We have all heard this a million times:
“Relationships are work.”
“Relationships need give and take.”
“Relationships require compromise.”
So let’s talk about this super important yet ridiculously nuanced thing called ‘Compromise’. Per the dictionary, compromise is defined as follows:
: a way of reaching agreement in which each person or group gives up something that was wanted in order to end an argument or dispute
: something that combines the qualities of two different things
See how in these definitions it is talking about ‘each person’ and combining qualities of ‘two’. The reason I believe that most people are so resistant to the word compromise is because of the third definition:
: to give up something that you want in order to reach an agreement
So here is where it gets tricky. You have two unique individuals with their own opinions, worldviews, beliefs and histories coming to the table to build something together. Inevitably things will come up which force both parties to have to ‘give a little’ in order to get to a place of harmony and agreement. Yet what do you do when one person constantly feels like they are the only one compromising, or they are compromising ‘more’ than the other person?
This is when it gets into the slippery (and potentially dangerous) territory of sacrifice.
: the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone
On the surface it may seem the same. We all have to give up something at times in order to reach a compromise. However, when done on a consistent basis without ever feeling the reciprocation, then that is where the quintissential martyr effect of sacrifice appears. In a relationship, there is an ebb and flow that happens. It usually does not look like an evenly drawn out ledger. … i.e. I compromised this so you must compromise that and so on and so forth. There are times where one partner will feel like they are compromising a lot more than the other person because one may need more support or one is in a place to give more. But when it feels as if the tables will never turn or your partner is not appreciating the efforts (or willing to reciprocate), then it may be time to take a long, hard, honest look at the relationship dynamic here.
A good place to look is how you are feeling in the giving or negotiating.
: Do you feel expansive? Or constricted?
: Do you feel generous, appreciated and respected in your giving?
: Or do you feel resentful, undervalued and taken for granted in your giving?
See how there is a fine line between the two sides of the compromise coin? Only you can answer the question of whether you are compromising or sacrificing in your relationship. Don’t get me wrong – there is definitely sacrifice in compromise and compromise in sacrifice. Yet anything done to an extreme is bound to create burn out eventually.
The beauty of being in a relationship is that the whole is greater than the sum of the two individual parts. There is a magic that happens where we want to be the best version of ourselves not just for ourselves but for another. Change cannot happen unless something is let go. The point is for BOTH parties to feel they are working towards a mutual gain. Most importantly, the trick here is to be mindful and intentional in your compromise. So ask yourself – are both of us willing to do what it takes to create a rock solid relationship or is it just me carrying the burden?
If you are creeping into the sacrifice zone or are already there, then maybe it is time to have a conversation with your partner about making sure both party’s needs are being met. If you are single, then this is the perfect time to look at your patterns in past relationships and ensure the discussion takes place at the beginning of your next relationship as to what compromise looks like for each of you!
Please share in the comments below, whether it is a win or a wish for your relationship. And if you are stuck on deciding which it is (compromise or sacrifice) I am more than happy to help!