There are many methods for solving problems and making decisions that couples employ. One of the more popular ones is compromise. This can be a good technique for avoiding conflict for many relationships. Instead of digging your heels in and refusing to yield an inch, it works by trading off. Each party gives up certain positions in exchange for achieving other goals, with each side ideally giving up roughly the same amount. This balance may apply to an individual situation or, as is more often the case, average out over a longer period.
The very principle behind compromise suggests that it is necessary to give something up in order to get something else, so loss or defeat is an intrinsic aspect of the process. Each one wants to reach a place of agreement (hopefully!) and so each party gives some of their desires up to accommodate their partner, and try to reach a working decision or solution.
There is nothing wrong with this approach, but it is very different from ours. We do not use compromise for making decisions and reaching agreement. Instead, we have found a process by which neither of us winds up giving anything up. Neither does one of us wind up getting “their way”, as it were.
It works because there are nearly always other routes, other choices that we have not thought of or examined closely. By not being attached to our original position, we can hear each other’s viewpoint and learn why our partner feels the way they do. These two pieces of information change our view of the situation and allow us to find alternate possibilities. We get the chance to see another vision that is different from the one we are holding. By listening with the intention to hear, by remembering that we are both on the same side, by having the intent to discover mutual solutions, we explore alternatives and discuss why they do and don’t work for us.
By continuing this process of exploring alternate possibilities, new possibilities emerge which are not the position that either of us began with. We eventually find a place that works for both of us, one that still includes the elements that are important to each of us.
This new solution is one that neither of us started with, and probably couldn’t have found individually as it is the product of a shared consciousness. It is something we have co-created. The solution is always a surprise and an enrichment for each of us, and the more we practice this, the easier and more fun it becomes.
So if you want to experience a new way of handling decision making and problem solving, try a new adventure. The key to it is not being attached to your original position. You don’t always have to give something up to have a mutually satisfying result!
Note: for a step-by-step description of how to do this, sign up for our relationship newsletter in the box on the right (or below on your phone), and get a written and audio version of the chapter on Our Process from our forthcoming book How Two: Have a Successful Relationship.