Read the Fine Print Before the Proposal
I’ve always been fond of the icebreaker “two truths and a lie”. It helps strangers to quickly learn meaningful information about each other in a group setting. Once people are paired up they take turns giving each other 3 statements about themselves. The listener has to guess which of the 3 statements is true, while learning that the other 2 statements are lies. When people that have experienced marriage try to prepare unmarried couples for the journey that lies ahead, the process can be eerily similar. In fact, there is one common lie that distracts people from 2 very important truths about marriage. Let’s separate the facts from fiction:
The lie: Marriage is about compromise.
Right up there with the “birds and the bees” talk is the age-old “marriage is about compromise” talk. Like a rite of passage, marriage veterans have been passing down a common message to singles about the mysteries of marriage. The problem is that it’s just as watered down as the dreaded sex talk that parents have with adolescents. The motivation for wrapping the truth in a beautiful bow is cloaked in an assumption that the truth is too graphic. Hearing the dirty details could scare off blissfully ignorant and in love partners, and no one wants that, right?
On the contrary, there’s much value to be gained from the truth. Asserting that marriage is about compromise doesn’t begin to paint a clear picture for bright-eyed and bushy-tailed couples that are considering tying the knot. The truth is, marriage is about real concession. At times you won’t get what you want. Not even a piece of it, as compromise suggests. Finding the middle ground in some areas of marriage can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. When one partner expresses extreme discomfort if they can’t get a particular need met consistently, a ‘happy’ medium doesn’t always exist. If you completely sacrifice your desires to meet your partner’s needs or wants, there is no guarantee that the reciprocity will circle back around on the next occasion. An even harder truth is that you just might become a lesser version of yourself to exist in your marriage.
Is this normal? Should you adjust your expectations or fight your partner tooth and nail to continue to be the “you” that existed before becoming a “we”? The type of partner you chose could determine your fate.
If you fall in love with someone that has opposite but complementary interests and strengths, you may be setting yourself up for a lifetime of concession in some important areas. Different interests and strengths usually come along with different approaches to problems and needs for achieving comfort. Having a partner with different needs requires deeper understanding, increased patience, and greater sacrifice. Translation-more work.
It’s normal to feel exhausted if you’re doing this work. The fight to check some of your individual desires for the sake of creating comfort and harmony in a relationship is one that you should enter with extreme caution. Everyone is not created for a lifetime of concession. Some times you just need things to go your way. Blending your life with another person will have its struggles no matter how similar your interests are. However, finding a partner that understands the things you can’t live without and is willing to provide those things without experiencing too much personal hardship is a winning combination.
If you’re in a relationship that requires consistent concession, having scheduled alone time can actually recharge and empower you. Get buy-in from your partner to plan meaningful breaks that allow both of you to have time and space to be yourselves again. Enjoy hobbies, friendships, and trips that allow you to reconnect with who you are outside of the relationship. Come back together and appreciate the differences that add value to each other.
If you haven’t tied the knot yet, then skip the lies and arm yourself with the truth about marriage. Beyond the honeymoon phase, it can be an extremely rewarding experience if you are willing to lose for the sake of togetherness. However, the only way to it is through it.