party only if he will take you to the art exhibit over the weekend. This makes the situation a win win negotiation for both of you, and neither of you will be forced to sacrifice something important. Making deals can be an easy and fun way to compromise with one another

Couples need to realize that with marriage and compromise, can come competing ideals about life. The important thing is not to change your partner, or get them to agree to a ‘‘my way or the highway’’ type of relationship, but to keep communication open and honest. Sure, sometimes in life the things you might be arguing about or debating don’t really matter. And if it doesn’t matter to you, then try not to take a stand just to get your way, or inflict your will. This way when the things that do matter come to the marital plate, both of you will be able to compromise without sacrifice.

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