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Weddings and Relationships

The Art of Compromise

Once W-day is over, it’s all about settling into a lifetime of happy-ever-afters...

But with inevitable bumps along the way, from who stacks the dishwasher to living proximity to the in-laws, you both need to learn how to meet in the middle. Here, we’ve got (some of) the answers…

Your first holiday to Ibiza was a no-brainer; buying the house was a cinch (Victorian conversion, no fitted carpets); and when you really, really want your own way, you know just how to wrap your other half around your little finger. However, once the dust has settled on the W-day celebrations and real life resumes, remember you’re in it for the long haul and, somewhere along the line, there will be discussions, dilemmas and, dare we say it, even disagreements. But how best can you navigate your way through the maze of the joys of matrimony?

Pick your battles

Relationship therapist and coach, Jane Wilkin, explains the importance of knowing what’s important to you when it comes to life’s little tiffs. “A seemingly simple issue,” she says, “such as where to put the sofa, can become blown out of all proportion if both sides have strong views.” The issue can then become about winning, rather than the actual placement of the sofa. “Back up and ask yourself why you want it that way,” says Jane. “Was it like that in your last house; is your parents’ sofa that way; is Feng Shui important to you? Understanding why something is important to you enables you to make wise decisions on whether this is a battle worth fighting.”

The small stuff

‘Don’t Sweat It’ is a mantra we’ve heard more often than not when it comes to life’s minutiae, but, like the sofa, sometimes it’s the little things that can manifest into bigger problems. Try not to let things fester: it’s better to talk things through rather than let them chip away at you. Recent bride, Rachel, remembers how her new husband’s desire to read out the newspaper headlines at breakfast each morning started as a distraction but led to an emotional breakdown. “I just wanted to sit quietly and wake up,” she says “and my husband was firing topical questions at me and enforcing his political point of view. I sat through many a breakfast in silence but in the end I confessed how difficult I found it, but only through floods of tears!” she remembers. “Sometimes we think things don’t matter, but then we find ourselves blowing up disproportionately,” agrees Jane. “In these instances, we have compromised on something we need, but we didn’t realise we had until it was too late. This goes for things like time alone, time with friends, exercise, sleep and regular meals. We each have different needs for these, so ignore them at your (and your partner’s) peril.”

In it to win it

OK, there’s no i in team. But there is in compromise. Couples often worry that compromise means neither person gets what they want, but in reality the opposite is true. Compromise is about winning, but rather than just one of you winning, it can be a win for both sides. “The art of compromise is about not focusing on what you have to give up, but what you’ve got instead,” says Jane. “Try to focus on what you gained from giving something up.”

Let it go

If you have relinquished your point of view, that’s not where the story ends. “Sometimes you really do have to give up something that is important too,” agrees Jane. “But you need to learn to let go gracefully. So don’t keep reminding your partner what you gave up for them – they will feel guilty, possibly sad or even angry, and certainly not appreciative. Don't keep reminding yourself either! Torturing yourself about what you gave up is not going to help anyone, least of all you,” says Jane. “Focus on their happy face and remember the old adage that there is more joy in giving than receiving, and go easy on yourself; it’s OK to grieve for what you didn’t choose.”

“At the same time, if you insist on winning all your battles, you’ll find that you might win all the battles but lose the war. There is a lot of strength in simply giving in because it makes your partner happy, and let’s face it, a happy spouse is a more agreeable spouse next time you need to negotiate something,” says Jane. Saying that, if you agree to everything they want, you might start to find the spark diminishing. Jane agrees: “You may end up resentful and, contrary to expectation, your partner may have less respect for you. There is nothing more confusing than giving someone everything they seem to want, only to find they want something more feisty!” The answer? “This is where knowing what is important to you – and being able to articulate it clearly to your partner – comes in.” So don’t be afraid to show yourself and what you believe in – honest passion is attractive.

Can you feel it?
It’s far easier to understand how someone feels if you have walked in their shoes, so try to understand your other half’s feelings during any disagreements. Understanding their point of view is crucial to finding a way for you both to be happy. If you don’t even understand what it is they want, how are you meant to incorporate their thoughts and feelings into any long-term goals? In order to ascertain how your partner is feeling, and, importantly, let them know you understand where they are coming from, try reflecting back their argument by saying “I hear you say this…” or “You want that, is this right?” This is a great platform from which to begin your discussions rather than firing in head first with assumptions and guesswork which can cause confusion and misunderstandings. “Learn to ask what is important to you and your partner now. Sometimes we get so tied up with our life and our own needs that we forget to find out what is important to the other person. We think we know them and what they care about, but we can forget when our circumstances change, like when we get married or a baby arrives, that a whole host of often unconscious expectations hit not only us, but the other person as well,” says Jane. “If we hear our partner (or ourselves in our own heads) say ‘but it has to be like this’ or ‘it’s always done this way’, it’s a cue to both to check out where this comes from, and explore what is important right now.”

For more information on Jane Wilkin, call 07939 340041 or visit Facebook: My Mindful Relationship. "I provide face-to-face professional therapeutic support to individuals and couples in the Exeter area. Helping you strengthen the relationships in your life, including yourself, your partner, and those close to you. If you do not live near Exeter and need support, I offer Skype and phone sessions."

words Elizabeth Chester

Copyright Wed magazine 2016