Compromise is necessary in relationships. Alongside trust, it’s one of the main ingredients to making it work. Sometimes, though, it can be confused with changing for relationships, and it isn’t always easy to understand which is which.
Compromise means making adjustments to your habits of time & space, and reconsidering behaviours that are solely self-serving.
Adjusting habits of time
When we find ourselves romantically and emotionally involved with someone, we can make the choice for commitment. Once we’ve made this choice, we need to start adjusting our habits of time so they compliment and encourage a healthy relationship.
This doesn’t simply mean spending more time with your partner. Adjusting your habits of time can vary across the board including:
- adjusting your routine so you can communicate on a regular basis (calls, texts, etc.)
- coming home at a certain hour, waking at a certain hour
- dedicating energy to supporting your partner’s goals and tasks (picking up dry-cleaning, going to their work events, helping put together furniture, fold laundry, walk their dog, etc.)
- waiting for them to finish their meal before leaving the table, eating earlier than usual if they’re hungrier than you are, spending some extra time cooking a second meal if you’re already preparing food
- spending time doing activities they love but you may not enjoy as much
These are just a few basic examples of what it means to adjust your habits of time. Your scheduling shifts, how you spend your time changes, and your typical routine will no longer run exactly as it used to.
Adjusting habits of space
When we find ourselves in a relationship, our surrounding environment is now being shared. This means that your average space bubble is no longer just for you, and the space you usually occupy is no longer just for you, either. Some examples include:
- sharing your living space (sitting two at a table, sleeping two in a bed, sharing a bathroom, etc.)
- allowing more closeness and physical intimacy than usual, including cuddling or couch space
- having your partner’s belongings mix with yours, such as them having a separate shelf, or having some books on your shelves
- sharing a vehicle
- watching movies together, doing work at the same table, sharing a fridge
Adjusting habits of space means no longer having it accommodate only you, but both of you. Many relationships naturally develop to a level where these adjustments are necessary, because you are moving forward together. The more a relationship develops, the more your time & space will mould together. This is inevitable compromise if you want things to work out in the long run.
Reconsidering self-serving behaviours
We live our lives for ourselves. We go to social events we find interesting, we buy food that we enjoy, and we entertain ourselves as we see fit. When in a relationship, these behaviours that once served a sole purpose (our pleasure), must now be mindful that a second person is involved. That isn’t to say you must go to all events together, buy only food they like and entertain the both of you, but reconsidering certain behaviours to include your partner is a compromise that helps a strong partnership develop. Consider the following comparisons that demonstrate how a self-serving behaviour can be adjusted to benefit a relationship (relationship-serving behaviours):
- buying groceries only you enjoy — buying groceries both of you can enjoy
- going to social events you like — going to social events you can both discover
- watching your favourite movie — watching something new together
- getting reassurance from your friends — sharing insecurities with your partner
- going to a party alone — inviting our partner to come along
Don’t take these examples at face value. Simply incorporate them to understand how adjusting self-serving behaviours is a compromise that benefits relationships and helps them develop more smoothly. It’s part of the process of growing into each other.
A lot of the time, compromise can be confused with change. Some relationships require more work than others when it comes to finding a middle ground. It can be daunting and can make us question the match altogether. So how can you tell if a relationship demands more than just compromise?
It goes without saying that you cannot and should not change who you are for anyone. When a relationship requires you to change, it asks you to go against what makes you authentic.
There are certain things that healthy relationships will not require of you:
- go against your moral beliefs
- disavow your passions or hobbies
- reject aspects of your personality/character
- disown or hide your true colours
- deny how you truly feel
When a relationship only functions if one or more of the above is present, this is not compromise. Compromise means adjusting superficial aspects that do not deny who you truly are. Healthy relationships consist of people who adjust their lives, not themselves. When determining whether or not your relationship asks you to change, take note of what needs to be adjusted. If aspects of your life are required to change, then this is compromise — it’s up to you to decide if this is a compromise you can make. If aspects of you are required to change, then perhaps it’s time to accept that maybe this partnership may not be in your best interests.