Ask A Woman: The dos and don’ts of compromise.
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Compromise is the bedrock of a solid relationship. Ugh, do I sound like a radio shrink or what? Well, it’s true. Anyone who ever dated while in their teens knows that it’s not possible to get your way all the time and still maintain a healthy relationship. First of all, good luck finding some poor schmuck who’s going to let you steamroll them. Second of all, even if you do find someone willing to be so self-sacrificial, you’re entering into a seriously dysfunctional relationship. No one should get everything they want. It makes you an asshole. Two words: Justin Bieber. Two more words: Charlie Sheen. All tiger blood and no concession makes Charlie a big douche.
So we’re all agreed that you have to give a little in relationships. Super. But how much? And on what? How do you maintain your independence and selfhood while still being a good partner?
Don’t compromise your core values
I’ve talked in this space before about how sharing core values is essential to longevity in a relationship. Core values are those tenets that you use to live your life, to frame your thinking, to define who you are. For some people it might be following Christian or Jewish or Muslim doctrine. For others it could be participation in a social movement—supporting social justice issues like gay marriage or combating poverty. Maybe politics (and the underlying belief system of the party you support) are a huge part of your life. Even something like green living—committing to only eating organic and vegetarian food, buying products that are made sustainably, and so forth. The easy way to avoid compromising these values, of course, is to find someone who shares them. But if you happen to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t, then it’s important to make sure you’re not abandoning them just because your partner doesn’t share them. You may go to a rom-com that your lady wants to see, you may agree to do the dishes when it’s not your turn, you may say yes to your boyfriend wanting a second cat, but you’re not going to stop going to Bible study or donating money to the Sierra Club.
Do compromise how you spend your time
When you pair up, you automatically cut your free time drastically. Not only are you going to be spending a lot of time with your other half, you’re going to be incorporating large chunks of her life into yours. You have to make time to hang out with her friends (just as she needs to make time to hang out with your friends). Yeah, you could both designate nights where you part ways and see your friends alone but there’s real benefit to spending time in each others’ circles. Getting to know your man’s friends is only going to help you. If they know you and like you, they’ll be so much more likely to support the two of you as a couple, which not only helps your relationship, but strengthens your friendships as well.
Also important is supporting each other’s hobbies. Not into running? You should still go and wait at the finish line of that 10k to cheer for your spouse. And she should come listen to your band play occasionally, even if she’s not a fan of bluegrass.
Miles does not compromise his core values.
Don’t compromise major life choices
If I asked you, are you interested in getting married someday? Do you want children? You probably know how you feel on these topics–yes, definitely would like to get married; no, having kids just isn’t something that appeals to me. Like core values, these are areas of life that are really important to be true to yourself on. Yes, sometimes your opinions change. You can’t imagine getting married until you meet the person who eventually becomes your spouse, or you find to your surprise that your life feels complete without having children and you decide to forgo it. But when you feel strongly one way or another, you should not compromise. Do not marry a woman to get her to quit nagging you about getting married. Do not agree–in the abstract–to have children with someone and then either put it off indefinitely, or actually go ahead and reproduce against your better judgment. These are huge decisions that will have a lasting impact on your life and the lives of others. It is not selfish to resist compromise in these areas–it is responsible.
Do compromise on your living space
Moving in together is typically a fraught experience for couples. You can know someone very well, love them, be committed to them…and yet moving in with them is like being introduced to a whole new person. This is definitely a time that calls for compromise. The person who is messier and less organized needs to make an effort to be less so. The person who is neater and more organized needs to cut the other person some slack. And household chores and responsibilities need to be divided up in as fair a way as possible. This may mean a stark departure from what you grew up with in your family of origin. Just because your mom did the laundry and vacuumed and your dad cooked and took care of the cars, it doesn’t mean that’s the right way to do it in your new coupling. You have to pave a new path together and that means (in this area) doing what’s best for your union, not what you’d prefer to do as an individual. After all, is there anyone who wouldn’t rather that our partner do all the housework, pay all the bills, run all the errands? That would be ideal…but remember what I said about getting your way all the time? Don’t be the guy with tiger blood and a warlock brain.
In closing, the best way to think about compromise is this: is what I’m compromising on going to change who I fundamentally am? Is it going against some deeply held belief? If the answer is yes to either question, you need to seriously consider whether you want to be untrue to yourself. If the answer is no to both questions, you can safely find a middle ground with your other half.
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