Compromise is Not for the Weak; Neither is Stubbornness for the Strong

I remember the first fight I had with my wife. It was shortly after we married and she moved into the house I was renting. I came home from work one day and reached for a glass in the cabinet where glasses were supposed to be, but there were no glasses there.

My wife had rearranged the dishes in the kitchen cabinets, and that was not OK. I had arranged the dishes, cups, glasses, pots and pans exactly where I thought they should be: the most-used stuff in the most convenient places, the least-used in the least-convenient, etc.

I didn’t mind her rearranging everything if she had just cleared it with me. Surely, I would have let her have her way on some things; I just thought that she needed to check with me before redoing anything that I had done.

That was my thinking, but somehow, my wife didn’t see it that way. To her, being a full partner in the marriage meant being able to change some things – not everything, but at least some things – without asking permission. That was her thinking.

It was not our last fight. We’ve had quote a few. But 25 years, two kids and three moves later, we’re still together. In fact, we recently celebrated our 25th anniversary with a wonderful, romantic week in Paris.

As soon as we got back from Paris, my wife left for a long-term, out-of-town assignment for her job. It was not a convenient time for this assignment; we were in the process of selling our house. She was still out of town when we sold the house, though she did fly back into town for a weekend to help move.

We were moving to an apartment until the house we’re having built is finished. I moved in by myself. Our kids are both away at college, so I was really by myself – for the first time since before I was married. Just me and the dog.

Last month, my wife’s long-term assignment ended and she came back to town and moved into our apartment. I came home from work one day and reached for a glass in the cabinet where glasses were supposed to be, but there were no glasses there.

“Honey, where did you move the glasses?” I said.

My wife and I have learned to live together by compromising. Really, it’s more collaborating; I’ve learned what she really cares about, and she’s learned what I really care about.

For instance, I’m much more into sussing out details on utilities. This is something I read up on, discuss with friends. When it comes to picking cable or cell phone providers, she’s glad to leave that to me. I’m glad I don’t have to waste precious brain cells figuring out where to store dishes. I leave that to my wife.

This country is becoming more divided by the day. Republicans and Democrats can’t even agree among themselves; agreeing with someone from the other party is unimaginable.

In the past few months, there was a bitter fight in Congress – among Democrats – on a $1.2 trillion package shoring up our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and taking some small steps to fight climate change. Democrats can’t agree among themselves on a larger social spending bill.

There was bipartisan support for the infrastructure bill but the vast majority of Republicans are against the social spending bill. Should the Democrats try harder for compromise? Yes, but there’s little evidence that anyone on the other side will meet them halfway. You could condemn Republicans but keep in mind that many in their own party refuse to compromise with one another.

Too many see compromise as a sign of weakness. To me, compromise is difficult and it takes strength. And it can certainly strengthen a relationship (and perhaps a country?)

To quote the late, great George Harrison: Isn’t it a pity, now isn’t it a shame.

Picture of Dan Holly
Dan Holly
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