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.
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.
How many hours have you gone without texting your significant other? I assume that most of us will answer something less than 2 hours to this question. Most of us will never answer anything over 12 hours unless we are working, sleeping or lost our cell phone in the debauchery of our weekend shenanigans. For the purposes of this article- sleeping and working do not count for giving you high fives on being away from your smart phone.
How many minutes or hours do you go without texting your significant other or a friend back? Or how many times have you taken awhile to respond to someone and minutes later they send you a ?
How many of us have our phones by our sides when we sleep and eat? How many of us get anxious at the thought of leaving the phone at home for a whole day? The answer to these questions: Most of us. When did we become a society that had to respond immediately or had to be told not to text and drive. I recognize that we are a society of now and fast, but when it comes to our relationships the notion of right away is destroying the wonders that make relationships special in the first place.
Recall being in high school and waiting for your crush to call. Your mom or dad would answer the phone and yell into the other room, “It’s for you!” You would get really excited, your face would get red, your heart would beat and your ridiculous smile would make your cheeks hurt. You would drag the phone cord as far as you could to get a little privacy. After a conversation in which minutes felt like hours you would say goodbye. After getting off the phone you would sit, smile and dream. You would repeat this for years, but then something happen. That same boy or girl you were interested in didn’t call, they sent you a text. Something along the lines of Hi;) It was enjoyable in the beginning but still not as exciting as getting a call and hanging up. You didn’t know that someone was into you instantly by way of emoticon. The excitement lingered for weeks and months not hours or days.
You see, we never hang up with text messaging, it is this ongoing conversation that literally never has an ending. When you are in a relationship you never get the “absence makes the heart grow fonder” because you are all up in each others messaging all the time. Or if you are dating and one party decides to make it have an ending (i.e not texting back) we get confused and wonder if we did something wrong. Maybe he thought I was mad. Maybe she doesn’t think I’m funny. Maybe he doesn’t want me anymore. We make all these guesses because we actually have no idea how anyone honestly feels anymore because you can only try to interpret through messaging. The bottom line is our cell phones are ruining our relationship satisfaction because there is no excitement in it anymore. All the maybe thoughts or the anxiety that you have should only lead to one thought, I am too available which is boring. This isn’t people wanting what they can’t have, this is a genuine human response to want excitement and wonder.
Your boyfriend, girlfriend, or dating partner has access to you anytime- all the time. But it goes both ways. We can not have the expectation that people have to get back to us this second. That people have to text us no matter what they are doing. Maybe someone is busy. Or maybe they just don’t want to talk to you right now. And honestly, why is that second one not okay? Am I really obligated to talk to everyone who texts me every second that they do it? There are times when I don’t feel like it. If we were all honest, we would understand that we all feel like that at some point. Maybe they had a long day. Maybe they don’t like you. Maybe they don’t have their phone on them. Maybe they are in a meeting. Whatever the reason is, if you want to get to the point of someone sticking around and being in awe of you- you have to be a little mysterious. You have to stop being boring and available. You also have to remind yourself that even if the other person is going to be offended by not hearing back from you right away, that is on them, not you. It speaks volumes of the assumptions that they will make throughout the relationship.
I honestly hear this time and time again, “He hasn’t texted me back.” I then ask, “Well how long has it been?” Reply, “Well ten minutes.” My response is always the same. It has only been ten minutes. I am not sure what the etiquette is for response time in texting, but there needs to not even be a window. Whoever the person is, they will see the text, and they will respond to it when they damn well please. In the end, the person texts back if they want to continue to engage with you. If this is someone who you are starting to date and they don’t text back- that’s called rejection. I get it and I am not afraid to admit that it has happened to me many times. Brush it off and move on. The point is, we need to remind ourselves to talk instead of text. To be patient instead of anxious. We need to put the excitement back into our dating lives and relationships by giving someone something to miss and by us missing them.
I figured that it is time to write some more articles about my personal journey; I mean what good is all the objective relationship advice and discussion if you don’t hear some of my subjective experiences. Self-realizations have to be a part of the process in order to implement change. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but it won’t do you any good if you can not put it to use.
This all began one day when I called my mom to let her know that I had some news. It went like this:
Me: “Mom, guess what?”
Me: “Jason and Jamie are getting married!” (Both good friends of mine).
Mom: “You are getting married! You and John are getting married!” (Screaming to my father). Honey, Laurie and John are getting married!”
Me: “MOM! MOM! MOM! I said Jamie and Jason are getting married.”
As I listened to my mom’s demeanor change and calm, I explained to her that John and I had broken up months ago.
I also told her that I was glad to know what excitement she would feel for a man to propose to me; even if it was a man she had yet to meet. Thank God my Dad wasn’t updating his Facebook status at the time! Why was it that every time I traveled the 2000 plus miles home, everyone wanted to know who the man in my life was? It was a typical question that made its way into conversation after conversation. I mean, maybe it was partially my fault for making my last relationship FBO (Facebook Official). Or maybe I felt uncomfortable about even being asked that question.
Whatever the reason was, it had a multitude of social and personal factors. What matters is how we react to it; it helps you discern where you are in the growing process. In the aftermath of my mom carrying on, I realized it was the first time that I acknowledged the ending of my last relationship. As I had to, once again, tell close family members and friends that I had ended yet another relationship; I began to feel the weight of what I thought would be their disappointment, but I realized it may have been my own.
So I looked back at the reasons why my other relationships had ended. I realized one common theme: that for whatever reason or another some aspect of each relationship was falling short of what I or the other person really wanted or needed in the relationship. That is the thing about dating and being in relationships with other people; we are trying to figure out what we want our best relationship to look like; the person we want to spend the rest of our life with. For some of us that happens in our 20’s, but for some of us it will be in our 30’s and on. As I get ready to turn 30 in less than a year, I welcome the idea that I have yet to find my best relationship.
During my 10 plus years of dating, if anything, I was getting much better at it. I was understanding the realities of what it takes to make a relationship healthy and long-lasting. In my mid-twenty dating, I thought I could harness change or mold the people who I was with. I now realize there is little you can do to change anyone.
The best you will get is the best that person is capable of giving you. Who they are today and the habits they have are what they will have tomorrow and forever. Everyone has faults, but if you can strengthen each other in personality and purpose in life you will find that happiness and love will thrive. So, Mom and everyone, I can not promise you wedding bells in my future, but I can promise you that I will strive to welcome it as I find true happiness and love in myself. Until then, I will be, Just one.
I have heard people say this about romantic relationships: “You should not have to work in a relationship” or “Your relationship should not be work.” What should it be then? All of the good friendships that I made took time and energy to foster and to keep. Why do people not complain about the work they had to put into their friendships, but will emote that kind of rant in their romantic ones?
Those statements boggle me. We are a society that believes we get things handed to us. Our grandparents or parents stayed together because they believed in the commitment in marriage and believed that hard work was the only thing that got you anywhere. They faced the same issues and frustrations that we do with relationships today. It looked different, but the solutions are similar.
I am asking that we stop treating marriage like a drive-thru. You need to park the car, get out, and go inside. If you are having difficulty in your marriage, the best thing you can do is seek professional therapeutic help from someone who you can trust and who has a track record of reconnecting marriages. Marriage will never be simple.
1. Relationships take time to foster. If you are in a hurry to walk down the aisle, that is a clear sign that your heart may not be in the right place. In Facebook world it appears everyone is getting married and having babies. However, in real-time, there are still a lot of singles out there.
2. The best way to keep your relationship simple is to always remember the friendship that is behind it. It is vital to be your partners’ best friend. You should continue to get to know each other for years to come. As you change together, you will need to learn new things about one another.
3. You have to nurture the marriage all the time. Just like we maintain our cars, water our grass, or dedicate ourselves to educational leaps through school; you constantly need to nurture your marriage. If you keep up with the little ways that you can stay connected, your marriage will keep on the right track. If you don’t keep nurturing the marriage, it will get put in the shop, die, or not pass the 9th grade. We maintain almost every aspect of our lives. We maintain our jobs and our progress. Why should it be any different in romantic relationships?
4. There must be mutual respect. We respect our friends. If you are my friend and I don’t text you back right away, you are not going to text me two hours later and say ? or why didn’t you text me back? We set boundaries and keep them very well in most of our friendships. We need to learn to do the same in our relationships. We must respect our significant other for the obligations they may have, the love that they may need, and everything in between.
5. You have to have a passion to have fun together. Have fun together in everything you do. Fun can be fostered by become more caring and in tune in the relationship. Make a list of three things that you will each do each day for the next two weeks. See how this new daily caring makes for more positive exchanges in the relationship. (Such as 1. Tell them you love them every morning when you get up. 2. Write them a note and leave it someone different each day. 3. Call them during lunch just to ask how they are doing.) If you are saying, three things every day?! Yes, three things each day for two weeks. You manage to eat three times a day and go to the bathroom multiple times. Make it routine!