“I Love You. We’re Married. Now Change!” (Part 2 of 2)

Conclusion of yesterday’s column.

In a personal relationship, the basic underlying principle is the same. Your spouse won’t love you if you’re always looking to start a fight. However, your spouse also won’t love you if you’re a doormat and have no spine, no confidence, or no willingness to set personal boundaries and say ‘no’ when you disagree. People love people who are lovable, but they also love people who are worthy of respect. Contrary to what Oprah will tell you, this is not a male-female or Mars/Venus issue. This is a universal principle of human relationships.

According to WebMD, ‘Marriage inevitably means compromise, but couples need to compromise without giving away too much of what they value.’ On this point, the alleged experts are wrong. First of all, the caution to not give away ‘too much’ of what you value is dangerously vague. How much is ‘too much?’ Let’s take an extreme case, to start. Let’s say you’re married to a spouse abuser, or a borderline personality (i.e., a nasty, intimidating person who becomes inexplicably cheerful and kind an hour or a day later). To the abusive or borderline personality, it’s not ‘too much’ to ask that you put up with their inexcusable, unacceptable nonsense. But to you, it clearly is ‘too much.’ Who’s to decide what the proper standard of ‘too much’ is? Clearly, nobody. It’s beyond annoying to hear the experts impose such vague standards on people.

So how to solve this dilemma? The problem with the whole dilemma is in the vague concept of ‘compromise.’ If you are a happy, healthy and uncompromised person, and if your spouse is also such a person, then you will either love each other as you are, or you won’t. If you can’t love each other as you are, then there is no relationship.

If you think your spouse should be a bank executive instead of a dentist, then you’re still going to love him as a dentist or not at all. If you cannot persuade him to change careers,
then there’s nothing else you can do. There is no compromise. If you love in a healthy way, it would never even occur to you to ask your partner to make such a change for your own sake.

What if the dilemma is not switching from dentistry to banking, but instead one of switching from drug abuse to sobriety? Then, the issue is more obvious. It’s clearly not rational to love a person who’s destroying himself. Leave it at that. Work to understand that the emotions of love you still feel are towards the person you originally loved (before he became a drug addict) or whom you incorrectly believed he was (before discovering he is a drug addict). It’s not an issue of asking him to compromise and to give up the drug addiction he does not want to give up. It’s a matter of accepting the harsh reality that he is on a self-destructive course and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. You can help him get off the drugs if he wants and chooses to get off the drugs, but you cannot make him want it.

Relationships between two healthy people, each with a strong sense of self, do not require compromise. Relationships that do require compromise are either an indication that something is wrong with one (or both) of the partners, or that the spouses, while fine individuals, are simply mismatched.

Most experts, including those associated with the respected WebMD who recommend compromise in relationships, don’t understand this point.

Now you do.

Source: ‘Newlyweds’ 5 Biggest Pitfalls’ by Leanna Skamulis, WebMD.com