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The Happiness Connection  

The marital two step

When you reach an impasse with your significant other, do you resolve the problem through compromise, or do you or your partner have to sacrifice what you want for the sake of the relationship?

Compromise – A settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions.
Sacrifice – destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.
— Mirriam-Webster Dictionary

Having a difference of opinion is normal in any relationship. Often, you can agree to differ because the subject of your dispute doesn’t affect your partnership or life together in a significant way.

But what happens when you have polar-opposite views about problems that can’t be ignored?

The frequency that these situations appear and the intensity of the emotions they evoke vary depending on your individual personalities and circumstances. Glitches in harmony are bound to arise regardless of how compatible you are.

When you and your partner butt heads over a problem or situation, how do you deal with it?

You have probably been taught from an early age that the answer to this question is compromise. This means you work together to find a solution that you both agree on.

Another common strategy is for one person to sacrifice what they want or believe and let the other person have their way.

When I was talking about this topic with a friend who is a therapist, she told me that it is important for people to understand the difference between sacrifice and compromise.

As I thought about her words, I realized I needed to spend more time considering the difference between the two.

It seems to me that compromise and sacrifice are similar. They are both common strategies used when a solution needs to be found for a disagreement or problem. However, when they are used to settle a dispute, they can have very different results.

There is a clear, but very thin line between compromise and sacrifice. I don’t think the line is easily visible from reading dictionary definitions.

Let’s start with compromise.

I believe that compromise should result in a solution both parties are satisfied with. Sometimes, when both people make concessions, nobody gets what they wanted.

I struggle with that idea. If I want to paint my house grey and my husband wants to paint it brown, having a green house that neither of us like may be compromise, but it doesn’t sit right with me.

Shouldn’t compromise result in two satisfied people rather than none?

Some people find it difficult to arrive at a compromise both parties are happy with and, like me, they aren’t willing to both be dissatisfied. If you find yourself in this situation you or your partner may choose to sacrifice. One person gives in to the desire of the other.

I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing – if over the course of the relationship it isn’t always the same person who sacrifices. If you and your partner are both willing to give in, depending on the specific circumstances, I consider this is long-term compromise.

You can see why the line between compromise and sacrifice is so thin. How do you know if you are compromising, or if you are sacrificing?

The boundary only becomes clear when you stop to examine how you feel after you have found your solution. Your choice of action may not be perfect, but if both people are satisfied with it and can move on, you have compromise.

If you are left feeling some type of negative emotion that stays with you, you have sacrificed.

Sacrifice frequently leads to feelings of resentment. Resentment is a destructive emotion that makes it difficult to feel appreciated or loved. It moves couples toward a decrease in passion and romance. This is not the path healthy relationships want to find themselves on.

Compromise tends to involve finding a solution to a specific problem or goal. Sacrifice can happen within compromise, but it is likely to be less specific.

Giving in to your partner to avoid arguments and aggression is sacrifice because it happens more than in just one instance. There is not specific goal other than avoiding a situation you don’t enjoy.

Sacrifice is one sided. You may be giving up something, but not getting value in return. This is where your attitude towards the compromises you negotiate come into play. If you feel you are giving up more than your partner to reach a compromise, you may be entering sacrificial territory.

Trying to find a solution to an emotionally charged situation is one of the most challenging things couples will ever deal with. My advice is to take time to examine how you feel about possible compromises or giving in to your partner. Encourage your spouse to do the same.

When you have some clarity on how you feel, talk together about the situation. Don’t debate it with the intent of persuading the other person that you are right, and they are wrong.

Have a discussion.

If the conversation becomes heated, take a break until you are both able to talk calmly. There may be no easy way to negotiate your way out of an impasse, but easy is not necessarily the route to lasting relationships.



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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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