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Compromise & Reactivity

Compromise sets the stage for reactivity.  The most common process of compromise is that you give up something you want and I will give up something I want and we will meet unhappily in the middle.  Over time we will start to resent each other and become less and less resourced in the relationship.  Reactivity is powered by habit energy.  When your needs go unmet, your ability to be thoughtful and intentional lessens and reactive habits fill in the gaps.

Reactivity that arises out of compromise sounds like this:  "I feel suffocated in this relationship!" "I need my own space!" "I just want to be free to make my own decisions", "I don't know who I am anymore", "I feel like we are just two passing ships", or "My needs don't matter."

What you really want in relationship is collaboration – a mutual effort to ensure everyone's needs are met.  Why does this seem like an impossible dream?

When you are stuck in your favorite strategies, options are few and it seems there is no way to meet everyone's needs.  When you are connected to needs options are endless.  Often with a heart connection, your needs shift and you let go of an idea not out of compromise, but out of a genuine need to contribute to your partner's well-being.

Getting to the needs can be the tricky part.  I won't lie to you; it takes a strong commitment to mindful living to make the shift from thinking in strategies to living from needs.

It's helpful in making the shift to recognize the beliefs behind compromise and those behind collaboration.  Here are a few you can track. I have written examples of compromise first and that of collaboration second in italics.

I have to give up what I want to make this relationship work. 
This relationship will only work if I am loyal and honest in my feelings and needs and am willing to connect to your feelings and needs.

I have too many needs.  I just have to cut them off.
All my needs are valid and can be met in ways I haven't yet imagined.

We just have different needs and have to accept that.
We have the same needs that come up at different times and are met in different ways.  It's essential to embrace our differences around the ways our needs are met.

If you loved me you would know my needs and how to meet them.
I have different needs alive every moment and it is my responsibility to let you know what they are how they are met (they may be met by you or someone else).

I am responsible for fixing your problems and anticipating both your needs and requests
I hold you responsible for your own needs and requests.  I don't offer problem solving or advice unless you ask me, and even I really make sure I understand your experience before offering my view.

Perhaps the most difficult part of embracing the consciousness of true collaboration is getting honest about certain things your partner may never really want to do with you.  For example, you may be passionate about kayaking and find that it meets so many needs for you that you can't imagine not sharing this incredible activity with your partner.  Your partner goes kayaking to please you, but doesn't really enjoy it, especially not the way you do.  Afterwards you feel disappointed because your need for celebration wasn't met.  Instead of admitting that your partner just doesn't enjoy kayaking you try to talk her into liking it and look for just the perfect way to go kayaking so that she will finally see how great it is. 

I have worked with couples who spent decades pleading with each other to do that one favorite activity together.  Sadly this pattern deposits buckets of resentment into the relationship.  From a consciousness of collaboration you honor and perhaps mourn the differences between the two of you and then ask these questions:  "What could we do together that we both easily enjoy?"  "For that which I am passionate about and my partner is not, am I willing to find friends with which to share that activity?"

This week watch for a situation in which you are tempted to compromise.  It often comes in the form of thinking you have to do something for someone else.  Take stock of what needs you're hoping to meet by doing that and what needs you think might be at cost.  What would it look like to enter that situation from the consciousness of collaboration?  Which of the collaboration beliefs, written in italics above, are most relevant to the situation?

***click here for a list of feelings and universal needs

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2 Responses

  1. Mar 21, 2013

    This one really hits home right now. I have a professional relationship on hold with a colleague ("Dan") because we couldn't find a way to meet needs for collaboration and fun, among others. Originally I offered a strategy that I thought would meet needs for connection, communication and collaboration. In the end, it wasn't a strategy that would work for Dan and as we sat with how things were between us professionally, the need for fun and space were most up. The strategy he proposed, and I agreed to, was taking a break from working together to meet those needs. The arrangement has left me feeling sad and wanting a better quality of connection between the two of us. My first instinct was to fill the space with other work and let go, but I'm trying to find a way to remain open to a potential re-engagement in the future while still focusing on other professional opportunities. Whether we re-engage working together is not really my concern. It's the quality of the connection between us. Right now I'm feeling awkward and wanting trust...self trust that I can keep turning toward this situation and not just run from it, while also being aware enough to know when to let go. I also want trust that the quality of our connection matters to Dan. Would love to check it out with him right now, but I'm wanting to honor the need for space too. Sitting with this Gem has helped me hold my unmet needs a little easier for now and inspires me to deepen my understanding of collaboration and how that quality of interaction unfolds in any relationship. Thanks!

  2. Mar 22, 2013

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment Tricia. I am glad I could support you in this process. I appreciate your willingness to keep checking with your integrity about the energy you want to give to your relationship with Dan.

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