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Does Compromise in Relationship Breed Resentment?
Let’s deconstruct this question a little bit and take a look at what the words mean and how they are commonly used in our culture. One definition of ‘compromise’ is an agreement that is reached by each side making concessions. And a definition of concession is a yielding to pressure or circumstances OR admitting defeat.
So, essentially, compromise is characterized by each of us conceding (or giving something up) AND doing so under pressure and admitting defeat. In other words, compromise is a “lose-lose” proposition. And if I am giving something up, under pressure and admitting defeat, I might begin to feel resentful really fast. And what is resentment? It is another word for one of the faces of anger.
Why Compromise Feels Like a Competition
So, let’s see what a more pro-relationship and interdependently supportive way is of managing competing decisions. Let’s flip the script.
First – Let’s take a look at how we manage competing viewpoints, desires, or decisions in our relationship and be really honest with ourselves about our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors about competition. We can also look at how our family of origin managed competition as a way of glimpsing what might inform us now.
Competition, even so-called ‘healthy competition’ creates a defensiveness in the brain that heightens our protective behaviors, informs us to ‘watch out,’ and enables us to focus and direct our behaviors. Many people experience competition as exhilarating and some measure of it can even ignite a spark of variety, interest, and sexual attraction. Over time, however, the stress of that heightened state of awareness and vigilance in a relationship can lead to suspicion and a lack of trust, and cause wariness and opposition, which creates fear and can lead to defensive coping strategies meant to keep my lone, individual, and separate self safe (from you).
Turning Compromise into a Win-Win Situation
It may seem counterintuitive that, when we see our partner as distinctly different from me, we need to compromise less. When we are more individuated in relationship, meaning I can see my person as separate of me with separate interests, points of view, and even maybe beliefs and I LOVE them NOT in spite of, but because of those things, I am much more tolerant of the tension in relationship that can be exhilarating rather than worrisome.
Safety and security are created in relationships that experience differences, honor them, and stay clear about what is important to me and also important to you WITHOUT being compromising or yielding to what is expected of me, but rather being honored and respected for who I am.