I just finished reading this incredible article about what makes for successful relationships this morning that Sean sent me. I love and appreciate that he knows I love to read those sorts of things – ever the optimist and always seeking to better myself and all aspects of my life.
Relationships are not easy. They can be, and at times they will be! But like in the article, “relationships exist as waves, people need to learn how to ride them.” There will be times where you fight with your partner (learn how to fight well) or may love them but don’t particularly like them.
“Compromise” is a big word that gets thrown around a lot when thinking about successful relationships. What I liked about that article is that it kind of took thinking about compromise and communication to another level. From the article:
“Everyone says that compromise is key, but that’s not how my husband and I see it. It’s more about seeking understanding. Compromise is bullshit, because it leaves both sides unsatisfied, losing little pieces of themselves in an effort to get along. On the other hand, refusing to compromise is just as much of a disaster, because you turn your partner into a competitor (“I win, you lose”). These are the wrong goals, because they’re outcome-based rather than process-based. When your goal is to find out where your partner is coming from—to truly understand on a deep level—you can’t help but be altered by the process. Conflict becomes much easier to navigate because you see more of the context.” – Michelle
To illustrate an example of compromise – but really instead seeking understanding, I want to tell you guys about a little spat Sean and I had a while back about Christmas.Sean has never really been “into” Christmas. He learned at a young age that Santa wasn’t real (I think he said around five) so that takes some of the magic away as a kid. Having grown up mostly in Ghana for most of his childhood, trying to celebrate or watch a Christmas movie when it’s 90° out and the AC is broken doesn’t really sit too well.
So when I told him I’m absolutely crazed over Christmas, and, since we are together, I would want him to participate in Christmas activities around the holidays with me, well he wasn’t crazy about it.I immediately became defensive because I was afraid I would have to compromise and lose everything Christmas, something that I love so much. Sean became defensive because he doesn’t believe in buying in to the bullshit consumerism around Christmas (I agree with him here) and doesn’t see value/point in Christmas traditions it like I do.
I said that to lose anything around Christmas, like massively decorating/binge watching Christmas movies/the baking/the music/or other Christmas traditions, was kind of a deal breaker. They were just too important and honestly things that I loved and looked forward too all year.
Then Sean said that if he had to participate in all of those things and go through that, well that was kind of a deal breaker for him.
I immediately started crying over the prospect of breaking up and even thinking about the idea of breaking up – even though I knew we weren’t.We could have left it there and one of us would compromise and probably feel worse after the interaction. Instead, we communicated to each other our reasons for how we felt and were open to understanding where each of us were coming from. Sean explained about growing up in Ghana with no snow or many Christmas Traditions. I then understood why fireplaces and blankets and all of those wintery things didn’t feel like Christmas to him.I explained to him all of the traditions I grew up with – like decorating the whole house, Josh Groban blaring through the house, with my step-mom. How Christmas reminds me of family and how we celebrate it culturally to highlight family and love and the idea behind selflessly giving.
Eventually, Sean said I could of course celebrate Christmas how I wanted and I told him he of course didn’t have to partake in everything I did. That brings me to the second lesson in this “fight” – pick your battles. Some are really worth fighting over if they are centered around your values or something really important, but others aren’t. Equally, there are things worth compromising over and not compromising over.To Sean, by letting me celebrate all my craziness around Christmas, he wasn’t really losing anything. Whereas if I had to compromise by not celebrating Christmas, I would have been losing some things that I really loved.
As another example, my dad will help decorate a little and bring up the tree and likes to celebrate come aspects of Christmas, but when Annie and I put Josh or Mariah on, my dad disappears and goes somewhere Christmas can’t touch him. And that is just fine with Annie. Both of them get what they want and they also both still love and respect each other.What I’m getting at is that it’s okay if your partner doesn’t like the same things you do. I know that Sean will still go to Christmas parades and lighting festivals with me or help me decorate. I also know that he may hit his limit at some point and then I can do the rest independently or call on a girlfriend to go with me. And that is totally fine!
From this small argument/disagreement, we learned how to pause, look beyond our own interests, and lovingly seek to understand where the other person is coming from. We sought to build context behind the “why” we each felt a certain way and I think we ended up loving each other more.
After that (like when I went to live with Sean for November) when he came home to find me wrapped in my rumpl blanket, drinking tea with cinnamon candles lit and a 2-hour youtube video of a crackling fireplace and Christmas classics playing…well he just laughed and gave me a kiss and told me that he loved me. And I know he does. Loves me for who I am and all my ridiculous tendencies.In a similar vein, but reversed when he wants to watch hours of youtube soccer goals compilations or early morning Chelsea matches, since I know it is so important to him, I don’t mind. And in fact, in watching them with him, I am able to see something through his eyes in a new light and actually enjoy them because of it. It also makes me happy to see him so happy. I think he probably feels the same way about me and Christmas – I imagine he gets positively tickled (my words) over my excitement and enthusiasm.
Anyways, there you have it people! Christmas and compromises! At the end of the day, what matters most is that you respect your loved one for who they are and hopefully love them even more because of their crazier tendencies!