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How Not to Compromise With Your Partner

Do you ever disagree with your spouse? Or your boyfriend or girlfriend? Of course not 'she/he/it is perfect, right?

You can imagine my shock when my friend confided in me that he and his wife often fought over tiny things.

"You're kidding."

"Yes, we fight over the tiniest, most unimportant things," he confirmed.

"Well, why don't you just let her have her way then?"

"Because we also fight over big, important things," he admitted.

"What about compromise?"

"We do that all the time," he responded.

"So what's the problem?"

"The problem is that she wins most of the compromises."

Compromises are never easy. A reasonable compromise is when both parties feel they won. A truly great compromise is when both parties know they lost.

The problem is that even the most modest of us, when thrust into the perils of compromise, have inflatable egos.

For instance, my wife and I were recently waging compromise, and I don't even recall what diplomatic gaffe I had committed. But she was determined to set me straight. "Don't be so premature," my wife scolded.


"Amateur, then," she said.


"No, the other word. Stop acting like a such child!" she shouted, looking for a dictionary.

God gave us dictionaries so we wouldn't have to spell. They are big books with small print, and trying to find anything in them shortens fuses and, in the heat of compromise, can only lead to dictionary projectile injuries. Fortunately, our house is messy enough to conceal even the largest dictionary.

Which is why, when compromise is imminent, I occasionally find myself dripping wet.

Water never hurt anyone, I tell myself. Then I remember Noah. And Jack. And Jill. But so far, I have avoided drowning in my own sorrow, which probably means I am losing fewer compromises than my brother.

Our house lives in an era of an uneasy truce. Fortunately, nobody is bent on world domination.

If I would just learn to put the toilet seat down or wipe the counter after myself, I could strike a diplomatic coup. However, if I did, I would have to fork out for an embassy reception, and my wife is the only caterer in the house. Plus it would force her into a most uncomfortable corner of having to put the other toilet seat down and close the lights when she leaves the room to avoid a diplomatic faux pas.

Being a loving husband, I am determined to protect my wife from any discomfort in her own house (or having to cater a diplomatic reception), so I resist the temptation to score such a diplomatic coup and I continue to leave counter tops wet.

It is sometimes for the greater good to allow a friendly exchange of sniper fire, taking cover if it looks like it might get out of hand. The world is a much more peaceful place when we just accept that we can all happily get along, and that we are in no real danger living perpetually on the brink of compromise.

David Leonhardt is author of Climb Your Stairway to Heaven

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