Compromise – How important is it? Part One

Have you heard that “Compromise” is a dirty word? We are told we should be people of conviction. Never give in and hold fast to our position. We should be grounded in our own beliefs, not yielding to pressure to change or give in. After all, we don’t want to be someone’s doormat. We want to be respected for what we believe, be heard, and not be bullied. We have a right to that, don’t we?

Photo by
Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Let’s begin by distinguishing between core values and everyday choices. We should never compromise on our core values: our faith, our commitment to marriage, or commitment to love, nurture and protect our spouse and family. Some would add our core values should extend to our commitment to country and pledge to our nation. Our central core values should never be compromised. We should be a people of steadfast loyalty to our core beliefs.

But beyond that, how should we negotiate the day to day give and take needed to maintain a healthy, strong, and growing relationship.

Marriage is a union of two unique and at times dramatically different personalities. We come from unique backgrounds with a variety of circumstances that have molded us into the persons we are today. We have strengths and liabilities that we each bring to our marriage. Our very temperaments may be diametrically opposed.

We are different. And our differences in needs, preferences, and desires can bring about conflict that is difficult to solve.

There’s a new mattress now that solves the firm verses soft argument. The Sleep Comfort Mattress has a numbered system that changes the firmness of each side of your mattress. Amazing. Push the button to the desired number and her side is soft and your side is firm. Problem solved.

Photo by
albertomor

But the rest of the issues in our marriage don’t have a “Resolution Button” to help us find a middle ground. There’s no button for he likes camping and she likes condos for vacation. There’s no button for deciding how much you should spend on your vacation. There’s no simple easy button to decide how often you set aside time to be intimate together. He’s been lobbying for multiple times a week for years and she’s happy with the occasional “when the mood strikes me.” Oh, if only we had a magic button to fix this one!

Well, there’s bad news and there’s good news…

The bad news is there is NO magic button. The good news is there is a way to solve almost all our differences issues. We’ll look at that further in our next blog.

The Rest of Our Story

This last week as we visited our daughter and her family, I watched my husband playing ball with the grandkids. A simple game, him throwing the ball out in the yard and they’d retrieve it and throw it back. There were wild screeches of delight every time the ball landed in the kiddie pool as the kids announced another “wet ball.” Such a simple game, yet such fun was had.

It reminded me of times Alan would play with our own children. He has a way of making anything fun. I am really thankful for this quality in him and it made me so happy to see it again impacting another generation.

There have been other instances too when I think about how glad I am that we stayed committed in our marriage and worked out the problems so that we could still be together to enjoy moments like that ball game. We had some really hard things to work through, and it took years. There were many times that I thought maybe it would just be easier to split up. I wondered if it would ever get better. I know Alan had those thoughts too. But we got through it with the grace of God.

And now we are living “the rest of our story” together. Moments like the ball game become poignant because they could have been lost to us. If we’d split up I wouldn’t have witnessed that scene. So the hard times we went through seem so worth it to have the rich relationship we have now.

Of course, life isn’t perfect. There are stresses. But this is the part of our story when we experience calm in the storm together. We feel the support of the other even during a disagreement. And we come to understanding more easily.

My hope for you is that you too will persist in love and forgiveness so that you can joyfully live the rest of your story together.

 

Frustration Fatigue

What about it? Have you ever been frustrated with your spouse about a particular issue that just keeps coming up over and over? Have you had prolonged periods of dialogue (arguing) that end with you telling yourself,

“That’s it! I’ve had it. I am so done talking about this. I’ll not say another word. It’s no use. Nothing’s going to change. Just forget about it.”

You vow that’s the last time you’ll bring it up because it’s futile. You resolve to yourself that you just don’t care.

“That’s it! I just don’t care.”

An apathetic spirit becomes your “safe place”. You tell yourself you don’t care and at least for a while, your feelings are dulled. If you don’t care, there is nothing to be anxious about, nothing to work through. Nothing to frustrate you again…..

The “apathy coping mechanism” is a strategy employed by many faced with relational impasses. We use it to shield ourselves from the hurt of dealing with a nagging problem with our spouse. It’s similar to putting medication on an open wound to numb the pain, but ignoring the cause of the wound. We self-medicate with apathy to avoid the underlying issues that are causing the pain.

So how do we deal with a nagging issue that just seems impossible to resolve?

Here are several steps you can take to begin the journey to resolution:

  1. Pray – Understand that an ongoing problem decreases the closeness you experience as a couple. Separation is a spiritual issue. You need to take the matter to God in prayer. Ask for wisdom and understanding. Ask for His direction.
  2. Commit – Renew your commitment to your relationship. Confirm in your heart there is no issue so big that it should divide you as a couple. Commit to work on restoring your relationship. Commit daily to not let an issue be divisive and destroy closeness with your spouse.
  3. Examine – In your time of prayer, ask God to open your heart to introspection. Ask Him to show you if there is something in you that needs to be revealed. Are you the one that needs to change?
  4. Ask – Ask for uninterrupted time to communicate with your spouse. Confirm your love for your spouse. Share your desire to restore your relationship to wholeness and to work though the issue so that there is nothing between you. Pray together, asking God to bless your efforts. Then work together to find a selfless resolution. Be open to compromise, creative alternatives, and to confessing your own culpability. Allow a generous amount of time to work through to a mutually acceptable solution, which may take weeks, months, or longer. Be patient with each other. It takes time to resolve a complex issue.

Set your mind to not let frustration fatigue divide your relationship. Earnestly work at issues that keep you from closeness….         So that your joy may be complete.

That Really Bugs Me!

Do some of the things your spouse does really bug you?  You know those little habits that are so annoying.  For the most part, you have probably developed a coping mechanism that keeps things on an even keel.  Well, most of the time things stay on an even keel.  But in reality, you are just coping.  You are burying it.  You keep yourself from saying anything because you just don’t want to have another argument over a simple little thing.  Why bring it up again and make a mess out of things.  It’s easier to ignore it and forget it.

It certainly can be handled by using the “ignore it” method.  Is that really the best way to deal with it though?  Remember, when you “bury” things, even little things, it creates an unspoken barrier between you and your spouse.  It may even be a little barrier, but nevertheless a barrier.  These small unspoken issues can dampen the spark in your relationship.  You need to be on guard and not allow the little things to grow into big things.

Let’s look at an example like the classic clothes on the floor.  To be sure, he’s gotten better over the years but for some reason he still can’t seem to remember where the clothes hamper is.  Home from work, he goes in to change and sure enough, he leaves his clothes strewn on the floor again.  So, what do you do?  If you pick them up  —  again  —  and say nothing, what will change?  If you bring it up, you feel like you’re just nagging, again.

How about a new strategy?  Remember, many of life’s issues need to be lovingly negotiated.  You need to collaborate together to come to a positive resolution.  Try to be optimistic without being overly expectant.  In other words, be hopeful that things can change, but be realistic.  Some habits take years to change.  Be willing to work together without a harsh or negative attitude.  Try opening a discussion with “Can we talk about something later when you have a little time?”  Set aside uninterrupted time to have a talk together.  Bring the subject up with a spirit of wanting to work things out so that you can enjoy a closer relationship. The goal should be that you are closer and have a better relationship, not just that he remembers to pick up his clothes.

When you have time, try to work out some possible solutions to the issue.  Let him know how you feel and why it is important to you.  Be willing to work toward a solution over time.  Usually there is no need for an immediate fix.  Things truly can get better over time.

Also, always apply the rule of loving each other, even when daily annoyances bug you.  Work at resolving your issues, but work more at committing to love and forgive one another.

Imagine, Part 2

In my previous blog I spoke about the need to imagine a better marriage, a closer more fulfilling relationship in which you enjoy being together and where you truly feel like best friends.  How is that possible?  How do you get close to each other when there are so many nagging issues making you so annoyed you could just spit?  How many times have I told him about…?  I wish she would just… and get over it already?  Why does she have to keep nagging and nagging about the same old things?  Why don’t we ever just hug and cuddle like we used to?  It seems that we are so busy and we never get enough time together.  Why does it seem like we are drifting apart?

Why indeed.  Relationship Drift is seldom caused by one or two incidents.  It develops over a long period of time, with many of the same incidents happening over and over again.  The painful hurts caused by words spoken in anger or insults and insensitivity add up into a heaping pile of pain that now you just ignore and bury.  This leads to a dull numb lifeless relationship.  Too much pain and too many issues have broken your relationship apart so that a cool distance now dominates your day to day interaction.  Moments of intimacy are few and far between and usually accented by another fight or disagreement.   If this sounds like your relationship with your spouse, then you have choices to make.  “Really?  I have choices?”  Yes, you do have choices.

First Choice:  Accept the status quo and live with a lifeless loveless relationship that will eventually get worse.  Keep in mind that doing doing nothing rarely results in the relationship getting better.  This is a fatalistic approach that builds on the lie that “it will never change”.  Have you ever heard that lie?  Maybe you’ve spoken that lie to yourself in the past.  Maybe you’re still speaking that lie to yourself even now.  During these moments when we listen to the lie, we usually drop into apathy, telling ourselves that it’s really bad and it will never change, but I don’t care anymore.  Or we attack our spouse to force them to change or else.  Attacking and apathy are not recommended solutions.

 Second Choice:  This is a tough one.  It requires that you sooth yourself and calm yourself down.   Visualize a better relationship.  Imagine a closeness that approaches a nine or nine and a half on a scale of ten.  Now, the next two steps are really tough.  First, work every day at loving and accepting your spouse.  See the positive and verbally relate your appreciation daily.  Surely the things that annoy you won’t immediately go away, but purpose to focus on the positive.  Second, reflect on what you can change about yourself that will make the relationship better.  Focus on personal growth.  What can I do to be a better husband or better wife?  Finally, work at these two EVERY DAY.  Be patient.  Don’t expect immediate change.  Be thankful for any progress.  Love unconditionally. 

 Yes, you can imagine it if you try.

We’ll Never Solve This Issue!

Sometimes progress in your marriage relationship can be a very slow process and the same issue comes up over and over. If we talked it through and came to an understanding, why do we have to go back through it again and again?  There are a couple of obvious reasons:

  • We are all human!  We have habits that are hard to break, baggage that is hard to overcome.  Sometimes we forget or struggle with selfishness.  We need reminding just how important this is to our spouse.
  • Problems are complex and they evolve.  We may think we have resolved an issue but in fact we have addressed only an aspect of it.  Next time we’ll focus on a different aspect.  It is like layers of an onion getting peeled away.  Each time you peel a layer you get closer to the heart of the issue and the final resolution.
  • And we change!  Something important to your spouse now may not be so key at a different stage in life.  We change as our circumstances change and that is just a part of life.

My challenge to you is to think of these recurring problems differently.  As I look back on my life-long struggle with weight, I see a yo-yo pattern of limited success followed by failure again and again.  That is how I looked at it and it became very discouraging.  Why try when failure would follow?

Now I can see the layers of the onion were peeling off and the whole process brought personal growth.  And recently I have learned some things about my stinking thinking that have opened the doors to a hopeful attitude. If I continue thinking of relapse as failure then I will be discouraged and stuck.

Look at it this way… when you take 5 steps forward that is success, and 2 backwards is failure right?  No! 5 forward and 2 back will still get you to your goal if you keep moving!!   It is wrong to see failure when we or our spouse are not perfect.  We should never expect perfection from ourselves or others.  So when those pesky issues recur, don’t be surprised.  Talk them through again, practice forgiveness, and get moving in the right direction, step by step!

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,                        not lacking anything.                       
James 1:4

Be Thankful For Struggles

Are there struggles in your marriage that never seem to go away in spite of many times talking it through?  When struggles happen over and over without getting resolved, we often try to bury the issue  and avoid the triggers.  Obviously nothing is solved and those issues have a way of popping up again at the most unexpected or worst times.

I think there is a better way to approach marital problems in general, and especially the recurring ones.  Let’s look at a verse from Romans that you have probably seen before…

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope… Romans 5:3-4 (NASB)

For me, being thankful in struggles is difficult!  I may feel angry or sad and thankfulness is far from my mind.  It is important to feel those emotions though; to analyze where they are coming from and what from our past prompts them.  The point is to learn from them, decide which feelings make sense and which don’t, which square with the facts and which to let go of now that we are adults.  In the process we learn about ourselves and our own personal issues.

Struggles are a constant part of life and we need to keep up the self-evaluation and discussions with our spouse to get through them.  This is perseverance.  Dictionary.com defines perseverance as a “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”   Keep your purpose forefront in your minds- a better marriage with this person to whom you have committed your life.  Your course of action is to keep chipping away at the issues that plague you individually and together.  When a problem recurs for the nth time, that is the time to persevere all the more.

When we develop a habit of persevering through struggles with our spouse we have developed our character!  We have fought for a closer marriage.  Our intentions to honor our marriage vows are proven over time.  Bit by bit issues are resolved, we understand and empathize with each other, we cherish and love with greater depth.

And with proven character we acquire hope.  From Wikipedia: “Hope is the emotional state, the opposite of which is despair,

  • which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to circumstances in one’s life.
  • the feeling that …events will turn out for the best
  • looking forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.”

It is a good thing when you really believe your marriage will get better, that all will turn out for the best, and that we have confidence in each other!  That is hope. And it is worth the persevering to get it.

Let’s go back to thankfulness now… When you have persevered through a few issues and come out with a closer relationship on the other side, then thankfulness starts to make more sense.  You begin to see that struggle is an essential part of the path to a soul mate marriage and should be accepted with gratitude.

When I hear older couples say they love each other more all the time, I think that they must have thankfully practiced perseverance over many years!  In the midst of struggle, try to remember what you have to look forward to and be thankful.