Compromise and Boundary Setting
By: Jessica Plancich, MFT

It is a basic human desire to be accepted and loved. We are social beings and as primates, we thrive in packs and communities. The difficulty in this is that by looking to the outside for this acceptance, we will be forever disappointed, as you have no jurisdiction over other people’s behavior. You do, however, have the capacity to accept yourself and to value who and what you are, regardless of externalities. Underpinnings of self esteem and confidence play major roles here, but the solution to this begins once again (you know the drill by now)…within you. I like to draw the analogy of wedding planning. Those of you who’ve been through this know that there’s no earthly way to please every person who is invested in your life when it comes to celebrating your nuptials. Those who attempt to do so find themselves crazed and droned out on anti-anxiety medication and sleep aids just to deal with it all. Meanwhile, the “happy” couple find themselves further and further from their ideal and lost in the sea of everyone else’s idea about how you should inaugurate your union. The same goes for those who go about their lives attempting to bend and contort themselves to meet the ever changing desires of others. Crazy making I say.

Chances are, if this is a pattern you see in your romance, it is likely showing up in other relationships of yours as well. It’s a vicious and seductive cycle because you’ve likely received positive feedback and praise (in the form of more money, sex or verbal acknowledgement) when you do what others want and ask of you and negative feedback (in the form of rejection, hostile behavior or judgment) in an effort to punish you when you don’t go along with their reindeer games. Admit it; you’ve done the same to others in your life when you’re trying to “train” them to do what you want. At times, I will even suggested that you use a similar strategy to positively reinforce the things that you want your partner to do more of (and no, I haven’t suggested that you reject or punish each other in an effort to manipulate behavior).

The next thought I hear you saying is, “That’s great and fine, like and love myself, blah, blah, blah…so what do I do about the every day demands that my partner/ family place upon me?” The praise feels good and punishment feels bad. What to do? As long as you’re on this loop, you’ll drive yourself nuts. Instead, I want you to check in with what is your first choice about a given situation. Before you say yes to a request of you just because your partner asked or because it’s your usual reflex to wanting to please, do a brief check in.

- What’s your preference?
- How far away is this preference from your partner’s request?
- Is this request something that would benefit or serve your spouse or your family in some way?
- If the answer is yes, can you agree to do so without resentment and bitterness?
- If the answer is no, then that’s when you need to speak up.

Ask yourself a few more questions:
- Are you inclined to say no because you’d rather be doing something else?
- Are you inclined to decline because you feel too strapped or that it goes beyond what you sense you have the capacity to give and go a good job at? (i.e. are you overwhelmed or too stressed to handle it?)
- Do you want to say no because it would involve facing changing, shifting or altering areas of needed improvement in yourself that you’ve know about, but been reluctant to address?
- What other options would you consider?
- What would a compromise look like to you?

I want to encourage you to use some of the assertiveness skills I’ve written about to help you verbalize your preference in a respectful and direct way. Though you may think that the only option your partner will find agreeable is the one that agrees with their stance, if you’re doing so with resentment, you’re not putting your all into it. If you had to be honest with yourself, you know that in those moments that you’ve compromised for the sake of someone else, you wind up disappointed with yourself. Though you may initially want to blame him/her for “putting” such demands on you, they’re only asking…it’s entirely up to you to decide how you want to handle it. Regardless of guilt, manipulation and judgment, your choices need to be sound for you. If it’s not good for everyone involved, it’s time to look into other options until a mutually beneficial one is found.

Another, perhaps more important side of this is that by taking these steps to speak your truth (with love), you’re honoring your true nature. Though your beloved may not like what this brings up, they’ll ultimately respect you for being honest with yourself. When you dim your light and hide your real self, you compromise your soul and there’s no excuse for that.

Honor yourself. Speak your truth. Handle differences with love.

Author's Bio: 

Jessica Plancich, MA, MFT is a licensed marriage family therapist with a background in clinical, spiritual and somatic psychology, reiki, yoga and massage therapy. She uses an integrative approach to healing and fuses Eastern and Western wisdom. Additionally, her company, Innerfinity specializes in assisting people to live from the heart and make choices in wellness, relationships and service that are motivated from the sage within. Through her own practices and insights, she hopes to inspire others to activate their intrinsic gifts and highest potential.