Compromise isn’t 50/50

When most people think of compromise they think of meeting in the middle. This kind of implies a 50/50 split, of efforts on either side, which I don’t think is a good way of looking at things.

Perhaps in the grand scheme of things it evens out to a neutral number, but each occasion isn’t quite this even; and that’s not a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with this at all. In fact, I think it’s perfectly natural, normal, and shows a great commitment and strength.

In this day and age we seem to have forgotten how to compromise. There seems to be this ever-growing idea that the world should be ‘fair‘ and things should be ‘even‘. Ideally, yes, but reality will prove otherwise. Whether we’re growing more entitled, or more selfish, or I’m just getting older and seeing these philosophies that have existed for an age, I couldn’t say. What I can tell you, though, is how I see things.

Relationships, with friends, family, loved ones and even colleagues are not a constant 50/50 and nor do they have to be. When times are good, they may be close to that average, but most times you’re each dealing with your own troubles and difficulties. At times like this, you may have to reserve more of your strength and energy for yourself, at times like this your partner may choose to invest more into the relationship to make up for that. At times like that, you’re making a compromise but it’s not a strict 50/50, one person is perhaps giving more than the other simply because they can.

To use a more material example, it’s true with money as well. I have plenty of friends in relationships who will call each other out. “I paid last time”, or who split the bill by the items they each individually had. Kirsty and I don’t keep track of this, we just go out and one treats the other… We don’t keep a tally chart at home, who owes who what, we just compromise by helping each other. One of us will treat the other, and that doesn’t just depend on who did it last. It can be plenty of things to who’s mood is what, and who’s finances are stronger. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason at all.

When we start thinking about how much someone owes the other, we start getting petty and selfish. The idea of being ‘owed‘ anything in a relationship of compromise and love can lead to distaste and anger itself. It can make us feel under-valued. I’ve written about something similar before: How We Misinterpret Value. The problem is, many times this extends to things that are not as material as finances, things that can’t be added up quite as easily. I’m talking here about things like emotional compromise. There are times when someone might be dealing with a lot of stress, they may even be dealing with depression, there are times when their health, either mental or physical, may well be on the line and they simple wont be able to give you everything you might want or need. Standing by someone, and aiding someone during this time, can mean giving a greater proportion than they’re able to give back, but it will be worth it every time.

Anyone in a relationship with someone with a long-term illness will know the compromise might not be strictly fair. Sometimes it takes more work of one party than of the other. Not because one half is selfish, not because one half is holding everything back, but because they simply can’t give as much as the other, or because what they do give takes all the energy they can spare. There may be things they can or cannot do, things their health doesn’t allow. They may need more strength and support than ever, or they may even need to be left alone (it’s own kind of effort in the relationship – that of being able to give space). In these circumstances you have to treat the ratio on an individual basis. If you judge something strictly by the relationship as its own entity, if you tally it up on some petty and hypothetical chart, it might be true that one person is ‘only’ responsible for ‘30%‘ whilst the other ‘70%‘, but if you look a little closer you’ll realise a more important truth. Someone’s 30% might be their 100%, and just because it isn’t the same as you can give right now, it’s them pushing their own limits.

Just like everything in life we’re individuals, we’re all fighting our own battle and we’re all trying to make sense of the world. By showing compassion and love, we help give each other strength, and by compromising we lighten each others load. Giving that little extra isn’t a bad thing as long as you have it to give. Many of the best people out there are such because they give with no desire to take. We need to ignore the ratio all together, we need to scrap the 50/50 ideal, and we need to just recognise that compromise just means helping each other where and however we can. We need to recognise that sometimes someone needs to take a little bit more, but that they’ll give it back tenfold whenever they can. 

I’ve waffled longer than I though I would and the point is no clearer than if I’d just streamed consciousness onto a page. I’ll try to simply summarise here. An adult relationship is certainly one of compromise, one of understanding, and one of lending each other strength. At times, you may have to do more for your partner because of where they’re currently at, and thats ok. In fact, its more than ok. If you’re with the right person you won’t mind the compromise, because you can rest assured that when the tables turn, which they could at any point, that person will lend their strength to you, they will fill their side of the relationship. Of course, as with anything, there’s a negative view. Some people out there are takers, and will take, take, take without any means of giving back. I’m not addressing that here, I’m letting you judge for yourself. The people who are worth it will make it worth it. They’re the ones who are loyal, who are strong in less obvious ways, and who you feel are worth giving that extra to. Remember it’s hard to be objective, and remember that someone’s objective ‘30%‘ might be a personal ‘100%‘, which, in my eyes, is even more valuable.

What do you think? Should compromise be a purely 50/50 split? Or do you sometimes need to give/take a little bit more? Does it all even out in the end when all is said and done? And if it doesn’t, does it matter? Let me know in the comments below!

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12 thoughts on “Compromise isn’t 50/50

  1. It reminds me of sharing a bedroom with my sister. We split it 50/50, but only one got the door. Ha!
    Our perception can be faulty. I can’t imagine that kind of expectation, but I don’t complain when it favors me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s never that simple as just settling on a 50/50 agreement. There probably shouldn’t be a ratio in the first place. Instead it should be replaced with a question. What do we have to sacrifice to make this committment work?

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  3. Before I got married my parents wanted me to meet a lady who had come over from India. She was very spiritual. Her biggest bit of advice to me, as a young Indian girl, about to be married, was ” The other name for marriage is compromise. In our culture it is a big thing. You will have to make huge compromises to start with, but with time they will be reciprocated.” Obviously that was said in Punjabi!
    And it was the most valuable piece of advice I was given regarding marriage. I had to be malleable, bent almost backwards, to fit in, and to conform to what my in-laws family deemed to be a daughter-in-law, but over the years, with love, things changed, and my back started to unbend as they all moulded with me!
    Now we stand straight together most of the time, it is almost 50:50 but not quite. but I can deal with that!

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    1. I am glad you didn’t bend so utterly backwards that you lost yourself, Ritu! You seem to have maintained your own unique personality 🙂

      There seems to be an unwillingness to compromise in Western culture, and rather than it leading to strength it seems to lead to stubborness or a lack of compassion. I find a lot of people are unwilling to bend that extra bit, without getting someting in return, when somtimes I think we just have to bend for others because they can’t reach that far on their own.

      It definitely sounds like some good advice you received, especially if you’ve come full circle now to stand straight and tall!

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      1. Indeed! My mum also echoed it as she feels she lost herself after getting married. Its taken her many years to be her… and she didn’t even have a mother in law! But plenty of opinionated sisters-in-law!
        I try hard to keep ‘me’ alive Shaun! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. In my last relationship there really wasn’t any compromise, only I didn’t realise it at the time. It’s only looking back that I can see how many sacrifices I made. But such is life and love.
    Now I know that I’d never want to be in that position again, so I’d look for different qualities 🙂

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    1. Ah, this is what I tried to address in my end paragraph. I am really sorry to hear about your last relationship! Some people are takers, and the compromise really will be entirely one sided then. That’s definitely not healthy and I am glad you’ve realised that whilst reflecting, it’s definitely something to be wary of.

      Hopefully I didn’t imply that was the right way to be, my main idea for the post was to address the relationships where someone isn’t able to give as much. My girlfriend has epilepsy, for example, so there are times when she has to take time out, or we have to go to the hospital, and from an outside perspective it may look like I do more for her… but I think it’s a very petty way of seeing things. I may give that extra, but it’s because I’m able to and I want to, it doesn’t mean what she gives isn’t just as important, she might just not have as much free strength that day…

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        1. Thank you! I was just very aware there’s that side of things… the people that take without any reciprocation… and was worried I made it seem too much like that, haha 🙂

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