Latest article by Stephen Van Basten ~ worth the read

I have spent hours and hours with hundreds of couples as well as the hundreds of hours in my own relationships and the word I hate the most is ‘compromise’.

When I ask couples what they believe the key ingredients are for a happy marriage I inevitably get ‘compromise’ amongst them. The longer the couple have been married the more I get ‘patience and forgiveness’. The newer relationships usually give me ‘honest & open communication, trust and compromise’.

Personally I believe the three most important ingredients are, commitment, courage and friendship. Commitment to enjoy the good times, work through the bad times and see this thing through. Courage to have the difficult conversations and keep each other accountable. Friendship to see you through to the end.

My problem with compromise is that someone is always unhappy. Either one is totally unhappy because they compromised 100%. Or both are half unhappy because they both compromised 50%. I also generally find that one partner generally compromises more than the other does. In fact, that partner will probably be more caring, do more for the other one and hold out the olive branch sooner and more often than their partner does.

This is all fair and well during the ‘chemistry stage’ when the testosterone and oestrogen are flying and both are working hard at showing each other how lovely they can be. The problem is that over time, the big “R”, RESENTMENT, starts to build. Dr. Demartini speaks about an under-dog and an over-dog in every marriage. Generally it’s the underdog that compromises and will start to build resentment and if left un-checked, will erupt like a volcano, leaving both partners looking at each other open mouthed in astonishment.

I often speak about Money, Sex and Power in relationships. One partner will earn more than the other. One partner will have a higher sex drive than the other and one partner will be the boss or more controlling. Over time the person who is not the boss will build resentment, especially if the other partner keeps making bad decisions.

Resentment could come from many sources. One partner spending more money than the other. One partner wanting more sex. One partner not enjoying being bossed around. One partner wanting the lights out at 10pm and the other wanting to read. One partner consistently working late and the other wanting them home. One partner having a full time job and being expected to run the home with no assistance. One partner always being the designated driver. One partner playing golf every Saturday while the other looks after the kids. One partner getting a new car every 3 years and the other getting a second hand one every 5. One of you wants a maple finish for the renovated kitchen and the other wants a cherry finish.

In my opinion, one of the most important questions you can ask before getting married is, “Is the marriage a hierarchy (a head and a neck) or is it an equal partnership?” A hierarchical marriage can only work if both partners are 100% happy with that arrangement and actually want it that way. A partnership is much more difficult but, in my opinion has more chance of working. What you DON’T want is to think you are in a partnership, only to find you are actually the neck and subservient to your spouse!

Of course, there are always situations that cannot be solved simply. For example, you love bathing together but one likes a very hot bath but the other cannot manage that heat. Or one of you loves violent movies but the other cannot stomach them. In these type of situations you will just have to accept that the bath will always be cooler than you like when you are bathing together and your partner may go to movies without you sometimes.

I have found that one of the most difficult issues in marriage is how you decide on an outcome when you are in disagreement.

My advice is this:

  • Instead of compromising, always seek an alternative that is acceptable to BOTH of you.
  • Make sure that it is not you that is always ‘winning’ and that you are a fair partner.
  • See your marriage as a 50/50 partnership where you have only 50% vote.
  • Then treat each other as equal partners.
  • When there is no acceptable alternative, determine which of you it means most to. Then let that one decide and make the decisions on that specific situation.

And remember, resentment, the big “R” always leads to volcano, the big “V” and is always unpleasant.