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When To Compromise…And When Not To Compromise

By Dr. Margaret Paul
November 10, 2014

Discover when compromise is healthy and when it's self-abandoning.

Compromise! What does this word conjure up for you? Is it is a positive or negative word for you? Does it bring up a sense of loving resolution, or a sense of losing yourself and losing your integrity?

When you think about compromising, what are you compromising? Are you compromising with a partner you love out of caring for yourself and your partner, or are you compromising yourself to control how your partner feels about you or reacts?

Melina is struggling with understanding when compromising is loving to herself and when it is a form of self-abandonment.

"I understand that compromise is always important in a relationship because we can't expect to get our own way all the time. Are there signs or symptoms or some way to know when we have moved away from appropriate compromise and toward self-abandonment?"

As I often state, it's all about intent.

Loving Compromise

When your intent is to be loving to yourself and to your partner, then you will find a resolution that feels right to both of you. When you and your partner are in a true intent to learn about yourselves and each other, then you can explore why what you want is important to you, and why your partner wants is important to him or her. As you open to yourselves and each other, both of you will likely be changed by the process of learning. What you come up with may be very different than what you started out with. Resolution occurs when you come up with a joint resolution and neither of you feel that you are compromising yourself – your integrity. Neither of you are giving yourselves up to control the other. Both of you are happy with the resolution. In fact, when you explore with an intent to learn, neither of you may feel that the resolution is a compromise. Instead, it may be a whole new way of looking at and resolving an issue.

Self-Abandoning Compromise

When you give yourself up and go along with something that doesn't feel right to you inside, you are abandoning yourself. You are trying to please the other person so that he or she will approve of you or not reject you or not get angry. This kind of compromise is coming from your wounded self with an intent to control, not from your loving adult with an intent to learn.

While you might feel some relief for the moment when you give yourself up and compromise your integrity, in the long run you will feel anxious, depressed and/or angry about it. We cannot compromise our personal integrity without suffering these consequences. You might think you are anxious, depressed or angry because of your partner's demands, but the truth is you are causing these feelings by trying to control your partner with your caretaking.

To answer Melina's question of how to know when you are appropriately compromising and when you are abandoning yourself: tune into your feelings, which is Step One of Inner Bonding. If the compromise feels good inside, then you are being loving to yourself, but if you feel bad inside – anxious, depressed, angry, shamed, less-than – then you are abandoning yourself. Your feelings are a very accurate guide to whether your choice is loving or unloving to yourself.

There are certainly times in any relationship where one person really wants something or wants to do something and the other person goes along with it out of love and caring – even if it's not what they really want. When you love someone, you may feel good inside going along with what they want – provided it doesn't go against your personal integrity. We can do things for others or with others without losing ourselves when our motivation is coming from love rather than from fear. If it's coming from fear, then it's not loving to yourself or to the other person.

When you come from fear and a desire to control, the resulting compromise will be unloving to yourself and to your partner. When you come from love and a desire to learn, the result will be appropriate compromise.


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