Think Again Thursday: On Compromise

Writing from the lovely Acela train up to attend my beautiful friend L's wedding this weekend. Very exciting! 

I want to spend some time deconstructing and unpacking the whole "don't compromise" bit of advice that I'm sure we've all given, received, doubted, absorbed, or rejected at some point in our lives. During my short relationship "pause" with SCL, I heard this from many well-intentioned friends and loved ones. Of course at that point I was bemoaning how the relationship hadn't been what I wanted (my, how easy it is to say that in the midst of a break-up!), so naturally the response I got was, "He wasn't right for you, and don't compromise what you want in a relationship."

Now, to a certain degree, I do support not compromising on certain things:

  • Key core values (for me that would include feminism, gender equality, and progressive causes)
  • Major life goals (getting/not getting married, having/not having children)
  • Safety (Obvious, but worth stating) 
Essentially, I support not compromising on what makes you a complete whole human being. The problem is that I think our expectations about what it requires for us to achieve satisfaction and a sense of wholeness are seriously skewed and more akin to Disney films than something we can actually reasonably expect to achieve. 

I am the biggest culprit of this. I don't even pretend not to envy my many friends who are in relationships that are on a sure path to marriage. I have wanted this for over a year with SCL. The desire to marry is a core value for me. What is not essential about that is the exact time, place, and details about how that will occur. But over time I had convinced myself that I needed SCL to commit by this time and in this way with this kind of ring. I had talked to myself so much about that I was convinced that it was true

How do I know this isn't true? Because SCL and I together despite a short break-up, not getting engaged, and moving out of our apartment. Granted it hasn't been long since all of this stuff happened, but the fact that we somehow find a way to move through all that crap is an indication to me that we've still got something worth fighting for. And our interactions are more healthy than they ever were when we were talking about rings. He is honest with me about what he wants; I do the same; and we are talking about how to get to a new place where we are both satisfied. 

We can choose not to compromise--to toss aside the relationship that doesn't match up with what we want, when we want it. I could do that with SCL. I've thought about it. I think to myself, "Oh, I just want to find someone older and ready to get married." Maybe that would work out, at least for the time being. But who's to say that this other partner and I would continue to be on the same page for the next five years or ten years or however long? And why in the hell would I turn my back on the person I've loved for two years, who is trying really hard to be the partner I need? 

When we were dealing with the whole couch situation, I was PISSED at SCL. BIG TIME. In a matter of about 15 seconds, I had worked myself up into a fury directed at him. If he hadn't broken up with me, if he hadn't insisted on moving out of our apartment, I would never be living in this new place that was too fucking small for my couch. Therefore, it was SCL's fault that the couch didn't fit, and I wanted to give him hell about it. He finally yelled at me, "Sometimes things don't work out the way we want them to!" Not his fault. Not my fault. Just, c'est la vie. Damn it. It's so much better being able to target my anger at another person. 

I don't want to view my relationship with SCL--the person most precious to me--through a lens of consumerism. I don't want to wake up one day "unsatisfied," assume that this feeling is an indication that something is wrong with the relationship itself (rather than recognizing life's ebb and flow of happiness), convince myself I'm compromising, and walk away from it. I don't want to blame any lacking I feel on my relationship when there simply are times when I will not have what I want, when I want it. 

So, I am compromising. On certain things. Not things that I absolutely need right this second. And I am learning to be alright with being in that place. 


  1. Good post - thought provoking, for sure! I'm not an easy one to compromise, but a lot of times, both my husband and I have to, to reach a middle ground somewhere. It's rarely one person's way - we're pretty good at reaching a point where we're both satisfied. HOWEVER, we are beginning to disagree on some moving related issues. Not about where, when, or how... it's about the clutter I want to get rid of, and he can't bare to part with it! And vice versa! This will no doubt be our next biggest challenge.

  2. Oh yes, all those personality differences--the pack rats vs. the Goodwill donation addicts (like me). I think that's why it's so important to talk about everything--otherwise getting rid of the t-shirt collection can become an argument about power dynamics in the relationship. Hence my couch blow up.

  3. I'm glad to see you sort through what you won't compromise on and what you will. That's an IMPORTANT distinction in a relationship, so kudos to you.

    Especially on the engagement stuff... I mean, if he is the person you want to be with, the relationship is what matters, not the various engagement/wedding accoutrements.

  4. Compromise is such a HUGE part of relationships. You are never going to totally agree with someone and it's good to know what you would and would not compromise on. You don't want to be with someone who would ask you to compromise something huge (and you wouldn't want to do the same either) but you also want to know that you are with someone that is willing to compromise on the little things. It goes hand in hand and I love the way you laid this out.

  5. compromise is one of the BIGGEST things and something we absolutely have to be able to do for a relationship to be able to flourish and this is good, really good.

  6. Compromise is the biggest factor in any relationship. As you said: the big picture stuff that's important to you... don't settle for any less. But every now and then you'll want to hang a painting he hates or whatever and it's all about finding a fair balance.

    I think the worst thing in the world is the societal pressure and feeling like we need to keep up with everyone else's timeline. Truth be told: that simply doesn't work in every relationship. And the girlfriends I have who were so intent on getting to that alter are either not entirely happily married now or divorced.

    I really wanted the wedding to, for what it symbolized for me. I had been with someone for a very long time and it felt right. But he wasn't giving me all the things I would have needed and that is completely unfair to me. I'm much happier on my own now than I would have been if I had been married. The point is that you have to figure out what you want out of this relationship and to hell with what those around you say. Because they're not in it with you.

  7. A while ago, I wrote a post on "Non-Negotiables" and what I called "Trivial Points". My non-negotiables included things I will not, under any circumstances, compromise on. (Involving faith, family, and someone who doesn't smoke.) And then there were points that were important to me, but I could compromise on if push came to shove.

    Of course, these all relate to my future husband & I'm not in a relationship now so I know there will be a lot of other compromising "opportunities" that will arise in regards to just being together. I know it's such an important aspect of any type of relationship, but sometimes I have SUCH a hard time of it.

    Thanks for such a thought-provoking post!

  8. I like to think of it, as they say "pick your Battles" you have picked the ones that make sense and the rest is not worth the ruffled feathers =D I love how much you are learning and teaching us at the same time! Have a great weekend!

  9. Very well written... and very true. I hate to repeat what others have already said but... it's very thought provoking and a great post!