Monday, January 19, 2015

When Compromise Isn't Possible

The general wisdom is that marriage is made up of a lot of little compromises. And that is true. You compromise on how to schedule your days, on who should do which chores, and which mother's banana bread recipe you will use.

But sometimes you can't compromise. You'll either spend your money this way or that way, and you can't do both. You'll either vacation in one place or another this year. The two activities you want to sign your kid up for are at the same time, so you have to pick one or the other. Some of these decisions don't matter much in the long run, and you're happy to go with the flow and give in, seeing possible benefits to the choice that wasn't your first. But what about the times when compromise isn't possible and it is clear to each of you that your way is the right way, and your partner's way will have some bad long-range consequences that you don't want to face? What then?

Of course there are no one-size-fits-all answers here. Some of these decisions are big and damaging, and I can't begin to address those. Sometimes there is a moral right or wrong, and obviously we are never called to support a morally wrong decision. Definitely call a professional to help you walk through those things.

But some of these no-compromise decisions are not that big in the long run, but they feel big to us. When I recently found myself disagreeing with a decision my husband made, I had some choices to make about how to respond. Maybe some of what I learned is generally helpful in these no-compromise situations where you don't get your way.

1) Pray. I prayed both for the ability to understand my husband's perspective and for things to turn out well for our family. Not only do our prayers cause God to act on our behalf, but they also help us be at peace. God knows what is best, and he will work things out for those who love him. Perhaps some of the things I fear will come true, and perhaps this wasn't the best decision. Even then God can redeem it. He can make this turn out for the best.

2) Have a civilized, kind, calm discussion about your concerns, but once the decision has been made, leave the decision in the past. Move forward and don't continually bring it up and gripe about it. Even if you turn out to have been right, don't repeatedly say so. This one is very hard. But the price you'll pay for harping is too high. It will damage your marriage and make moving forward in life and in your relationship much harder.

3) Continue to go through the motions. Last night was pizza night, a time-honored tradition in our marriage. I didn't want to have this "date," but we did it anyway. Marriage has its ups and downs, and on some level we need to keep acting like we're getting along even when we aren't. Because that is how we find our way back to one another. If we let the traditions and romance slip, it becomes easier and easier to not bring it back. And then a little disagreement turns into something much bigger and harder to recover from.

4) Support the decision. Here again, you have to put your feelings aside for the good of your relationship. The kids and the world need to see you as a unit, supporting one another. Speak well of your spouse. Think of and give thanks for all the things you love about him or her, and all the things you agree on. Find a proactive way to make the best of the decision you don't agree with: Organize yourself for the purchase you didn't want to make. Buy a vacation planner for the trip you aren't excited about. Help your child be excited about the activity you signed up for by going out and buying the equipment they'll need. Or help them deal with the disappointment of the decision that wasn't their first choice by planning something else fun. I did not do a good job on this yesterday, so it's time to give myself grace for my attitude and make a fresh start. No more whining.

5) Take care of yourself. If the no-compromise decision makes life harder for you in some way, give yourself grace. Plan an afternoon of pampering or a weekend away. Get together with friends for fun and moral support (but not whining!). Give yourself a treat not as a "you owe me this" kind of thing, but as a way to acknowledge that you're mourning a loss and need to be allowed to do so. If we don't take care of ourselves, we won't be able to move on and support our spouse. In that sense maybe I should've listed this one as number 2!

Your turn: What do you do when you can't come to agreement and a decision has to be made? I'd love to hear your solutions!

1 comment:

  1. Note: don't pamper yourself by eating chocolate several times a day over an extended period of time when you are struggling with compromise... your clothes will no longer fit you.