Who hasn't heard about the importance of compromise in a relationship? But how often do we hear about the price that is paid for that compromise? In a relationship of significance, most people do things that are accommodating. But what happens when that behavior becomes passive behavior and is over-accommodating? What happens when you deny, suppress or repress a meaningful portion of yourself?
The result is that you become embroiled in an internal struggle. One part of you clamors to be heard and responded to, and the other parts of you go into the accommodation mode. By continuing to compromise and deny important aspects of yourself you stay anxious and conflicted. And it takes a definite toll on your
Why would you risk selling yourself out? For any number of reasons…
-To keep the peace
-To preserve the relationship
-You believe you don't deserve to pursue your desires vigorously
-The pain of disagreement is too much
-And many other individual reasons
To experience, express and hold firm to that denied part of yourself can often take heroic acts of effort, energy an courage. The consequences will often be very stressful, either in reality or in your imagination run riot.
In an attempt to avoid the potential devastation of standing firm, you hope your partner will do what you have not done for yourself-accommodate and respond to your own denied parts. When your partner falls short of your unspoken hope you may become withholding, depressed, critical or hostile.
When you decide to stop compromising yourself, you essentially state, “I no longer will do A, B, or C because the price I have been paying has been too high.” When you do this with clarity, firmness and conviction, you don't need to shout to be heard.
But what if your partner thinks you're bluffing? After all, you have attempted to create boundaries before and you have a history of caving in on certain areas in the past. This is the moment you have been dreading. You're not exactly sure yourself how far you will take it.
How far will you take it? If you are determined in your resolve and the issue is of significance to both you and your partner, your relationship will go into a crisis. At that point nobody knows the outcome. Your partner may not decide to accommodate you for their very own personal reasons. The crossroads nobody wanted to face is now here…AND YOU PRECIPITATED IT!
By definition, in a crisis there is emotional turmoil, insufficient data, and substantial consequences. With increased clarity, you know why you have avoided this cauldron.
Very likely you are not only confronting the possibility of a real-time distressing aftermath with your partner, you also are probably pushing up against powerful prohibitions from your past. It is all converging at one moment as you draw the line in the sand. But you refuse to discount that neglected part of yourself any longer.
As the pressure continues, you may want to shriek out to someone else, “WHAT SHOULD I DO?” But the situation is not as hopeless as it feels. Fortunately, your neglected part now has a voice and will determinedly persist, manage the crises and in the process develop the beginnings of a deep and penetrating self confidence.
So you do this one on your own and let the chips fall where they may. Maybe your partner does the same. Probably the two of you emerge intact. You have held your ground. Knowing you can hold your ground somehow gives you the freedom to discuss and accept choices that were not available before.
Your decisions will be made with self respect and, surprisingly, an increased respect for your partner. You find more spontaneity, comfort and aliveness in your relationship. It happened because you gave new life to another part of your self.
And you had the courage not to compromise.
Here are a few related pointers:
1. You don't create an exceptional relationship by negotiating for it.
2. Disagreement jump-starts growth.
3. Disagreement and conflict have their costs – but they are also essential fuels for revitalizing your relationship.
So the adventure begins – an adventure of discovery about yourself and your partner. Pack an open mind and a respectful attitude toward each other. Persist in applying proven principles of great relationships and this journey will be rewarding no matter the destination.
Until Next Month,
Dr. Ellyn Bader and Dr. Peter Pearson
© Copyright MMIV The Couples Institute