In every relationship, there are a few compromises you agree to in order to make the relationship work. Whether you tolerate their friends or family, eat their terrible cooking, or stop smoking (so much), you put the other person’s needs above your own. Not because you are all that selfless, but because you know that it is important to them and it would make them happy. Even in friendships, things don’t always go our way. We are constantly making silent agreements with each other to keep the peace, demonstrate our love, or to “pay them back” for the crap we ask them to do for us.
But when do those compromises become too much for you to bear? Is what you’re doing (or not doing) compromising, or are you selling out?
Compromising is when two people, who have different or opposing views, come to an agreement by making concessions on both sides. In layman’s terms, you both come up with an acceptable solution so that the both of you get some of what you want. The benefit is that it is a win-win and neither feels like they’ve got taken for a ride.
Selling out is when the agreement made requires one of you to go against your core values and/or beliefs. Although the agreement may seem like a win-win on the surface, it is really a win-lose in the long run.
Let’s look at Amanda. Amanda is a Christian and very serious about her faith. She is a leader in her youth ministry, Sunday bible school teacher, soloist in the choir, and regularly attends bible study. Amanda has been dating Brian for a year, and although they have the occasional squabble, she’s pretty happy in her relationship. Brian considers himself a Christian as well. He goes to church, though not as regularly as Amanda. Amanda would like for Brian to be more involved in the church. She believes that since they both attend the same church, they could spend more time together doing things they both believed in. Brian thinks that Amanda spends more time at church than with him. He would like to spend more time doing fun things like hiking, boating, dancing, and taking day trips outside of the city. Amanda and Brian agree that if Amanda cut back her church activities from three times a week to two times a week, Brian would join her for one of those activities during the week. Amanda would use that extra day to do something that Brian would like to do.
In this situation, Amanda and Brian have come to a compromise. Neither one of them have gone against their beliefs or values, they both get to spend more time together, and they both get to do what they want.
On the other side, let’s consider Jennifer. Jennifer is 37 and has always wanted to have children of her own. She believes that being a mother is the most important job on earth and she can’t wait to have a baby. She considered forgoing marriage as a requirement for having a child, but has stuck to her guns about finding the right man first. She is engaged to Jason, who is 40 years old. Jason has two children from a previous relationship and both of them are in their teenage years. Jason mentioned early in their relationship that he was not really interested in having more children. Jennifer and Jason are head over heels in love, and although she has a good relationship with his children, she secretly hopes that Jason will one day want to have another child with her. Jennifer occasionally brings up subject; an upcoming baby shower, an article on blended families, or cooing as they walk by the baby department in the mall. Jason consistently responds that he has no interest in babies, nor does he believe having more children will be a welcomed addition. Jennifer, upset and disappointed, decides to drop the subject altogether.
Sorry, Jennifer, you kinda sold out. She gave up a core requirement in order to keep the peace and stay in a relationship. The silent agreement that Jennifer and Jason have made is that in order for this relationship to work, there will be no more children. When a relationship is missing a core requirement, it is headed for failure. No amount of negotiating, counseling, or coaching would be able to get around basic needs.
Now, there are times when what we think is a requirement, really is a just a want. When thinking about our ideal life and relationship, we tend to put everything but the kitchen sink in the “requirements” bucket but when it comes down to it, we have very few non-negotiables. Those tend to include honesty, integrity, communication, strong sense of faith or moral compass, health, and desire for family. These aren’t all-inclusive, but you get the idea. Other qualities can be placed into things that we need (but can be negotiated), and things that we just want to have. The wants aren’t non-starters, but they would be awesome if we had them. There are thousands of Jennifers out there who are more than willing to be a great step mother and consider that enough. It is completely up to you to decide what is a non-negotiable and what can be negotiated in your life.
If you aren’t sure what values goes in which bucket, there’s a class for that! Once you know what those are, it is your responsibility to stick by them, no matter what. Even a perfect man on paper can be totally wrong for you if he even has one of your core values missing. Don’t allow the other 95% sway you into thinking that he’s enough. He’s is not, never has been, and never will be. Know your standards. Know your worth.
In case it was not clear, these couples are fictional, but the circumstances are all too common. What compromises have you made in your relationship that has made it stronger? Are you or someone you know selling out to stay in a relationship?