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.

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.

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

Talk about It

In order to experience a truly fulfilling soul mate relationship, be vigilant to ensure that you don’t allow issues to go unresolved.  The ones that are the most difficult to discuss are issues that have deep hurts attached.  You may have said or done something that has deeply offended your spouse and be totally unaware that he or she is harboring hurt feelings.  As a matter of fact, the actual incident may have happened years ago, and your spouse “buried” the issue because it was too painful.  It didn’t get fully resolved when talked about originally.  This is one of those boxes that clutters up the shop and is marked “DO NOT OPEN.  DO NOT TOUCH”.

These issues are the most damaging to a truly close and intimate relationship.  They create an emotional barrier keeping the relationship at a superficial level.  The day to day interactions function just fine but real depth and intimate connection is illusive.  Ignoring them is perilous because they will seriously damage your relationship.  The longer you wait to open a discussion, the harder it is to talk.

 All couples experience disagreements and say and do things that are hurtful.  How you deal with the problem is what will make the difference.  Do you approach issues as adversaries or as teammates?  Remember you are on the same team.  Working through an issue to a resolution that satisfies both spouses means your team wins!

Here are a few ideas on how to handle these issues:

  • Pray and ask for special grace
  • Be honest and take the risk of bringing the issue up again
  • Set aside uninterrupted time when you have the freedom to focus
  • Actively listen as you each share feelings and endeavor to understand your spouse
  • Try not to blame or bring accusations
  • Remember that you are bringing this up again so that you can have a closer relationship
  • The goal is a heartfelt resolution where a deep understanding is achieved
  • Be willing to apologize and ask for forgiveness.  This needs to be genuine and not superficial
  • Have an attitude to forgive.  It may be hard to forget, but you will need to truly forgive
  • Allow time to reflect for several days or even longer if needed.  Be patient
  • Never be demanding.  Be patient and calm
  • Seek counsel if you come to an impasse

Always keep in mind that the objective is to strengthen your relationship so that you can be closer together and experience a deeply fulfilling relationship.  True intimacy can not happen when we harbor unspoken resentment and hurts.  You must have the courage to continue to work at all issues.

Growing Together

One of the most important things that you can do to improve the quality of your relationship is to take personal responsibility for your own personal growth.  Take a look at those boxes in the shop.  How many of them are YOUR boxes of clutter?  Do an honest self-assessment.  Independent of your spouse, you need to evaluate what areas in your life need work.  And then communicate that to your spouse so that she can be actively involved in the process of helping you deal with your issues.

  • Discuss the particular area of concern
  • Pray about it together
  • Allow time for change
  • Remember to be thankful for even small movements in the right direction

And you need to be realistic about the time frame to deal with these issues.  Some of the areas we need to grow in most have been habit patterns ingrained in us for years and it will take some time to reverse the habits.  You’ll need to exercise a high degree of patience with yourself as you work at overcoming issues.  And further, if you are the spouse helping your partner, you need to be patient even more.

Then we need to face the issues that surfaced since we’ve been married, our JOINT baggage so to speak.    Face it… when we first got married, we did not have extensive training in how to be a good life partner.  We were single and the only needs that we paid close attention to were our own.

To be sure, our family background should have taught us the importance of the following character qualities:

Sharing                                                          Humility

Patience                                                        Self-Control

Forgiveness                                                   Sensitivity

Generosity                                                     Tolerance

This may come as a shock to some of you, but most of us did not come from perfect families.  To one degree or another we come from damaged backgrounds.  We each begin married life needing to work on those areas in which we are lacking.  At the same time, we need to develop the skills necessary to be a good spouse.  We are basically working on growing up while we are working on developing the skills necessary to build a fulfilling relationship.

So it is a process. If we really understand this, we can have the patience and tolerance necessary to allow our spouse the time and space necessary to grow, much as we need the same patience and tolerance.  We need to have an attitude of encouragement.

Here’s a good example.  Your husband has a pretty bad habit of leaving his socks on the floor.  He takes his shoes and socks off, get undressed and jumps in the shower, leaving the socks on the floor.  What, is he blind?  He steps over them and then when you bring it up he says, “Oh right, I guess I forgot!”  So here’s the plan.  When he does remember, don’t say something like, “Well! Finally!”  Instead, snuggle up to him, nibble a little on his ear lobe and whisper to him, “I am so proud of you.  It makes me happy when you remember.”  Then, just sit back and watch how often he remembers.

Next time we’ll look at the questions, “Why water often?”

 

   

Big Problems

What if we have big problems? Can Common Sense help us to resolve these problems?

I remember several months ago we needed to clean up our shop. It’s a large shop and we had accumulated 30 years of stuff like garden and shop tools, and boxes of things we had moved from California. We had several old used appliances and lawn mowers, old rugs and stuff not even worthy of saving for a garage sale. The kids had used the shop for playing air soft games and so various barriers were built as hiding places. One of the lofts had old furniture. The other loft was full of old files and boxes, some from college and high school classes. There were ping pong tables and piles of old wood. You’re right, a cluttered mess. When we removed one pile, it uncovered another with more stuff to be sorted, cleaned, organized or thrown out. Embarrassing. How did we get so much junk? How did it pile up into such a mess?

We knew the shop needed to be cleaned out. Starting at one end, we moved things out to sweep, vacuum, rearrange, and set up a garbage pile. It ended up being a very big pile. And just for the record, we swept and vacuumed up thousands of air soft pellets. But after almost a full week of cleaning and a few trips to the dump, we got it done. We even took pictures!! A pretty big task when we started but it looked so good when we got it done.

Sometimes our marriages, just like the shop, get all cluttered up. We begin with small problems. Those problems, when left unresolved, cause other problems. A husband may have a habit of not remembering to call when coming home late from work. At first, his wife gets upset about the cold dinners, eating alone and disappointed children. She lets him know how upset she is about his lack of consideration, and then she nags him about it for several months with no fruit. He gets upset about the nagging, and she eventually quits bringing it up, burying her feelings. Resentment and bitterness fester causing a noticeable distance in their relationship. He comments about how cold she has become and how he misses being affectionate. She responds in cold silence. He is totally unaware that his lack of consideration has snowballed into a mini cold war. What started as a simple problem grew into a huge problem. Over time, add five or six other issues into the mix, compounded by unspoken needs and expectations, and you have a real mess. Just like the shop. And you’re left wondering how you begin to get this mess cleaned up.

Something to consider: Does your relationship have clutter? Are there boxes of unresolved issues? Are there issues that you don’t even talk about? When you first got married, did you and your spouse bring boxes or “stuff” and put them in your shop? Did you have goals, dreams, or desires that never materialized and are a source of tension or disappointment?

Next time: What steps can you take to deal with the Mess.