crack in the asphaltI look back at some of my past relationships and I compromised and was so compromised that I didn’t recognise myself. My boundaries would get battered, I’d forget about things that I valued, and I would morph to reduce the conflicts that were arising in my relationship, both between myself and the guy, and also within me. This was all in the hope that the payoff would be a happy relationship, however instead, I became so distanced from myself, it was like the real me was trapped inside begging to be let out.

The word ‘compromise’ can be really overused and misused in relationships, as if doing it has something to do with changing yourself to meet other people’s agendas. This means that we’re either compromising about the wrong things (we let go of fundamental boundaries and values making ourselves automatically incompatible anyway) or we compromise way too early in the relationship...and probably about the wrong things again!

I don’t mean this in a narcissistic, selfish way, but, if you ensure that you are covering off your own boundaries and values, which means that you are taking care of your sense of self, you are far more equipped to take care of others without it having to detract from you.

People generally compromise to avoid conflict. The big trouble is that whether you compromise or not, conflict is going to happen in relationships, even if you don’t want to accept that fact. We can have very unrealistic expectations of ourselves, our partners, and what we expect to happen in relationships, and when conflict arises, we panic and wonder if the relationship is doomed to hell. We suddenly start seeing problems as insurmountable and looking at our partners in a different light. Or we assume that the way to resolve conflicts is to quickly remedy the situation with whatever we think will make them love us and want us. Whilst we can’t always be level headed, a lot of the time we knee-jerk ourselves into resolving the conflict by compromising even when it’s not actually necessary.

When you compromise to avoid conflict, this is a negative basis that can end up setting a really unhealthy tone for the relationship.

You’re not compromising out of a positive place. In fact, you’re not even compromising; you’re just throwing yourself at the mercy of the relationship and hoping everything will even out.

Relationships are not about keeping score and actually, when you’re in a healthy relationship where both of you have both of your feet in and empathise and share with one another enough to act in one another’s interests, much like ‘working’ at a relationship, when you do compromise, it’s not a hardship and you probably won’t even call it a compromise.

But we do have to learn to work our way through conflict. We also sometimes have to acknowledge what the true meaning and cause of the conflict is, to ascertain what it means in the wider context of the relationship.

A prime example of this is if you are involved with someone who likes to have things on their terms. Maybe conflict arises when you suggest doing something that you have planned. They put up resistance so you quickly shift position and agree to their plans. The next time a conflict arises, it may be because you want to progress the relationship and they’re ‘not ready’. In your desire to keep him, you agree to keep thing casual. In another conflict, you express your unhappiness about the fact that he did something thoughtless and uncaring. He shuts down and then refuses to speak with you or even disappears. You quickly apologise and he gives a half hearted apology.

The net result is that not only are you compromising yourself, but after a while, you learn where conflict is likely to arise and pre-empt situations to avoid further conflict.

Next thing you’re meek, mild, and agreeable.

Or you start to voice your feelings/anger about something and even though you may be justified, you quickly backtrack and even apologise unnecessarily.

You find yourself involved in a relationship that you didn’t agree to.

You keep wondering why everything is on their terms.

You wonder why they won’t compromise.

You wonder how you thought they had compromised only for them to do exactly what they had originally intended to do – yep, passive aggression at its best.

Another example is that sometimes we can be so desperate to fill voids and hypersensitive after the end of our previous relationships, that we start out compromising by essentially being someone different to who we are. We are operating off our fear and assume that if we don’t compromise ourselves that we will ‘lose’ them. Unfortunately this sets a very bad tone for the relationship. Often, further down the line, you can end up trying to shift your position and of course you’ll be met with resistance because this is not how they are used to dealing with you.

Likewise, in compromising so early in a relationship, we immediately teach the other person what to expect from us and they adjust their behaviour accordingly – this means if you’re operating without boundaries, they assume that what they can get away with is normal.

The best way of knowing how compromised you are in your relationships are to:

Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re someone you recognise. Are you being authentic? Do you have boundaries? Are you living true to your values? Can you remember what you like, what you’re interested in, and what motivates you?

When you do compromise, does it feel good? Or do you feel like you sold yourself down the river? When we compromise, it’s for the greater good of the relationship and an unselfish act – but what if you’re compromising for the greater good of a relationship that is fatally flawed and littered with red flags and boundary battering?

Is it just you compromising? The hallmark of a dodgy relationship is if it’s on one persons terms – that’s when you know that one person is compromising the crap out of themselves whilst the other is getting a free ride.

And how do you compromise?

Relationships aren’t about keeping score so it shouldn’t be tit for tat. When you do compromise, compromise positively and wholeheartedly because if you don’t, resentment sets in and you wonder when you’re going to get payback.

Make sure you’re compromising with someone who has the ability to empathise and understand your position. Likewise, make sure you understand their position. Step into their world.

Listen to one another’s needs. What feels earth shattering to us, doesn’t feel like it to them and vice versa. As a result, this opens up great opportunities for compromise because by understanding one another’s needs (or doing your best to), you don’t always have to knock heads and you get to appreciate life from their perspective.

Make sure you have real common ground and values. It’s all very well having a shared interest in the outdoors and reading high brow books, but if there isn’t mutual love, care, trust, and respect and shared values, you will become incompatible and throw yourselves into compromising on things that are fundamentally important to you.

Have boundaries. Boundaries are not something you compromise on which means that both of you have limits.

Compromise shouldn’t create a ‘loss’ – this is why so many relationships struggle because when people compromise, they do things that cost them their sense of self.

Don’t do anything that leaves you feeling that you are being taken advantage of. Likewise, be adult enough to recognise that holding your ground on everything for fear of appearing weak is a highly destructive behaviour for the relationship – you may as well ride solo.

Be someone of your word. There is nothing worse than compromising with someone only to find that the other person has reneged. If it happens regularly, it’s a sure sign of passive aggression. Reneging on the deal means that you’re not compromising; you’re making all the right noises and steering things around to what suits you on the quiet. Very manipulative and controlling – two things that don’t bode well for relationships. If you find yourself with someone like this, it’s just another indicator of their actions not matching their words.

Make sure you’re compromising with someone where there is level ground. If someone else holds the powerbase or you have them on a pedestal looking down on you, this is not a meeting of equals so you can’t compromise positively as one of you is on negative footing and the other is reaping the benefits.

Compromise is fundamentally about finding a middle ground. If there is no middle ground in your relationship, you’re operating off extremes and that’s not compromise and it’s certainly not the basis for a healthy relationship.

Don’t compromise on the basics – don’t compromise on love, care, trust, and respect, and don’t compromise yourself into a dubious relationship position – If someone downgrades you from girlfriend to booty call, don’t hang around waiting for a new upgrade…

Whatever you do, do not compromise the fundamental you in the relationship. You’re a valuable entity, even if you haven’t quite realised that yet. If you rub yourself out of existence by morphing and adapting to suit every person you’re involved with, you’ll lose sight of yourself. You are what you bring to the table so if someone wants to play solo instead of being a team player, it’s best to let them hang solo instead of taking one for the team…that doesn’t exist.

Your thoughts?

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15 Responses to Are You Compromised In Your Relationships?

  1. Aurora says:

    I compromised, and then I hated him for the arrogant selfishness I should have recognized from the beginning.
    There was never a level or middle ground, although he pretended to want one from me, it was always dodgy.
    Had I stuck to what I knew were healthy boundaries, I would have avoided a year’s worth of trouble from someone who never intended to give me anything and just wanted to take.
    Meanwhile, I lied to myself about what I was doing, and told myself it was okay.
    It wasn’t, and now I’m paying the price of having to look in the mirror at my own bad behavior pattern.
    .-= Aurora´s last blog ..Anne Boleyn =-.

  2. You are the best at describing exactly what it is like. The first paragraph is right on the mark. I’ve always found compromise to be a delicate issue. It’s easy to compromise something you really don’t want to. Compromise should be a positive growth experience or you shouldn’t be compromising. I was so glad to read, “conflict is going to happen in relationships, even if you don’t want to accept that fact” because so many times people will freak out and want to instantly break up when the first little skirmish happens. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one to fight. I don’t like to fight and avoid it. I like peace and serenity, but I am realistic and it is natural. People that don’t accept conflict as realistic really get me. When you wrote, “A prime example of this is if you are involved with someone who likes to have things on their terms. Maybe conflict arises when you suggest doing something that you have planned,” this describes my last relationship perfectly. I was so sick of it being all about what he wanted to do as if I was invisible or something. This leads to: “Next thing you’re meek, mild, and agreeable,” and “You keep wondering why everything is on their terms,” as well as “You wonder why they won’t compromise.” Yup, that was me and I was getting sick of it. I love your advice, “Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re someone you recognise.” I’ve had this happen and it can take awhile after the relationship is over to recognize yourself. “When you do compromise, does it feel good? Or do you feel like you sold yourself down the river?” Nope, it doesn’t feel good. I love your “sold down the river” analogy. This is what I mean about it being a positive change. There are times in the past I have experienced compromise as a good thing, but it is rare. Thank you again for your wonderful and insightful writing. I tweeted it.

  3. trinity says:

    Mine was about him holding the power, i didnt see it at the time, unfortnetly. By him blowing hot and cold, then really withdrawing from me, the relationship and our future for days to weeks. After awhile i started to not bring things up that were upsetting me or made me feel uncomfortable. I new that if i did there was a HUGE chance he would withdraw. I felt trapped. This meant everything ended up being on his terms. At the time i thought he was just an emotional kind guy who got overwhelmed at things, kind, sweet. Now i see it was far more damaging than that. He kept using the moving out thing as a tool of control as well, at least it felt that way to me.. 1st we were going to move out, then he changed his mind which is fine if he wasnt ready. But each week he would talk about moving out, save money to move out, buy stuff to move out then if i dug a little deeper or something wasnt perfect that week, we were not moving out. I felt judged all the time, like i had to be perfect, like i couldnt have a bad day or off day? So confusing. I decided that him talking about it still and taking it away when ever he felt was making me miserable, i actually felt the weight of it beating down on me.I wanted to let it go so i could just be happy in the realtionship, then if we move out, then we move out. I was worried about going to him to simply say “lets just leave the moving out thing alone because talking about it all the time then taking it away causes dissapointment for me on a weekly basis” So i wrote an email, i spent about 4 hours on it because i was tip toeing, making sure i didnt accidently write something that would set him off, making sure i was being as sweet as possible, making sure i would not upset him. He had a habit of just picking out one small thing from an email or conversation. Well he found something in that email he didnt like, he went cold on me for one week, then dumped me on his birthday, then waited outside in his car untill i called all upset, then came back in, then said he did want me. I was heartbroken, confused and riddled with anxiety!! So, who never bought up moving out again? and who felt like she couldnt say anything to her partner through fear he would close down and leave. I was also then expected to have 100% trust in him. He told me in the last 6 months he felt he could not commit 100% to me, that he felt unsure of me. but expected that i should have 100% trust in him. He even went so far as to say in the last week of our realtionship, that me not trusting 100% caused the break up. I was so confused and devasted. How can you trust in someone who is saying im not sure about you? and in someone who is emtionally blackmailing you, at least it felt that way to me? and in someone who keeps withdrawing? any smart person after awhile starts thinking, “oh dear, im going to get hurt” and maybe not trust in him or at least his emtionally stability in the realtionship. Even writing, makes me feel confused! Talk about being compromised!

    God i was stupid :(

  4. Moving on in 2010 says:


    Boy, do I know about walking on eggshells when I crafted emails to my ex-EUM. I always made sure that I didn’t say something that would tick him off or make him not want me anymore. I made sure that I didn’t burden him with my problems for fear of him running away from me. That’s why in the last email ever that I wrote him, I put my foot down and wasn’t afraid to tell him how I really felt. I was so tired of putting on this act like I was all “happy clappy”.

    BTW-don’t EVER say that you are stupid. You were thinking more with your heart and not your mind. Give yourself a break :)

  5. Grateful For NML says:

    @Trinity – I can totally relate!!! As I was reading your comment, I kept nodding my head… “uh huh”…”yep”…”me too”…”I hear ya, girl”! Emotional blackmail, walking on eggshells, wording things extra sweet with cream ‘n’ sugar on top to avoid “the big scary abandonment”…it is truly a sick form of abuse, for sure!!! But it is such good news to know that we can escape that insanity, take responsibility for our part in it, and move on to a sincerely better life! <3

  6. Trinity says:

    compromise or not, conflict is going to happen in relationships, even if you don’t want to accept that fact. We can have very unrealistic expectations of ourselves, our partners, and what we expect to happen in relationships, and when conflict arises, we panic and wonder if the relationship is doomed to hell. We suddenly start seeing problems as insurmountable and looking at our partners in a different light.

    I completely agree. I found it unrealistic that my EUM seem to think the relationship wasn’t working or doomed because of conflict. The first confrontation I had with him, which was just a heated chat. He screamed “it’s not working, it’s over” this was over me being firm that I wasn’t interested in something. He was driving at the time and started swerving the car and yelling. It was very odd behaviour. It was laughable. I felt harshly judged all the time and there was no room for error or mistakes without being punished with withdrawing, going cold. This meant I couldn’t test boundaries, experience, be human, make mistakes and grow knowing it was safe to and that I wouldn’t just be thrown away, over nothing. I have to tell you, I’m a really nice girl, I’m loyal and open and caring and always willing to just talk about things. I really didn’t do much wrong, nothing bad. He even told me in a goodbye email that no one has treated him lovelier. His way was wrong and completly unrealistic. Conflict will happen, it’s life, it’s the way you choose to resolve and handle the conflict that matters. He chose the most counterproductive way then blamed me. What a tool.

  7. Nele says:

    @Trinity, thanks. No, of course you weren’t ‘stupid’! I think once you’re swept up in a certain kind of dynamic, that’s just what happens.

    I loved the article, spot on! I think the core statements for me where that compromise is about finding middle ground – not you covering all the distance – and that we should never compromise on basics. I think that’s where a lot of us fall on our faces, because we don’t ever tell ourselves that the dodgy compromise we just made actually does touch upon the basics (which are simply not in place, which we are afraid to acknowledge).

    Moi, similar to Trinity – he seemed so vulnerable and emotionally challenged, so I stopped bringing up certain things believing he just couldn’t handle them. (I doubt that he ever wondered whether I could ‘handle’ his moods/vanishing on me/drug taking/lack of life goals etc. etc., the list goes on.)

    And at the end (sure enough) he dumped me because I didn’t ‘accept’ him. And as in the case of Trinity, he had managed to pick one throwaway remark out of a mountain of ‘compromise’, niceness and kindness, to construct his case around it.

    Such endings prove that it is a power trip, pure and simple. We have to wise up. There simply is no real, mature, true compromising with people who run on notions of power, fear and control (like all EMUs), it’s in my experience a language they just don’t ‘do’.

  8. Prickly says:

    There’s been a lot of stuff in the last week or so about what a healthy relationship feels like and as someone who believes she is now in a healthy relationship, I’d like to say a few things about conflict. Before I met my EUM ex, I was known as an assertive, confident woman by friends, family and colleagues. In the four and a half years we were together I became meek, quiet and passive. I didn’t know this until I had left my EUM but I can see it for myself and have been told so, too. It was hard for people to guage as I’d moved away from my home town to be with him and he made it almost impossible for me to see the people I knew well, which should have been a big, fat, loud red flag. I am now married to an emotionally available man and boy, do my husband and I fall out, we can have some rows. But, we do not pretend it hasn’t happened, we do not blame each other OR ourselves, we do not use crocodile tears or promises of ‘never again’, we do not threaten to leave or abandon or dump each other, we do not use intimate information to wound each other and we do not let it fester. Instead, there is open and honest feedback when we feel calmer and have reflected on whatever upset things. And I mean ‘open and honest’. Sometimes some very difficult things are said in these moments, and it always proves to be worthwhile, it always creates closeness and deeper understanding. In the process, we both feel more ‘ourselves’ and although we can compromise, we do not feel compromised. The difference between him and what I had before is immeasurable, and my friends and family can see it, too (although some of them felt safer with the quiet, meek me!). Again, this post is spot on. I do congratulate you, nml, on your clear and perceptive writing, and I send so many people to your site. Fantastic stuff. Thanks.

  9. MaryC says:

    …….”and don’t compromise yourself into a dubious relationship position –if someone downgrades you from girlfriend to booty call, don’t hang around waiting for a new upgrade”.

    You couldn’t be more right NML. Been there, done that. Not a envious position to be in. Thankfully It makes me feel sick to my stomach to think that I did that all in the name of “love”. I won’t ever make that mistake again, too hard to look in the mirror the next day.

  10. DazedandConfused says:

    My ex and I broke up a few months ago. At that time, everything had been my fault and I believed it. I was too argumentative, overly emotional, sensitive, reactive, immature. I invested a few months in “bettering” myself. He came back… and I took him back thinking I’ll “prove” how much I have grown. However what that meant was never arguing (which meant me saying anything bothered me, and his losing his temper in return), I never said I would prefer to do X rather than Y on a Saturday night, I started refraining from speaking at all if I was unhappy, because at least this meant I wasn’t trying to start a fight… I stroked his ego, made sure he knew how much I cared, asked questions to try and better understand him, his needs, what upset him… And what happened? I lost myself. I became this pathetic mess who had no opinions, and was a total co-dependent and most importantly in trying to always meet his needs, had none of my own met.

    It all ended with him dumping ME again… and saying I was argumentative, etc. etc. So then I realized, that’s just his MO and when I did argue, it was my fault, when I was meager and pleasing, it was my fault. I compromised my entire being just to try and hold on to him this time and prove that I was really loveable.

    On a final note, I read a great book lately, actually a series of books. If any of your are sufferers of verbal abuse Patricia Evans writes fantastics books on this subject and on control. In it she describes the Teddy Syndrome, where a lot of these men just want their ideal…. they want you to bend and be what they want. When you figure out who you are, you can comfortably listen, and know when compromise is healthy and a good sign of mutuality in a relationship, vs. you letting your self be pushed around and just giving in.

    All the best.

  11. freeatlast says:

    I think I have spent most of my life compromising and reducing conflicts! There is no wonder I found myself in a relationship with an AC. It is time for me to wake up and be ‘me’, stick to boundaries and find someone who shares the same values as me. You are so right when you say there has to be mutual love, trust, care, respect. So obvious when you are out of a bad relationship but so many of us settle for less than we deserve.

    Thank you x

  12. RES says:

    Fantastic post!!! “You’re a valuable entity even if you don’t realize it yet.” Absolutely fabulous! :-)

  13. oo says:

    NML you just describe my relationship with my EX to a tee. I can’t decide which post is now is my very very favorite! This has been one of the most insightful deep post so far. Thanks!!

  14. Trinity says:

    Reading this article and some of the comments got me thinking about that age old line I’ve heard over and over. Treat them mean and keep them keen. I’ve never been a game player, I hate that kind of thing. But I can’t help but wonder why I see so many girls treating their partner nowhere near as kind as I have and yet…. The guy is mad for her, won’t ever leave and commits to her. When I say mean, I don’t mean outrageous stuff but just perhaps colder, bitchy ,I’ll do what I want and put me first. While nice girls get trampled on. Is it just that whole powerbase thing in reverse? Is it about her confidence in herself? I want to be that girl and have the guy who mo matter what I do ,sticks by me but I still want to be me, open, friendly and loving. It’s like he see’s her, the big picture not what she may have done wrong that day. My x would compltely forget who I was and only focus on the mistake I made at that moment, suddenly I was this bad person and he was suddenly deciding if I’m right for him. I just want to be me…..mistakes and all….

  15. cece says:

    Hi everyone,

    As a recovering addict from EUM’s – i can honestly say that some of the hardest moments thus far has been when I have begun to assert myself against men who exhibit EU tendencies. I find myself, beating myself up “I am not nice” “maybe he really does like me and I am a bitch”… all because I am no used to saying NO WAY I DESERVE BETTER THAN YOUR CRUMBS YA B..STARD. It’s taking all my strength not slip back into old habits, especially since I often feel alone and miss “having someone there”…. Don’t give in ladies…keep standing up for yourself.

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