Learning to Compromise
by Kat Richter

Lego girl not so happy with Thor demanding to watch football.

Welcome to your Junior Year at Dating U, which means the relationship phase of your dating career. You've gotten the first date jitters out of your system, you've changed your Facebook status from "single" to "in a relationship" and you suddenly find the word "us" creeping into your conversations.

The good news is you're on your way to a serious relationship and if you've played your cards right, you're probably happier than you've ever been (or at least happier than you've been since you found out your last girlfriend was cheating on your with your best friend, but that's all water under the bridge now).

The bad news is that relationships, unlike casual dating, require compromise. And compromise can be scary, especially if you've been on your own for a while.

In this day and age, with folks waiting longer and longer to get married, the notion of compromise is even more important. Many of us have our routines by now. As such, we tend to think of compromise in terms of sacrifice, meaning you have to give something up to get something you want. When you and your partner start to factor in your friends, families, holidays, vacations, financial resources and even something as simple as your favorite foods, it can seem like there's no end in sight.

But you don't have to lose yourself in order for you both to grow as a couple. In fact, if you feel like you are, go tell your partner to read this with you because compromise should be more about growth than sacrifice.

Meals

Food is supposed to bring people together but if you love sushi and your partner hates it, mealtimes might pose a bit of a problem. Instead of forcing your partner to join you for your weekly California roll, think about getting takeout so that you can each enjoy a meal of your own choosing. Or save sushi night for an evening when your partner is out of town and invite a friend or co-worker to join you instead. Oftentimes, we tend to forget about friends when we're in a new relationship so don't be afraid to reach out to someone aside from your partner when your interests (or culinary choices) don't intersect.

Personal Space

We'll be talking more about space (and making your partner comfortable in your home) in another lesson but for now, its bears mentioning that people have different standards of cleanliness. Maybe you love breakfast in bed but your partner can't stand the thought of crumbs anywhere other than the dining room table. Have a talk about your priorities and personal preferences, then be respectful of one another's standards.

I'm definitely a breakfast-in-bed, kick-my-shoes-off-wherever-I-feel-like-it kind of gal. My partner, on the other hand, is not. But over time I've started to clean up my act (especially when we're at his place) and my partner has softened a bit as well. It took a while but we've finally found a happily medium and you know what? It doesn't feel like I'm doing something I don't want to anymore; it feels better this way.

Your Time vs. Our Time

When you're in a new relationship, it's natural to want to spend your every waking moment together, but sometimes your or partner may have other commitments that get in the way. This can be frustrating, especially if you feel like your partner is consistently putting work/school/family/friends before you, so talk about it. If you're on the other end of the equation, try to find ways to involve your partner or set aside one night a week for just the two of you. Be respectful of the external demands upon one another's time but make time for yourselves as a couple too. (Ladies, see our article on How NOT to Smother Your Guy for some tips on not making too many demands on your guy's time)

Date Night

When your relationship starts to become routine (in other words, the thought of cuddling up on the couch in your pajamas is now way more appealing than actually going out) you or your partner might find yourselves starting to get bored. Take turns planning your date nights. Maybe one Friday night you can have a movie marathon in your pajamas but the next you can get dressed up and hit the town. It seems simple, but oftentimes we forget how to share when we're faced with sharing something other than crayons or our favorite stuffed animal. Sharing our time (and our feelings about how we spend that time) may feel more difficult but it doesn't have to be.

In an article entitled "How Much Should You Compromise for Your Relationship?" Mark D. White, Ph.D. advises couples that their relationships should serve them, not the other way around. According to White,

Turning down the TV while the other person talks on the phone is no big deal, nor is turning off the TV to give some extra help with errands or chores once in a while. These compromises do not threaten our core needs, wants, and deepest desires - the reasons we got into a relationship in the first place. It is when we start compromising these essential elements of who we are that the cracks in the foundation of relationship start to show.

So talk with your partner about compromising on the little things - such as sushi vs. curry or pajamas vs. high heels - but don't be afraid to stand your ground on the issues that really matter to you.

Homework

  • Plan to spend an evening with a close friend or co-worker so that you can have your sushi and eat it too.
  • Take some time to observe your partner's living space. If it's cleaner than yours, step up your game. If it's not, take a deep breath and relax.
  • Talk about the things that matter most to you before they become an issue. Sharing your passions can be a great way to get closer to your partner and to help them understand why you feel the way you feel about certain issues.
  • Along with your partner, write down one thing that he or she does that makes your blood pressure rise. Be sure to keep it civil - they're going to be writing something about you too! - and see what you both do to make things better. Even if you don't find a solution, it's good to make your partner aware of the issue. Stop after you've each had a chance to discuss your one hot button issue, then go out for ice cream.
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