com pro mise

1 a : settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions b : something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things
2 : a concession to something derogatory or prejudicial   <a compromise of principles>

With words like "settlement" and "concessions" used to define it, how can anyone see compromise as a good thing?  Phil thinks compromise is the greatest thing since steak sandwiches.  Clearly, he’s a terrific team player, far better than I.  He sees it as "working together," and believes it affords you a content life.  "But who the hell wants a content life?  I want a joyful ecstatic life, not a content one."   
"Compromise," he says, "is a dedication to finding an us." 

I think the less you have to compromise, the better suited you are for each other.  Hmm.  Take something as benign as decorating a house, art specifically.  One person likes contemporary while the other is passionate about the renaissance period.  They go shopping for one piece (they cannot afford two).  Everything she likes, he snarls at.  Everything he favors, she says, "absolutely not."  Where is the compromise?  I would say, they both have to settle somewhere in between.  That’s their compromise, walking away with art that both of them can tolerate but about which neither is ecstatic.  Yuck.

Growing up, when my father wanted to play cards with the men at the club come Sunday afternoon, my mother put her foot down, saying she wanted Sundays as a family.  So he compromised.  He GAVE UP his preferred activity of playing cards as his compromise, to let her know she was important.  So to me, compromise is really giving up what you really want to make the other person happy.  Yes, yes, in an ideal world, making your significant other happy would make you feel even better than doing what you really want to do.   I don’t live in that world every single day.  Some days, sure.  Sometimes, though, I really really want the froufrou bedding that he screams emasculates him.   So I settle with something else, something we can both live with.  Settling is compromise to me.  To Phil, he insists he’s happier because we’ve found something that’s "us."  But when your spouse is thinking, "what we just picked is okay, but not really great," how is that something to feel content about?  I hate compromising and wish everything could be my way.  Though I suppose if I always did get my way, I’d tire of it, and insist we do things his way.  Maybe not.  I wouldn’t know.  All we do is compromise, settle, make concessions on each other’s behalf.  I just can’t get around to seeing it as a wonderful exciting thing.  Compromise is exactly what Webster’s says it is.  "Something intermediate."



  1. It's my favorite thing about being divorced. No compromise. Ever. *I* get to choose everything – all the way from what I watch on TV to what to do on a Sunday afternoon. Not that I'm recommending it to you at your age/stage…I'm just sayin'…

  2. I adore reading your blog. I agree with most women who write about how much it all resembles their lives, feelings, decisions, etc. This blog reminds me so much of my relationship.
    Compromise stinks sometimes. I would LOVE to get my way more often, but I am sure my "other" is feeling the same way. Sometimes we argue about who compromises more and we compare all that we have sacrificed for the happiness of the other.
    In the end, I do love to see him happy. He knows that I have certain battles that I am going to fight and others that I will surrender to.
    Sheets, I can compromise…
    Where we go to dinner, I can compromise…
    HUGE vinyl helmet sticker of his favorite sports team plastered onto our guestroom wall…not a chance!

  3. I can't remember the last time I compromised on anything. Trying. But can't. Yet another thing to put on my remodel-me list. I guess. Ugh.

  4. Thanks for the great post, Stephanie. So…I wonder how it goes when compromising about how to raise children!? Furniture is one thing…kids are definitely another. Maybe, since the kids are a true and complete product of the two of you, the decision-making ends up being more organic, something that you both arrive at from equal points of reference, if that make sense.

  5. I have to agree with Phil; compromise is finding a common ground that both people can be happy with.

    Maybe instead of being completely black and white on decorating decisions for everything, how about you each have an area or room that is specific to your tastes? For instance, he can decorate the bedroom in his taste and you whatever room is important to you (the kitchen?).

    He wants that deco modern ottoman? Great, you get to pick out the end tables. You want the bedroom? Fine, he gets to decorate the bathroom with his tastes. There ARE ways of complementing each other's taste. It's not easy, but it can be fun in the end.

    I don't believe compromise is giving up what you love, only a balance that two people can agree on. For instance, your Dad could have said to your mom, "I get one Sunday afternoon a month to play cards with the guys. The rest is shared with the family." A balance. Neither gets entirely what they want; however, marriage is not meant to entirely give up your values or interests, nor be completely selfish. Marriage is about being a part of something bigger than yourself.

  6. Interesting post.
    I think being a mom will enlighten you to the joys of compromise, as well as the importance of picking your battles – for example, i'd be willing to bet that having 'frou frou' bed linens won't be nearly as important as just having 'clean' sheets once the twins start walking, talking, etc…!
    I'm with Phil on this one – i think you fail to acknowledge that we don't always know how a compromise will affect us until we let it happen -isn't that how we grow, by opening ourselves up to the possibility of new ideas and new things that we may not have chosen/thought of ourselves? Release some of your inner control freak and you may discover things you didn't even know you liked! I mean, seriously, if things were 'our way' all the time, we'd be living in a world full of spoiled 2-year old brats, and never making any progress!
    And finally, i think that a life that is constantly 'joyful' and ecstatic' would by its very nature likely need to have just as much 'tragedy' and 'drama' – life tends to balance itself out that way – makes contentment sound pretty darn good, in my humble opinion…

  7. bestmansgrl, you should be a therapist (if you're not already). I completely agree with your post and explanation about the ways that compromise can benefit both people.

  8. I moved in with my boyfriend when he had a small 1 bedroom apartment. I compromised by not bringing any of my furniture and storing it at my parents' house.
    When we moved into a townhouse? My things stayed at my parents house and he bought more furniture that he wanted. He bought ugly leather furniture knowing full well that there is nothing in the world I hate more than ugly leather furniture. Every single thing I bought during the tenure of the relationship was rejected by him, then returned to the store. I tried to compromise and he walked all over me.
    Four years without compromise and I broke up with him. I now live on my own and everything is exactly how I want it to be.

  9. While I agree that there can be no compromise when one wants an abstract piece and one wants Renaissance (too bad the entire membership of the school of the Abstract Renaissance Movement was burned at the stake), there can be compromise be deciding to buy a piece of sculpture instead. Or a plant. Or a tapestry in colors that work for both of you.

    I'm with Phil regarding what he calls compromise, but what bestmansgirl calls balance. Or what I call common ground. Ecstatic joy is great during sex, but it tends to be overkill if you're decorating or raising kids or getting emasculated by bed linens.

    Happy Passover!

  10. I agree with you. There are very few things in life that can be split down the middle without losing their essence. Most of the time compromise is just means letting it go, taking one for the team. Most of the couples I know are do better when they flat out accept this – he plans new years eve one year, she plans it the next. He plans one vacation, she plans the next. That way its clear at least person is happy, and that makes for a better mood that 2 half pleased ppl. I personally cant deal with any of it and need someone to recognize my superior taste and just. let. me. decorate. but that's another story ; )

  11. I feel your pain. My fiance and I have completely opposite tastes. We bought a condo last year and decorating was nearly impossible. I like comfy cozy rooms, very Pottery Barn/library. He likes ultra modern things like the blue velvet chairs and black leather couch I had to pry away from him. It was so painful, we ended up hiring a decorator. I felt the same you did, and was afraid we would end up with a house full of things we were both luke warm on. But, the decorator was great. She did an amazing job of creating rooms that we both love, albeit for different reasons. Now if only she would mediate every other decision we make in our lives, we might never argue.

  12. I hate compromise too, so I found someone who is basically the male version of me. I don't know why more people don't do that. Seriously. What's the point of all the pushing and pulling and trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole?

  13. I think compromise is not giving up on what you like and buying something neither one loves. Maybe let him win this time, let him buy his dream piee of art, and next time you get to buy the table you always wanted (you now have leverage) give a little, take a little… this is what love is all about, to make the other one happy. In an ideal world he will think the same way and he'll want to make you happy too. in theory sounds divine…

  14. "I hate compromising and wish everything could be my way."
    Who doesn`t? But that`s why compromising is the key, because both wish it could be their way. The only way to avoid compromising in a relationship is to stay single. But IMO, sometimes it sucks more to choose everything alone than to find a compromise here and there.
    And I have to agree to bestmansgrl, I too don't believe compromise is giving up what you love, it`s a balance.

  15. I know someone who never compromises and quite frankly, she is a miserable bitch (and incidentally, my future mother in law). Always getting your way can be a very lonely place, even when surrounded by those you love.

    Stephanie, I too loathe a compromise, but it sure sweetens the pot when you do manage to get your way. It makes the things they don't have an opinion on thouroughly satisfing. Even more thrilling than that is getting them to think they made you compromise when it's really the outcome you angled for all along!

  16. compromise. the thing that has kept me from growing up. (spoken by those sages of marriage, divorce and child-rearing in my life.)

    but i guess it's a balancing act.

    on one side, there's having "everything" you want, how you want it. but typically, this seems to come with those end-of-the-night emotions of having "nothing" you want (marriage, kids, companionship, a beautiful home and protection).

    on the other, there's having only half of what you want, how you want it. in some cases (ahem, possibly yours), this comes with those end-of-the-night emotions of having "everything" you want (and have always wanted)… marriage, beans, etc.

    the latter is half + everything. the first is nothing + everything.

    i'd weigh it that way. ideally, theoretically. but on a completely realistic level, i'm where you're at.

    just a possibility to measure it this way…

  17. Thanks for the comments. We actually don't have a problem decorating anymore. We have kids, who will destroy all. So neither of us cares . It was just an example to emphasize our outlooks. We both compromise. We really do. Of course we do. But I don't actually love to. But I do it because when you're not an only child you learn to. I've always known how to do it, and I've always seen it as… well, settling on common ground, but settling none the less.

  18. I think that when each person puts the other person first, everybody's needs get met.

    ie, maybe your dad gave up his card games, but your mom agreed to cook all his favorite foods on those family days.

    Goes both ways!

  19. Well since I'll be celebrating 50 years this June let me tell you "Compromise" is the secret whether you like it or not. Sometime I just ask myself in 20 years will this matter? Usually the answer is no. Bill gives in as much as I do if not more. Marriage is not 50/50 but more like one giving 100% one day and the other doing it another day.If it really really matters I will dig my heels in but that is not that often.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Exactly. Whether you like it or not. We do it. We don't always have to like it, but we know it's the only way to sustain, to meet each other's needs.

  20. in our house…we have changed the word compromise to 'making the decision to love – even when i'm not feeling particularly loving'. that gets us through most things.

  21. its when he figures out that he really does have bad taste and decides to compromise to allow your good taste!

  22. "Phil thinks compromise is the greatest thing since steak sandwiches. Clearly, he's a terrific team player…"

    Great line. Funny as could be.

  23. Compromise in our house is dependent on who feels strongest about the issue. They score the reward. Which means I live with some things he HAS to do and he lives with a LOT he would rather do without. Heh. But after almost 15 years of marriage it seems to work for us.

    Great post, you are sounding very married :)

  24. Keeks, you already wrote exactly what I wanted to write, but I will post it again because it is the one and only truth about compromises: Whoever doesn't compromise, is very lonely. Getting their way, but having no friends. Friendship and respect are the cost of not compromising. And compromising is the secret of harmony. It's this simple.
    And yes, as many posters and also Jackie after so many year of marriage (congratulations!) said, it is not about neither one getting their way, but one giving in one day, the other one the next day.
    It's not always easy, sure, but it has helped me through 7 years of a terrific and loving relationship and will hopefully help me through many more…

  25. Or, it can be as simple as just ‘taking turns’. This time, we’ll buy this piece of art, and next time, we’ll get my favorite.

    When my girlfriend and I got our first apartment Steph, we had to put “the two of us” in that home—meaning, a little bit of me was there and a little bit of her was there. So, since I’m Italian and she’s Latina, we decided for the kitchen to put up one side with a bunch of garlic, olive oils and pasta decorations in those fancy bottles, or those hanging things — and the other side had hot red peppers, plantain squishers (not sure what the technical name for that is) as well as other ‘prop foods’ for the Puerto Rican culture.

    When the two become one, it’s much more special in my opinion. Taking turns is another great way to solve the whole big ‘compromise situation’.

  26. I am going through a "break" not a "break-up" right now. All because of compromise. He is an only child and I am the baby of my family. Neither of us know how to compromise. How fitting for your blog to be on compromise. haha! What the hell is a "break" anyway? For that matter what the hell is compromise?
    I hope you and the beans are doing well.

  27. My husband and I can't agree on house paint color to a nasty, escalated degree that involves seething fights in Home Depot. We compromised. We start with a paint chip that one of us likes, type it in to the color generator computer, then tweak darker, lighter, bluer, greener until we find something we can both be happy with.

    Sometimes compromise makes both people happy. But usually not.

  28. Hmmm. This feels a bit obvious to me.

    I mean, is there anyone who actually enjoys compromise? Of course not – it's just one of those things we need to be able to do in order to coexist with the people in our lives who do not share our exact worldview. Of course there are all kinds of ways to negotiate a compromise that will make it less painful but noone goes through life having everything exactly as they want it.

    I guess my point is, understanding the importance of compromise in any significant relationship is a sign of maturity. Digging your heels in and pouting because you didn't get your way is…well…childish.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Of course, I agree. But Philip actually likes it. Thinks it's wonderful and cannot understand how I do it but don't necessarily like it. He thinks it makes us more of an us, which excites him. I see it as, having to give up things you like for someone else. Necessary, of course, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. And we're not talking about things like where to have dinner or what movie to see. Bigger things. Life things. Things where both of us want to dig in our heels.

  29. I have to compromise, more than I would like to.
    Sometimes I'm sad about that, but I also think about things I can obtain doing that.
    Kisses from Genoa, Italy!

  30. Everything that creates true meaning involves some type of suffering. This is true for friendships, relationships, career, parenting, etc. Suffering has such a negative connotation, but is actually a gift. The person you turn out to be on the other side of it is far better than the one you began with. Look at the bigger picture and compromise. It will actually allow you to be much happier with the person you see looking back at you in the mirror.

  31. my way of "digging my heels in" on really important issues is saying "of course honey, you know I will compromise on anything with you but for compromising with you on THIS issue i think i will be resentful and might hold it against you for a while, how important is it to YOU?"

    we both do it. it works well.

    of course you can't pull the resentment card too often or it loses its power.

    i think it really works because he knows that i REALLY WILL compromise on ANYTHING for him and he is conscious of that but he is also aware of how i feel sometimes about compromising on certain issues that aren't as important to him.

  32. Compromise is an adult word. They try teaching it to you when you are 3 or 4 years old, but really, it's not an activity we're comfortable living with, until we're adults. Marriages rest upon a podium named compromise, that's for sure.

  33. I think that Happiness can be either physical or mental. There are also two types of suffering: physical and mental. Many of us, though we wish to achieve happiness, we are ignorant of the methods to attain this. The methods we use lead us to suffering.

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