What is the difference between compromise and collaboration in a relationship? Is one better than the other? Is there something we can do to make sure that we are not giving more than the other person in our relationship?
Thank you to Dr. Kyle Weir for sparking my interest on this subject. The word compromise is heard over and over again when we are talking about couples learning how to cope with each other’s differences. (I have also used it several times myself.) It was a concept that not only made sense, but had something that it could be measured against: sacrifice. But is sacrifice really something that we want to do in a relationship? The dictionary definition states that each side is making a concession. That sounds easy. Except for when you have two people inside of a relationship that are unwilling to budge on a matter and just want the other side to give in.
Humans are passionate when it comes to opinions. Two people working towards a life together are going to come across a lot of them. Compromise is something that is needed, but it is also something that assumes one partner will give in. Collaboration on the other hand is working together towards a common goal. Collaboration supposes that you already have the same goal in mind. In a relationship, you should have similar or same goals in mind. These goals include: what the future looks like and what passions you both have as individuals that you can work together towards in the relationship. In this journey, one partner may make compromises for the other, and then when the time comes the positions need to flip-flop. You should never be the only person to compromise in the relationship. During these times of compromise you should be collaborating towards the goal.
For example: if you have been offered a new job, your partner may have to compromise to move with you to keep the relationship going. However, you will both have to collaborate about what this means for the other partners’ job or schooling. A compromise can not take place unless you have discussed what that looks like.
At the beginning of a relationship, a couple tends to be directed towards either compromise or collaboration. Too much of one person giving in at the beginning of the relationship can be a red flag that collaboration will not be part of the relationship. A collaborative person will be present to work towards the relationship and making sure it is successful and happy. These are items that we can asses early on in a relationship to understand our partner’s and our own investment in the relationship.
A relationship build on compromise (even though we have to make them at times) will not last, but a relationship build on collaboration will be able to stand difficulties and trials.
We all have something we wish we could have changed. You take chances and risks in life. You let go and you learn. Open your heart and turn risks into knowledge. Life is filled with quick lessons. Here are some key lessons to finding happiness.
- Be willing to change and be open to growth.
- Use sincerity in everything you do.
- Decisions will have to be made, whether they are good or bad. My best advice is that you stick to the decisions once you make them.
- Date clumsily, but with conviction. Learn what you want in a partner and don’t be willing to compromise your needs.
- Accept apologies and apologize.
- Never let money become more important than green and cream paper. Manage it and don’t let it manage you.
- Let your pride go immediately after it comes.
- Go to the movies by yourself at least once. Learn how to be alone. With a movie, with a book, with yourself. It’s amazing what you learn when all the other chatter is gone.
- Learn something from a stranger.
- Don’t be afraid to wait. Don’t be in a hurry to marry, have kids, go to college or do what everyone else is doing. Do it your way and make it right.
- If you have a strong passion for something try making it your career.
- Be with your loved ones as much as you can. And when they are gone, remember them as much as you can in the little things you do.
- Observe people rather than judge them. Leave categories for arbitrary things like plants and food, don’t reduce people to categories.
- Find something or someone that inspires you.
- Try to find the silver lining. Venting and complaining are not known to help the psyche feel better. Positive vocabulary leads to a positive attitude.
- Be open-minded.
- You will not always win, you will rarely be the best. Learn how to take this with grace.
- Don’t let other people’s bad moods or attitudes become yours.
- Be careful what you do in public social media forms. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t be comfortable showing your parents, your boss, or your future children.
- Live life with poise and passion and never give up on any of your dreams.
- Don’t place too much weight on epiphanies.
- Laugh as much as your can for as long as you can.
Even been dating someone and you are not sure if he (or she) is into you?
We begin a relationship where our partner seems like our knight in shining armor; they listen to us about our bad day and they send flowers just to make us smile. You have that goofy smile that you can’t get rid of and you talk about them to all your friends.
Then something changes; your partner doesn’t go out of their way to do the little things they did in the beginning. They lose interest when you discuss something that is bothering you. You may have experienced this before, where the relationship changed. Unfortunately, the relationship was probably always like this. It’s time to stop pulling those petals off the flower with, he loves me, he loves me not…. It’s time to take control of the situation. Trying to understand or fix the current dating situation will likely not work and the red flags will always be present, but here is what you can do:
Self-Care. Get some exercise, good sleep, and eat nutritious meals. The emotional rollercoaster will calm down if you feel physically good.
Positive Affirmations. This experience may have you feeling less than great. Listen to positive affirmations, pick up an inspiring book, or talk to helpful friends. You need to feel good mentally as well.
You Have a Choice. You get to choose who you date. That is the best part. This can also be the hardest part. Our past experiences draw us to certain people, but our future doesn’t have to be the same.
Your Realization. If you are feeling inconsistencies with your dating partner, it is likely that they are feeling the same way. For whatever reason one or both of you are just not into the relationship. You have the realization, then you move on.
I Love Me. If the person you are dating doesn’t show up when you need them emotionally or physically, remember – you love you. Be your biggest fan and surround yourself with friends who love you and remind you how awesome you are.
Don’t Stop Dating. The unrequited love may have left a damper on your ego. However, sitting on your couch in your sweat pants is not going to help that ego dry any quicker. Get back into dating and find someone who is consistent in the way they treat you. You should never have to wonder if someone likes you.
A Message from the Author:
I am a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern located in Huntington Beach, CA. I am supervised by Jeffrey Kullmann (L.C.S.W. LCS 13661).
I believe in helping others to develop happiness and grow emotional strength. I work with individuals and couples to navigate life goals and relationships.
Please visit: www.lauriekcounseling.com to get more information or schedule a counseling appointment.
-Laurie Kjelstrom, M.A.
“A relationship is much like riding a horse: it is an action of constant rebalancing to achieve a place where both the partners are relaxed yet secure.”
Relationships take work, but here are six quick tips to make that journey a little smoother:
- Friendship. The best relationships have a solid foundation of friendship. You and your partner can learn to grow as friends. I suggest Love Maps by John Gottman, which you can find in the book: The Seven Principals For Making a Marriage Work
- Say Sorry. Saying sorry doesn’t mean that you are wrong, but it means that you are willing to be there to support and work on the relationship struggles with your partner. Repairing hurt is one of the fastest ways to maintain good balance in the relationship.
- Willingness to Grow. It is important that both partners are wiling to grow together. Sure, this may mean having to go to counseling or planning weekly dinners to talk about the relationship. But, hey, you take your car in for regular oil changes. Try my couple’s counseling class: Relationship Tune-Up and Repair to get a quick jump start on your relationship happiness. www.LaurieKcounseling.com
- Curiosity to Explore. You must meet life with the curiosity of getting to know people for who they are. Take time to explore and get to know one another. Like riding a bike, it might be harder in the beginning because you are working with one another’s attachment styles. (It is new) Be vulnerable by exploring yourselves together with openness and honesty.
- Give Kisses. Show caring support through physical affection, flirty texts, and loving calls to ask how their day was. This is a constant way to enhance the connection in your relationship. I suggest: 5 Love Languages quiz or book to learn how your partner feels cared for.
- Safety. Help one another to feel safe by showing up when your partner needs you. Never punish your partner by putting them in a time out. This will only remove safety for both of you. Attachment styles and patterns are the roots to who we are in our relationships. Check out: How We Love to understand more about how you respond and act in your relationship.
Above all, happiness in a relationship has to be accompanied by your own happiness. It is such an exciting adventure to get to share life with someone and to practice doing it well together.
Let’s talk about relationship expectations. The expectations you have of your partner may lead to disappointment and brokenness when it comes to your romantic relationships. But don’t worry, I am not just going to sit here and tell you that your expectations are bullshit and that you are ridiculous for wanting your partner to call, to help with the dishes, or to split the bill. I am going to assist you in understanding how to alleviate the communication barriers of expectations. How are we ever going to find a resolution if we can not communicate effectively about the problem?
Couples should discuss the expectation that they have. They need to be able to communicate this early on in the relationship. Some expectations are derived from each individual. They may have come from pressures our parents put on us or from past dating experiences. However, some expectations are created within the relationship. When a couple first gets together they are excited to be sharing in one another. They might talk on the phone every day and this expectation is one that is created by the couple in the process of engaging in the relationship. If this stops suddenly, there may be some discrepancies in how both parties feel about it. It is important to know and understand which expectations were mutually created and which are individually brought into the relationship. This way you can get a better idea of how to properly handle each expectation.
I will utilize an example so we can process the helpful responses we will discuss later. Sally wants Harry to text her on Tuesday because he is out of town for work. Harry called her when he arrived to his hotel on Monday night; they chatted, said goodnight, and went to bed. On Tuesday, Harry got busy with work and had dinner with colleagues, so he called Sally late in the evening around ten p.m. Harry did not text or call during the day. Now they are on the phone and at this point Sally is already irritated because she was hoping to hear from him during the day since he is away on a business trip. Harry is unable to understand why if he spoke with Sally on Monday night and again tonight why it is such a big deal? So Sally goes on about how Harry doesn’t care and Harry tries to explain that he does. He gets defensive and she came into the conversation angry. Inside he feels like he failed and inside she feels like she isn’t cared about.
It becomes a dance that we see all too often; and honestly, it is normal in the context of a relationship. Especially in the beginning when we are learning about one another’s needs. If this type of behavior continues as the length of the relationship progresses and the parties are unable to communicate about it, we have to ask ourselves, why? We have to consciously make the decision to do something about it and not just blow off the other person.
Not to make it a battle of the sexes, but woman often verbalize and hold onto their expectations more. Men are like, Meh. They can passively get through the small expectations. The woman handles it with anger or sadness which makes the man feel like he let her down. There is nothing worse for a man than the feeling of failure or disappointment. It is ingrained in the man to be able to care for the needs of others in specific ways. If he feels like he failed, withdrawing is often the easiest response to an angry woman. The easiest response for the woman is anger when hurt is what she really feels.
In the story of Sally and Harry here are some helpful examples of alternative responses:
1. Sally could have sent a text to Harry and said “Hey sweetie, How is your day going?” If we have an expectation for someone else to do something, the easiest solution is to do it ourselves. (Starting with a pet name always creates positive energy.)
2. Sally could call and leave a message or verbalize to Harry that it was her fault that she is upset since she had the expectation for him to call. But maybe in the future he can make sure to have some form of contact during the day when away? (This is formed as a question because it is important that our partner have a say in the resolution and that we are not just demanding something.) Sally is openly communicating a need and placing the burden on herself rather than her partner. This can help the partner to feel empathetic rather than defensive.
3. Sally can self-reflect. Understanding why we need a certain behavior out of our partner is important. Sally may have had a negative past dating experience with a previous partner while away on a trip. It is important to discuss this with our partner, but also to take additional time to ourselves to reflect on how we might be able to change this expectation since it was not created in the current relationship.
If these don’t work because there is still defensiveness and anger even when just trying to communicate a problem, it might be time to look into couple’s therapy and have a third-party reflect with you on some good solutions and tools. We get our cars serviced. Relationships are no different. If you want it to “run well” you have to take care of it.
When is an expectation reasonable or unreasonable? How is this even decided? This type of reflection and answer is a process. I believe that I personally didn’t understand the expectations that I had for partners until I had personal therapy combined with experiences in dating. There has to be some self-reflection and self-awareness that takes place if we are going to change patterns that sabotage our relationships. Expectations can disrupt a relationship if not handled correctly.
If you are the type of person that doesn’t take constructive criticism well, you might find it difficult to self-reflect. You will be more defensive at the thought of changing something about yourself instead of being humbled by the opportunity. I urge you to do the same type of reflection and allow yourself to let that self-critic go. It is beneficial to be able to change difficult or unwelcoming patterns so you can have successful romantic relationships. Ultimately in successful relationships, partners need to be able to meet one another’s needs or expectations to a reasonable level. The environment of the relationship should feel like teamwork. When it doesn’t feel like teamwork bitterness and frustration come in. It is only fair that we partner for the long-haul with someone who is similar in nature. Specifically when this nature has to do with work-ethic which directly correlates with some expectations. I have yet to see anyone do a relationship perfectly, so we are all in this together. Relationships are hard work, but they yield the most rewarding happiness.
In fifth grade I had a crush on Daniel Johns. The lead singer of Australian rock band Silverchair had just released Frogstomp which yielded the famous song Tomorrow. A year later I fell in love with Stephan Jenkins. Anyone who knew me in middle school knew that Third Eye Blind was a staple in my musical life. I fell in love with every album that they created after the first. As my music and dating life both expand, I understand the arts of both music notes and commitment.
My taste in music developed much like our relationships do. We check out different albums and listen to new tunes. We learn what we can enjoy long-term as we go through dating. It is by these experiences that we better understand ourselves and our relationship needs. I learned along that way that what makes a great musician and what makes a great band are not created equal. The musician is the single part in the collaborative effort of the band. Much like a single person is a part of the collaborative effort in a relationship. Successful bands that stay together for years work hard to foster the relationships of its members. Bands break up and so do people. Bands succeed and so do relationships.
It is easy to be single. When you are a solo musician you have no one whose chords or lines you have to be in sync with. It takes less effort to be single than to be in an active healthy relationship. However, the rewards are said to have significant positive impacts on your health and your life. A relationship where you whole-heartedly learn the different music style of your partner and they learn yours. Where if you work together well enough those two different songs make much better music. I am not assuming it doesn’t take work to be a solo musician, but my argument is that you learn much more about yourself in the context of collaborative relationships with others. You develop the craft to be a better self when you are among others. Our culture is praising differences and independence; which leads to negative connotations when in a relationship. Some classics are “ball and chain”, “tied down” or “locked in.” It’s as if we forget that no one forced us into an exclusive relationship in the first place, but hey, we have to fight something or someone to regain control.
There is a mentality of individuality in our culture. There is a collaborative lack of commitment. I recall hearing a friend say this about not including her boyfriend in a recent decision, “It’s my body and I’ll get a tattoo if I want.” I thought to myself for a second. That is like the band that set up the play list and one member just decides that they want to begin with another song. Why are we so afraid to make collaborative decisions? You don’t loose your individuality by respecting the opinion of your partner. However, we seem to have become a society that believes the opposite.
Are we purposely becoming a society where individualism trumps hard work and collaboration? It is time we didn’t distinguish between the two. Relationships are complicated. They might be complicated because of the different ways people communicate. Maybe they are difficult because of differences in personality. But the most predominant reason that relationships are hard is because human behavior is difficult to understand. We have a ridiculous sense of having to be right and in control instead of understanding the work relationships take and humbly accepting that we can’t always be in control; that we must consider our partners opinion and needs.
When I travel, I usually have my head down working on something. Whether I am reading a book or working on a new paper, I consistently miss what is going on around me at airports, on trains or buses. It is assumed that I and most of you also miss a lot going on in other venues too. Don’t get me wrong, I love people watching, but over the course of the last several years I see the same thing, other people with their heads down too. We have all become so exceptionally busy with our phones and tablets. As I sit and write on my iPad, I’m a catalyst of the social ineptitude.
I look around the environment while waiting to board my plane. People, human beings, engaging in real conversations as strangers. Directly in front of me a young woman spoke to another woman about college. Behind them sat a gentleman with headphones draped around his informal dress of an old school MTV shirt, jeans and a dodgers hat; conversing with an older gentleman for some minutes. After the conversation ended I saw the younger man reach for something. Next to him sat his cell phone on a ledge. The ledge clung to furniture that looked like it came directly out of a Jetsons cartoon. I glanced up at the futuristic looking table, at the top a huge sign read: Charging Station. Then I began to think about all the possibilities for a sign like that. All the possibilities for human charging and not just electronic device charging. We have to be willing to give into the idea that ourselves, not just our devices need charging. We have to be conscious of the types of charging our bodies, souls and minds need.
The sign could hang above our beds, we recharge with rest there. It could be above the dinner table or in the kitchen; when we share in cooking and eating together we are recharging our souls. It could hang at the gym where we prepare our bodies for their full recharge and potential. However, we have to be visionaries like the phone charging station.
In order to prepare ourselves for “charging” we need to be conscious of noise. There is noise that goes on all around us. In communication noise is understood as anything that interferes with the communication between the speaker and the audience. Noise can be physical or psychological. In today’s American society phones have become not just physical noise but psychological noise. We have an unconscious instinction to have our devices on us, which leads to anxiety and all sorts of cognitive, emotional and intellectual noise. During the times of charging, the noise needs to stop. Electronics don’t have the kinds of needs that we do as humans, but it is important that we stop the noise around us when charging.
There is a lot of talk about mindfulness in psychology currently. This is a fancy way of saying “awareness in the moment.” However, can we actually achieve this state unless we gain some sort of social reboot? We are so untuned to our environments and connected to devises. We need to reboot. We need to engage socially so we slowly learn how to become independent from our devices.
But with all the physical noise going on around us and all the psychological noise in our head, how can we obtain such a state?
Then it happened. As I was writing this very article a woman around sixty years old knelt down near me. I was waiting for her to ask about my article so I could tell her about the fascinating ideas floating in my head. She knelt down to ask me how to post a photo from her phone onto Facebook. Strike 1.
Then a man in his late forties shot in between me and the woman as he anxiously and diligently spoke to the wire of his headphones to another human being on the other end. Strike 2.
I watched near me as two teenagers spoke to one another with no eye contact but instead utilized their phones while deciding what to snap chat. Strike 3.
This wasn’t just a generational reboot. It was a mass social reboot. If we don’t take care of our own human charging, we are going to crash. Mindfulness won’t be possible and social interaction will no longer be needed. We are creating noise because our minds lack real social connection. We have come to prefer fake over real, text over talk, internet connection over human closeness. It would be a challenge to actively participate in human charging. Its time for the social reboot.