Ellyn Bader

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
relationship.

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!

Want more tips on honest communication? Read “Tell Me No Lies.”

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,
Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson

© Copyright MMIV The Couples Institute

About 

Ellyn Bader, Ph.D., is Co-Founder & Director of The Couples Institute and creator of The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy. Ellyn is widely recognized as an expert in couples therapy, and since 2006 she has led innovative online training programs for therapists. Professionals from around the world connect with her through internet, conference calls and blog discussions to study couples therapy.

Ellyn’s first book, "In Quest of the Mythical Mate," won the Clark Vincent Award by the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists for its outstanding contribution to the field of marital therapy and is now in its 18th printing. She has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including "The Today Show" and "CBS Early Morning News," and she has been quoted in many publications including "The New York Times," "The Oprah Magazine" and "Cosmopolitan."

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A Glossary of Terms that are sometimes Confusing

Couples Therapy is a counseling procedure that seeks to improve the adjustment of two people who have created an interdependent relationship. There are no standard procedures to help two people improve their adjustments to each other. Generally, a more experienced therapist will offer more perspectives and tools to a couple. Length of treatment will depend on severity of problems, motivation and skills of the therapist. A couple can be dating, living together, married or separating and may be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Marriage Therapy is a term often used interchangeably with marriage counseling. The term marriage implies two people have created a union sanctioned by a government or religious institution. The methods used in marriage counseling, marriage therapy and couples therapy are interchangeable and depend more on the specific challenges of each unique couple.

Psychotherapy is one or more processes to help improve psychological and emotional functioning. Examples are psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Transactional Analysis, Rational-Emotive therapy, or group therapy. Many forms of psychotherapy are blends of different approaches. For example, newer forms of psychotherapy called energy psychology draw upon recent advances in brain and neuroscience. These approaches often build on cognitive behavioral methods.

Clinical Psychologist. After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psycholgy. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Psychiatrist. After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Clinical Social Worker. This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

The Couples Institute. We have assembled a group of top notch therapists at The Couples Institute. Whatever marriage help or marriage advice you are looking for, we are here to serve you. While most other therapists see only a few couples a week, we specialize in marriage and couples relationships, working to develop and bring you the most current and effective approaches to couples therapy. For more information about couples therapy or marriage counseling, see our couples therapy section.