I think people have developed a phobia of the word compromise. There seem to be two schools of thought going around:
- To be happy, you must never compromise. If people do not love you exactly the way you are then they don’t love you at all. If you have not found someone you love everything about all the time then you haven’t met the right person.
- To be happy, you must always compromise. If you are not willing to sacrifice everything that has ever mattered to you for the sake of another person then you do not truly love that person. The same is true for them.
If I may, I would like to humbly suggest a third school of thought:
- To be happy, you must sometimes compromise. If you do not want to do things for the people in your life, they likely don’t mean that much to you, and if you do not want to do things for yourself, you likely don’t mean that much to yourself. To compromise is to actively work with another person whose happiness matters to you as much as your happiness matters to them to create a win-win scenario in which everyone gets what they want plus a little something extra. It is not to cut out pieces of yourself out to make room for another person, but to enrich yourself with new experiences, perspectives, and dreams you’ve never thought of, and to do the same for them.
Granted, not as catchy.
A few months ago I read this book. All my friends jokingly call it my bible. I suppose that’s not far off since I refer to it as “The Book”. I may have mentioned it before. It’s genuinely worth the read. Everyone ever – read it. Or don’t. There are also audio versions!
Anyway, much of the book discusses ways in which you can make conversations that come to define any kind of relationship go more smoothly. First step is to give up the notion of winning. The first two schools of thought I’ve listed above look at compromise through the lens of a war. So to translate:
- To win the war, you must win each battle. Any battle that may not be won should not be fought. If you cannot be guaranteed to win the war, don’t fight in it. Why waste the soldiers if there isn’t a guaranteed payoff?
- To win the war, you must overcome your enemy bit by bit. You didn’t choose to go to war, but you will abide by the rules of engagement. You may lose most battles, but you will win the moral high ground. You will defeat your enemy through attrition.
The third school of thought doesn’t really fit into a military strategy perspective. That’s because it isn’t based on winning or fighting for that matter. Here’s my best effort:
- To win the war, you must know who the real enemy is and what the war is about. Is war even the right approach to solve the issue? What does the other side hope to accomplish? Is that really mutually exclusive from your own goals?
It’s so easy for us to get lost in our own heads, to make the other person a villain who wants us to be unhappy. To see only two solutions, dominating the other person, or letting yourself be dominated. That, or exclude yourself from relationships altogether.
The good news is that that is totally not true. You don’t need to be either alone or a shadow in someone else’s life to be happy. You can discover and rediscover yourself everyday by being challenged by people who love you when you know they aren’t doing it to hurt you (Assuming that’s true. Some people just suck. Do not keep such people around).
True compromise is like winning the lottery every day. It makes you richer than you ever thought you could be, helps you accomplish more than you ever expected possible. Plus you don’t have to deal with relatives popping up from the woodwork asking for a loan.
And seriously, read that book. It’s awesome.