“I Want It My Way!”: The Art of Compromise

I have to admit, when we have a day off together coming up, I really look forward to it. I love a well-planned day where we sleep in until around mid morning, have some breakfast – homemade or going out, either way – and then we follow my well-executed plan for the day. It might involve going to a movie, a museum, a sporting event, shopping, or sightseeing, followed by a nice dinner and maybe some live music after. Whatever the plan, you can rest assured it has undergone thorough planning and timing down to the minute.

My husband’s idea of a day off is a little different. (Cue the “dun, dun, DUNNNN” music). See, his daily routine consists of getting up before o’crack-of-dawn, driving an hour to his office, sitting in front of two ginormous computer screens scrutinizing tiny details on maps and aerial photography, taking phone calls and being a problem solver, and after eight hours of that, driving another hour to get home. He also maintains a regular exercise routine, and five days a week, two hours a day, moves and lifts heavy objects repeatedly at our apartment fitness center. So when he finally gets home every evening, he’s pretty wiped out and looks forward to a few moments of rest before bedtime. With a weekly routine like that, a dream weekend day off for him consists of rest, rest, perhaps a relaxing hour at the pool, a little TV, and more rest.

I’m not going to lie; the first couple of years of our marriage were rough in this respect. 

I wanted to do something; he wanted to rest. I would get upset; he would get upset. We would argue; I wouldn’t get to do anything fun; he wouldn’t get to rest. Neither of us were getting what we wanted. We got to the point where we dreaded weekends and just wanted to get back to our regular work routine.

Then one day during one of our heated conversations, my husband (rightfully so) pointed out how all I did was complain instead of actually appreciating the time we did have together. I stopped for a moment, thinking, this man must be crazy. Is he not hearing me?! That’s all I want – to spend time together! I totally appreciate our time together! It only made me more angry. But then it made me stop and think (after a few more mini-tantrums, one stomp-off, and a few days), maybe I’m really not communicating what I want. Maybe I need to be more clear about my desires, and be level-headed when presenting my case. So I did just that. I asked for some time to talk, promised I wouldn’t lose my cool, and we sat down and had an adult conversation.

I started by saying I loved him and I missed spending time with him.

I told him I understood that his daily routine during the week must be difficult for him, and that I knew he was tired by the weekend and needed to rest. But, I reiterated, I missed spending time with him. And while I was saying all of this, I slowly came to the realization that it wasn’t that I needed to do things, it was that I wanted to spend time with him and I felt neglected every time he went and took a nap instead of choosing to spend time with me. I had been planning those well-executed day dates to ensure that we would have a plan to spend time together. Instead, I was well-executing him right out of my life.

I can’t say that we snapped our fingers and everything became peachy and we lived happily ever after. But I can say that something really cool happened that day – we talked like adults, told each other our needs and what we wanted, and really listened to each other. We talked about how we could each do things we enjoyed and wanted to do on the weekends, and even worked out some compromises. Our talk sounded something like: how about we take a nap on Saturday afternoons, and we do something together on Sunday afternoons? And that something could sometimes mean lounging on the couch in our pajamas watching a movie together instead of always having an elaborate plan. Or how about we visit with your parents and I’ll hold down the couch watching a ball game with your dad and you go shopping with your mom? The point was, we talked and listened. We came up with ideas that would make us both happy. We stopped complaining about what we didn’t have, and focused on what we did have.

As a result of our newfound way of communication, things started to change. 

Around mid-week my husband routinely asks me, “Do we have any plans this weekend?” Instead of my pre “adult talk” answer consisting of a myriad of activities planned to the minute, lately my answer has been more like, “Not that I know of, did you have anything in mind?” I’ve learned to relax more, take things in stride, and that I don’t always have to have a plan when it comes to “us.” I mean, sometimes we have plans, but I don’t feel like I have to plan every moment just so we can have something to do together. As a result of my backing off on the planning, he is now more open to actually spending time with me and not the crazy version of me. It’s been liberating, actually, just to enjoy time together and see what unfolds. And every once in awhile, when my husband says, “Hey, Love, I was thinking maybe this weekend we could . . .” I have to admit my heart does a little somersault, my “planner” brain expectantly waits for the itinerary, and my lips resist breaking into a full grin. I struggle to keep my mouth shut and just listen, basking in the excitement that my man has a plan!

Sometimes we fight for things without stopping to figure out what we are really fighting for. 

Taking a step back and really figuring out what we want is the best start to honest communication and compromise. You may not both get what you want all of the time, but the honest communication can lead to much happier times!

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