Sacrifice & Compromise
I feel I need to be completely transparent in this post. There is so much about parenting, marriage, relationships, and life that I don’t know, but what I know is that I am always open to learning and growing. That is my constant when nothing else is. So given that, this post is a little different in that I am putting out some thoughts and want to know what you have experienced or think about my reflections on relationships
Romantic relationships for certain are my weakest link. I had a series of short-lived and complex boyfriends from ages 15 to 22. The first of which was a crush I held from middle school to college who broke my heart, repeatedly. The next significant one was a mutual friend whose social connections overlapped with most of my life and made being together complicated since I was a side chick in his life. Then finally, it was the man I ended up marrying after going through a pregnancy and the first year of our child’s life in his absence. That lasted longer than the rest, but if you keep up with these posts you probably know it was also a shit show and far from a healthy relationship. Suffice to say, I am learning along the way about what a relationship needs, how to sustain one, and most importantly what I need to avoid and move towards. Every relationship is supposed to teach us about ourselves and the dynamics between people. So what creates barriers to maintaining the potential of two people who deserve to be happy and care about one another from staying together?
I started to think about this in terms of what we give up and when we give in. My father used to tell me that relationships were about compromise, but I think the word compromise can be seen differently depending on your vantage point. For one person the compromise is that you recognize what they need and give them that without questioning. For another, the compromise is giving up your own needs and desires to make the other person’s comfort and need a priority. In both those examples, one person may get what they want, but neither person truly gets what they need. It’s not enough just to know someone’s language of love, you have to recognize why they need it and then provide something in that form to acknowledge that for the person you care for.
If we want a partnership with someone we are with, it requires knowing them and knowing ourselves. The compromise is not that I will give up what I need to make you happy and comfortable, but that I will recognize what you need while also communicating how that need might conflict with mine or not show up in the way that I expected. This isn’t to change the other person, but to share and communicate what we need from a relationship. If that person’s presence in your life matters, you will take a few steps forward to meet them where they stand.
I am a physically affectionate person. That means hugs, physical contact, embraces, and holding my hand when you can is how I feel seen and appreciated. The absence of these things may make me feel insecure or unacknowledged. In my marriage, this need was countered with the realization that he grew up in a home where affection was not shown and his parents were basically roommates. So I compromised what I needed based on what he said he was capable of giving and accepted limited physical affection until it was on his terms. I gave him the space to have his needs recognized and allowed his comfort to be prioritized over my wants. The problem with the sacrifice I made is that it festered into resentment and hurt. I felt I was the one moving towards him by giving him what he wanted, but allowed him to keep his feet squarely planted in the spot that didn’t require him to stretch or adjust for me. That led to my discontent, a disconnection, and a dishonest relationship of the heart. When we hold back our true feelings and emotions, we are lying and hiding a part of ourselves from our partners. No one ends up happy or content because the foundation of safety and trust are not present.
What I realize now is that to make a relationship work, you have to recognize what someone needs and respond accordingly while also communicating what you need to be satisfied in that scenario. The disclaimer with that is that you have to be dealing with a sane and reasonable adult for any of that to work and come to fruition. It never would have in my past dynamic, because I was with someone who didn’t have the capacity or ability to give for the sake of others, many narcissists respond like that. However, I now have new opportunities to create my narrative and determine what I want from a relationship.
I still have no control over what someone else does or who they are, but I have the ability to communicate what I need and I have the knowledge now to place my needs as a priority for the first time. So if they are willing to give and move forward it benefits us both because my tendency has always been to care and give to the people I love, but this time I will maintain my integrity and honor my needs as well.
Sacrificing in a relationship is about the other person and if you truly want someone to feel that you care for their needs, you will do what you can within your comfort to move towards them and give in. So even if public displays of affection are not your comfort level, I will respect that and reserve those moments when we are in private. But if I communicate I want to be shown affection and intimacy to feel at ease, there are subtle ways to give me what I need and provide the reassurance that my words and feelings matter to you. The way someone responds to me when I vocalize my needs sends a message about what he is willing to adjust for my comfort. I will never ask someone to be something different than who they are, but just as I am willing to be flexible and bend for their comfort, they should be willing and want to do the same.
For something to work, both people have to be open to moving towards each other, relinquish their egos, and no longer stay in a stagnant place. Compromise requires some sacrifice and can lead us to the genuine partnership we all hope to find.