When NOT to compromise
I was raised to be a good girl. I am a rule follower, a person who gets along with just about everybody. I find that if you treat people well, you usually get treated well in return. And, if you don’t, then usually a conversation will help clear the air, a simple compromise may be necessary, and if that doesn’t work, well, then just walk away.
This approach worked well until mid-life, when my long-term relationship began to unravel. I was doing my best to make our relationship work, but simply, I compromised when I shouldn’t have. What had always been a good tool to build trust and intimacy suddenly become something very different. It held a relationship together much longer than it should have.
There are some times when compromise simply isn’t the best option. I’m still learning how to negotiate these moments, so I made myself a list, for my future self, and for anyone else out there struggling to understand.
When NOT to compromise:
1. Don’t compromise if you can’t offer what’s being asked for without resentment or anger. If you can’t give whatever it is with a loving heart, it’s either not yours to give or you’ve stepped past a boundary. A boundary is not meant to be compromised. No matter how much you want to keep something alive, if someone is asking you to compromise a boundary - It. Will. Not. Work. It’s a losing proposition. Either you cross your boundary and resent the other person for asking you to do it or you resent yourself for choosing to do so. It is sometimes fun to flirt with an edge, but when the fun disappears and you feel resentment, frustration, or anger instead, you’ve gone past your own boundary.
2. Don’t compromise if you’re doing it to ease tension or to make an argument go away. “If I just do this little thing, he/she will be calmer.” This is called walking on eggshells for another person, and it is a sign that you need to find your strength and courage.
3. Don’t hold yourself to a compromise because you agreed to it at one point. Compromises can be re-examined and discussed again. The proper way to do this is to be very straightforward. “When X happened, it didn’t feel very good.” Or “this compromise doesn’t feel good to me anymore. I know I agreed to this but I may be changing my mind. I’d like to revisit our agreement.”
4. Don’t give something you’ve compromised to give if it’s not being received with gratitude- if the other person doesn’t recognize it as a gift. Or if the other person isn’t appreciating it. This is a sign.
5. Notice if the compromise feels fair. If you feel like what you are giving is huge and what the other person is giving is small, or like it is something that you’ve assumed has always been there, be wary. If it doesn't feel fair, say so.
6. Don’t compromise your own integrity. Ever.
Approaching non-compromise in relationship takes bravery, and being dimly aware that a certain compromise no longer feels right is the first step. Way back when, I found myself in a situation where I felt smaller and smaller. That should have been a big sign.