It's a mistake I see many couples make. He wants one thing. She wants another. A decision has to be made, and they both feel strongly about their choice. A conflict has erupted.
What should be done?!
If you're like 90% of the population, you'd probably say compromise.
It is THE NUMBER ONE piece of advice I hear couples give one another...
"If you want to have a successful marriage, you need to learn to compromise."
"The key to happiness is compromise"
"Have you considered trying to reach a compromise?"
When it comes to relationships, everyone is an "expert". And their number one piece of advice? Compromise.
Moreover, it seems like compromise is thrown around like a cure-all for every marital ailment known to man.
Can't decide where to live? Compromise!
Can't agree on a budget? Compromise!
At odds with how to raise your kids? Compromise!
Annoyed with who does the chores and how? Compromise!
Unhappy with your sex life? Compromise!
Not getting enough one-on-one time? Compromise!
Don't see eye-to-eye on family obligations? Compromise!
Jurassic Park or The Notebook for date night? Compromise!
But there's a secret that only about 10% of the population knows.
And it's this:
Compromise is not all that it's cracked up to be.
Let me use our last example: you and your husband are choosing a movie for date night.
Your husband wants to watch Jurassic Park, and you want to watch The Notebook. You both reeeeeeally want to watch your movie, but neither of you want to watch the other's movie. So you compromise and watch Finding Nemo instead.
But how happy will the two of you be? Which one of you got what they wanted? Were you able to enjoy the movie, or were you mostly thinking about how you'd rather be watching your selection?
And this is the ugly truth about compromising: it leaves you dissatisfied.
Because compromise is a lose-lose scenario.
Nobody wins. You each give up what you really want, and then you both endure a mediocre (at best) solution, which often leaves you disappointed.
And I'm not just talking about movies anymore. This dynamic plays out in even the most delicate situations where couples try to resolve their issues by compromising.
This is why I get so upset when I hear people touting the benefits of compromise - because they simply don't know what they're talking about!
When I used to teach relationship skills at the university, we reviewed the 5 Conflict Styles, or ways to solve a disagreement. (This is the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Measurement.)
1. Competing (Win-Lose) - "My Way"
2. Accommodating (Lose-Win) - "Your Way"
3. Avoiding (Lose-Lose) - "No Way"
4. Compromising (Partial Lose-Lose) - "Half Way"
5. Collaborating (Win-Win) - "Our Way"
(Want to learn more about these conflict styles? Click Here.)
Each of these approaches may have a time and place in your relationship. There SHOULD be times where you let your spouse have it their way and put your opinions aside, and there SHOULD be times where they do the same for you.
And yes, there can even be times where compromise is appropriate.
But is it a relationship cure-all? No.
My main complaint about compromise?
It's not that it's all that bad, it's simply not that great.
This becomes especially evident when we begin to consider the long-term ramifications of compromise on a marriage.
A person who gets only half of their nutritional needs met is malnourished, and weak.
So it shouldn't be a surprise then that a marriage built on compromise will have the same fate. It will wither away, because both parties are never fully satisfied.
If you want your relationship to last the test of time, grow, and be healthy - compromise will not get you there.
That's why I say that you should NEVER try to compromise with your spouse!
It's basically saying "you give up half of what you want, I give up half of what I want, and we can both be unhappy together!"
When resolving a disagreement your goal should NEVER be reaching a compromise. Instead it should be finding a solution that leaves you both satisfied, and your marriage healthy!
Now, if you end up striking a compsomise now and again - hey, so does everyone! My point is that you should never TRY for this outcome. We want to aim for something better.
So what can we do instead of compromise?
This is what you want to aim for.
When you collaborate you have a frank conversation about your needs. This conversation needs to go deeper than "this is what I want" and should explore why you want this.
After this you can collaborate on a solution.
Back to our example.
He wants to watch Jurassic Park to be entertained, relax, and share in an enjoyable experience with you.
You want to watch The Notebook because you want to feel connected to him, and experience a romantic escape from everyday life.
So this is where the two of you stand:
He wants: entertainment and enjoyment of an activity with you.
You want: romance and connection with him.
Once you've determined your "why", THEN you can brainstorm your options and collaborate on solutions that meet both of these needs.
In this case, you would need to find a relaxing activity that is both enjoyable to him and romantic for you.
Can it be difficult to find a collaborative solution? You betcha! Plus, it requires a WHOLE LOT more emotional energy and introspection.
But you both walk away getting what you need.
Do you see the difference?
That's why collaboration is the real marriage secret!
Couples who practice solving disagreements this way will be much happier, more fulfilled, better communication, and have a stronger relationship than those who compromise on everything.
So the next time your friends ask you for relationship advice, steer clear of telling them to "compromise more" and tell them that they should collaborate on solutions instead.