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A brief exercise in compromise

One thing that is hard about compromise is that it often doesn’t feel good because you have to give up something to get something that you want. When we choose to compromise with our partner we are choosing to let them influence us. We don’t want to find ourselves in a power struggle with our partner or feeling that we have given everything and received nothing. If you find yourself struggling to compromise remember this rule: compromise with me like I am someone you love! Here are a few suggestions for how you can work out compromise with your partner:

  1. Define the issue needing compromise. It must be agreed up and approach each other with open minds and hearts before you dive in deeper to this issue.

  2. Draw a large circle on a piece of paper then a small circle inside of the large one. Leave plenty of space for journaling on your sheet of paper.

  3. The small circle is your inflexible area. Try to make this area as small as possible. To give this up would feeling like giving up a bone in your body. For example: the desire to have children. By identifying this in the beginning, we won’t inadvertently accept compromise that gives away something essential to us. By keeping this circle as small as possible we open up the potential to negotiate with our partner in many other ways.

  4. The large circle is your flexible area. This makes up the who/what/when/where/how of the issue. For example you might not be able to compromise on whether or not you want to have children but you CAN compromise on the timing, how many children, ideal financial situation, or waiting to buy a bigger home. This section should be as big as possible as this is where the compromise happens.

  5. Talk it out! Some helpful questions are: “What do we agree about? What are our common goals? How might these goals be accomplished? How can we reach a temporary compromise? What feelings do we have in common?” Spend time journaling out your own responses and be ready to listen to your partner’s perspective. This is not about who is right but an attempt to understand each other and work together.

When you first try to compromise approach it with the temporary goal in mind. Compromise can be ever changing depending on life and shifts that are always in motion. You don’t want to be in a relationship where you crush each other’s dreams but you also don’t want to be so rigid that there isn’t room for negotiation. “Love” is a verb after all and therefore plays out in our actions towards each other. For this to work it helps to adopt the Aikido principle: yield to win. In the Japanese martial art, Aikido, the idea is that direct opposition, two forces opposed, is a big mistake. We must yield to win. The truth for the relationship is this: you can only be influential if you accept influence.

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