Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.

– Albert Camus

You know that moment when you’ve decided to plan a surprise/do something nice for/spend quality time with someone, only they decide to get really upset with you instead? Today’s post is about that.

Last week on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we talked about adventure, imagination, and surprisology – how to bring them into your love life and then bask in your own glory/enjoy the exciting results. 

Today, we’d like to address what happens when our plans don’t go as planned and the results are exciting in the worst way possible.

As many of us know too well, it’s incredibly demoralizing to have our creative efforts backfire, especially when they’ve been made in order to spend quality time with those we love. In these moments, we’ve put time and energy into thinking of ways to make our partners happy, only to end up embroiled in conflict. It’s no wonder we feel totally helpless! 

In these moments, it’s important to remember that we have a choice. 

We can either let our hurt, angry selves operate on autopilot in the conflict that follows (doing a bit of damage here, suffering a few ego-hits there…) or we can realize that our partners might:

(a) have other (reasonable?) ideas about what constitutes a good time!

(b) be genuinely busy, and simply need a rain-check!

(c) be interested in connecting, albeit in a slightly different way!

We can still connect. All it takes is a deep breath and willingness to adapt to the new reality: a need for compromise.

How do you and your partner generally handle these situations? Do you meet each other half-way, or argue until someone storms out or bursts into tears? Does one of you tend to give in, or do you find mutually acceptable middle-ground? 

Take the quiz below to get a sense of the state of compromise in your relationship, reading each statement and marking it True or False!

  1. Our decisions often get made by both of us compromising (T/F)
  2. We are usually good at resolving our differences (T/F)
  3. I can give in when I need to, and often do. (T/F)
  4. I can be stubborn in an argument, but I’m not opposed to compromising (T/F)
  5. I think that sharing power in a relationship is very important (T/F)
  6. My partner is not a very stubborn person (T/F)
  7. I don’t believe that one person is right and the other wrong on most issues (T/F)
  8. We both believe in meeting each other half way when we disagree (T/F)
  9. I am able to yield somewhat even when I feel strongly on an issue (T/F)
  10. The two of us usually arrive at a better decision through give-and-take (T/F)
  11. It’s a good idea to give in somewhat, in my view (T/F)
  12. In discussing issues, we can usually find our common ground of agreement (T/F)
  13. Everyone gets some of what they want when there’s a compromise (T/F)
  14. My partner can give in, and often does (T/F)
  15. I don’t wait until my partner gives in before I do (T/F)
  16. When I give in first, my partner then gives in too (T/F)
  17. Yielding power is not very difficult for my partner (T/F)
  18. Yielding power is not very difficult for me (T/F)
  19. Give-and-take in making decisions is not a problem in this relationship (T/F)
  20. I will compromise even when I believe I am right (T/F)

Now, check your score! If more than half of your responses were False (10+), you’ve got some work to do on compromise in your relationship. If less than half of your responses were False, you’ve still got some work to do on compromise in your relationship! You can always work on compromising with your partner. This questionnaire is simply meant to give you an idea of the current state of affairs.

Compromise is something we all struggle with on a daily basis, whether most of our battles are fought silently, with ourselves, or out loud, with others. Our abilities in this department may seem to fluctuate, depending on all sorts of external variables beyond our control. But compromise is a art that can be learned!

Stay tuned to get a peek at Dr. Gottman’s research-based tips on the art of compromise. Look forward to learning more in tomorrow’s step-by-step lesson, and get a chance to practice your new skills in Friday’s Weekend Homework Assignment!

P.S. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies, it’s compromise that moves us along!

More in The Archives
Quiz: Creativity and Compromise
Ellie Lisitsa

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.