Everybody copies each other. People take their cues for how to behave from all around, like a flock of birds that wheel in formation. It’s hard to accept this; everyone has a sense of uniqueness and independence, yet people constantly watch and copy each other. Acting differently would be seen as unpredictable, hence potentially unsafe, and invite rejection by the tribe. A good example is fashion, which only exists because of the way people copy each other. Bowler hats, anyone? Who’s for a mullet cut? Such conformity is, of course, a matter of degree. There are leaders, artists and rebels who imagine things differently and create social change.
Just as people take their cues of what to wear from other people, so do they take on what is acceptable couples behavior from relationship counselors.
In last week’s blog we addressed the myth that all relationships take hard work. Today we would like to discuss another concept pushed by relationship experts far and wide, and that is the idea that compromise is the way to find solutions in a relationship.
For us, this is a misleading and often destructive idea. The underlying principle of compromise is that you give something up in order to get something else. It is based on the belief that because each person in a relationship is different, that the partners will have to deny their wishes in order to make their partner happy and keep peace in the relationship.
This could not be further from the truth. Difference can be experienced as enrichment, as something that gets added, rather than something which presents problems that call for sacrifice. We have found another path, one which continually surprises us with its wonderful results.
People say compromise is the way to find solutions in a relationship. They’re wrong #relationships Click To TweetWe call this Our Process, and it is described thoroughly in our latest book, “How Two: Have a Successful Relationship.” This process is a way to find mutual solutions. We describe a way you can talk with each other and an attitude you can use to work on problem solving and decision making that is founded on the understanding that you are looking for something that will work for both of you without either giving anything up. It is based on the knowledge that you are on the same side, want the same things for yourselves and each other, and are willing to be flexible enough to realize that your way may not be all there is.
It’s not like solving a crossword puzzle where there is only one correct solution. (A notable exception is the 1996 New York Times election-day crossword where the clue “Lead story in tomorrow’s newspaper” could be filled in as BOBDOLE ELECTED or CLINTON ELECTED.) It’s more like our plan to drive to Yellowstone where we can choose any number of routes.
It does require that you are in agreement on core values. If you have a wanderlust and your partner is a homebody, there may not be a solution that works for both of you. Kids, money, lifestyle – sometimes you both want different things, but when you have the same vision for life, there is always, always, a way to find mutual solutions.
Flexibility is key to the process. By entering into a dialogue in which each of you share what you want, and by giving the details of what is behind that desire, what the components are of what you are actually looking for, a clearer understanding will arise between the two of you. Listening and staying open are necessary to this experience. You must be open to other possibilities. Don’t hold on to your original position through stubbornness; don’t feel that looking at alternatives is an admission that you are wrong.
Sharing in this open manner, with no attachment to the outcome, invariably results in an almost magical occurrence. Out of the intimacy of this kind of exchange, something new arises. It is not the original idea of either of you, but rather something better, encompassing the desires of both of you. It is like a child created together, with all of both of you and more! This is what we mean by finding mutual solutions.
Once you have this experience, you will want more of it. You will enter these discussions happily with no expectation other than that you know at the end, you will come out with more than you went into it with, not less!