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It’s very hard for some people to compromise because they have no idea what compromise looks like. When some people hear the word “compromise,” all they hear is “I’m not going to get my way” or “surrender” or “go along to get along.” Indeed, even our language caters to the idea that compromise and concessions are inherently the short end of a long stick.

The dictionary definitions of compromise and concession (emphasis added):

Compromise a: settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions b: something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things

Concession 1a: the act or an instance of conceding (as by granting something as a right, accepting something as true, or acknowledging defeat) b: the admitting of a point claimed in argument 2: something conceded or granted: a: acknowledgment, admission b: something done or agreed to usually grudgingly in order to reach an agreement or improve a situation.

Just by examining these definitions, it’s easy to see why compromise can be so hard for us. No one wants to make any concessions. Concession means you went with the other guy’s wishes. The fact that there are mutual concessions in compromise is overshadowed by the fact that you have to make concessions.

Mr. Perfect and I were having one of our frequent discussions about marriage brought on by either the marriage and family workshop or some conversation he’d had with someone around that time, and while he was explaining this situation and the response, he said “that sounds like just giving in.”
When you know you are right, why should you “just give in” to get along? This is the central point that most people get stuck on as it relates to compromise. The thing is, the other person thinks they are right, too. Maybe they are; but then, maybe neither of you has it exactly right.

Why is it so hard to admit that someone else may have a point? What makes it so difficult for us to concede on non-important issues in order to have what we really want? Simply put, it’s because we are selfish. We want everything to go our way every time. It’s a natural inclination, to want things to go the way we would have them to go; it’s just not possible all the time, especially when it comes to relationship.

We are all able to acknowledge that relationships are give and take. We feel, at the outset, that we are ready to give to our partner and accept in equal measure. We don’t think of having to compromise as a form of give in take initially. Most people are not only eager to concede to the whims of their mate, they don’t mind that what they want gets put on the back burner…until the relationship isn’t shiny and new anymore and they aren’t getting the same chemical pick me up from just being in their beloved’s presence. Our natural tendencies begin to reassert themselves (if we haven’t been the partner initially catered to). At some point, you begin to resent the fact that your partner seems to be taking for granted the ways in which you’ve considered them and made concessions for them that you didn’t really want to make. This feeling is very much magnified when the relationship ends. Many of us develop an attitude that we are out for what we can get for as long as we can get it as a result of such “callous treatment.”

I don’t believe it’s healthy for any relationship when all of the concessions are on one side. Relationships are supposed to teach us how to work cooperatively and grow with one another, not to cater to all of our wants and needs and feed our selfish tendencies.

Compromise is not about surrendering, being stepped on, or having your feelings and desires ignored. Neither is it about winning, beating someone, or being out to get all you can. It’s about putting the well being of the relationship going into the future about what you may want right now, of making any concessions you can in order to improve a situation or reach an agreement.

At some point, if you are going to be a “we” instead of a “me,” you are going to have to give up an “m” and acquire a “w.” You have to decide when that’s going to be. You also have to decide what’s worth fighting for and what to let go. If you aren’t ready to concede or compromise on anything, then you aren’t ready for any sort of real relationship.

Have you been in a relationship with someone who was unwiling to compromise? How did you learn to comprise? What’s something you’ve compromised on recently? I want to hear from you.