In today’s use and throw world, compromise is often a dirty word. We take pride in our self-reliance, in our ability to mend our broken hearts and move on. We also have so much more going on in our lives that romantic relationships are not the centre of our universe any more. We have strong friendships, we have successful careers, and people to Netflix and chill with when we get lonely. Our world today is a constant strive for perfection. We all have a list in our heads and we want our partners to be exactly as we imagined ‘the one’ should be.
We need him or her to live up to our every expectation, because if they can’t, there’s always other fish in the sea, right? We’ve worked so hard to create the perfect life for ourselves after all, so it stands to reason that our perfect partners will fit seamlessly into this perfect life we’ve built. Why should we compromise when we know we deserve better? And if they do not fit the mould we want them to fit into they don’t really love us, do they? Because if they loved us, they’d be exactly what we want them to be. We’ve always been honest about what we wanted from them after all. So if it doesn’t work, it just wasn’t meant to be and we should start over with someone else.
Relationships, just like everything important in life, take serious work though, and the more we become used to shrugging and moving on, the less work we are inclined to put into relationships. Think about the important achievements in your life. Did the one that was accomplished easily mean more to you or the one that took you years of hard work? People who’ve been together years and years have often had phases where they hated each other. Or just didn’t want to try anymore. Or were simply bored. They’ve had to look for things outside their marriage or their relationships to keep going, sometimes other people even.
They’ve had to compromise and sacrifice in order to stay together. Often these couples do not have the choice to separate because of children, finances, legal issues, social expectations. So they make do with what they have. And sometimes they try harder because hate or indifference is much more exhausting when you live together. They learn to forgive, forget, or just to accept. Love is an ever changing thing. It is constantly evolving. The truest, most satisfying love comes from knowing a person’s every flaw and choosing to love them all the same. Because those very flaws, those qualities that make you sometimes want to strangle them, are the qualities that make them uniquely them. And this kind of acceptance and love cannot come in a few months, or even in a few years. It cannot come from us selfishly and inflexibly holding on to our ideas of a perfect mate.
My ex-boyfriend wanted an open relationship. I wasn’t expecting a relationship at all. But then it got very intense and very serious for both of us rather quickly, two people who were completely unused to love and commitment. In the end, I was so deeply in love with him that I tried to make it work even though I am a monogamist myself. We were both honest with each other and we tried to work a compromise. And it did work, for a while. Because we both wanted it to work so badly. But then one day he pointed out that I’m not really happy and that was making him unhappy. And I realised that he was right.
Being with him, loving him, made my world a better place, but every time we disagreed about dating other people, every time we tried to talk about our different ideologies and ended up arguing, every time we thought of a future and couldn’t really find a neat compromise, it took something away from the love we felt for each other. And then he told me that he didn’t love me anymore because I couldn’t give him what he wanted. If I really loved him, he said, I’d give him everything in my power to give. That is when I decided to walk away. Because I had measured love in the little things, like supporting and encouraging each other, waking up next to each other, laughing and giggling over lame jokes, cooking together, looking out for each other, holding each other when we both had nightmares. Even when I knew we weren’t working out anymore I never stopped loving him. But he switched off his love because I couldn’t be what he needed me to be. That’s when staying and trying harder, trying to find a compromise stopped being an option for me.
Nothing in life worth achieving is ever easy. However, while I do feel that people these days have forgotten how to compromise, I do not in any way advocate settling for less than what you deserve. Compromise and settling are not the same thing. If your partner hits you or abuses you emotionally, staying with him or her is not a compromise. If your partner wants to change you into something you are not, to give up your way of life, your beliefs, your friends, your family, or simply does not respect what you have achieved in life or want to achieve, staying with them is not a compromise.
If you stay in a relationship because you are afraid that you will never find a love like this again, or if you are with your partner for reasons other than genuinely wanting to be with them, such as children or social appearances, that is not compromise. Because compromise is all about working together to stay together even when it’s difficult, because you genuinely think the other person is worth it and because you love them no matter what. But settling will just make you wake up one day wondering why you are so bitter and unhappy and lonely. And of course you deserve better than that.