How often have you heard it? Relationships are hard work. If you're not prepared to do the hard work you can't have a good relationship. If you want to be in relationship you'll have to learn to compromise. These are all very prevalent beliefs that have become "truths" to so many couples.
Sounds great, right? Want what "they're" having? Here's how.
1. Myth #1: Compromise
Sometimes I'll get what I want, sometimes by partner will get what he/she wants, sometimes we'll end up with some watered down version of something in between the two and, very occasionally, we'll both get what we want. Sigh …
Compromise is all about giving in. It's about putting his needs above yours and you agreeing to do something that isn't what you really want to do. Now, we're not saying that compromise has no place in a relationship but we are saying that it is often present far too frequently and far too quickly. And the result? Resentment, un-met needs and unexpressed desire. Pretty soon one or both of you stop communicating, then emotionally (and maybe physically) withdraw and eventually you start to blame each other for what;s gone wrong. Which leads, at best, to a "whatever" kind of energy around the relationship and, at worst, a "screw this, I'll get what I want elsewhere" approach.
The alternative to compromise? Authentic expression and creative collaboration.
- Being willing to state what it is that you would like.
- Being willing to look at what it is that you truly want.
- Being willing to collaborate with your partner to see if you can create an option that neither of you had originally thought of that is a delightful third way approach (NOT a watered down middle ground).
Here is a very simple example that happened with us a few weeks ago, which will illustrate the difference between compromise and authentic expression coupled with creative collaboration.
Bob: I'd like to go down to Gurney Plaza (a shopping area north of us) tonight.
First choice point: Jane wanted something different and can choose to stay quiet and just go along with Bob. Instead she chose authentic expression:
Jane: Oh, OK. I was thinking that I'd like to go down into Little India tonight (an area of town south of us).
Here's the second choice point. We can get into a tussle about which direction to go, who got their way the last time, who has the best (i.e. most logical) argument for why to go one direction vs the other, decide to stay home because it’s half way in between or we could agree to do both and have an exhausting evening that neither of us enjoys.
Or we can continue the authentic expression:
Bob: What I really want is a dark German beer and I know exactly where to get it at Gurney Plaza and I don't feel like searching tonight.
Jane: Easy sourcing of dark beer — I get it! What I'm looking for is some little silver dishes we can use for incense to keep the mosquitos away, I'm worried about the mess we're creating with the way we're currently doing it, and we already unsuccessfully looked for them at Gurney Plaza.
And move into creative collaboration:
Jane: I;m wondering if there might be somewhere to get a dark German beer in the direction of Little India — any chance you've ever seen anywhere? I realize you don’t want to just go wandering.
Bob: Actually there is this place I saw that looks like it might fit the bill …. and I get what you're saying about the mess those bowls would help us avoid.
Jane: So how do you feel about trying out the bar you saw and then carrying on into Little India for silver dishes and dinner at that delicious restaurant we found last week?
Bob: Sounds like a great plan.
Here's what can be learned from this exchange:
- Move below the "I want A" and "I want B" to express what it is that's really driving your desire.
- Acknowledge what's important to the other person.
- Be open to looking for other possibilities.
The funny thing about this story is that, in the end, the new bar we tried had terrible beer! But, this was a plan we had both cheerfully created together and there was no resentment or blame or "you owe me one" that resulted! My plan vs your plan became our plan — and plans don't always work out exactly as anticipated — oh well! Keep Reading ...
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