I’ve been thinking a lot about romantic relationships, and the way I was taught to approach them. I keep having the same conversation with male friends of mine, and for some reason, I can’t wrap my head around the gap between my understanding of relationships and theirs.
See, I’m not a big fan of the idea of compromise. Growing up, I remember the virtues of compromise in relationships being extolled, and I internalized that. I learned my lesson well, and in high school, dating Kyle, I knew that compromise was a necessary part of making our relationship work.
Unfortunately, it seemed that time and again, I did all the compromising. We abided by the rules of his church, not mine. He seldom came to church with me, though I frequently went to youth group with him. He wanted a different level of physicality than I did, and he decided all of the boundaries. I found myself compromising, and bending, and bending further until I didn’t recognize myself anymore. I know you noticed, Dad. I had learned compromise.
Now, 7 years later, compromise to me is an evil word. Too often, I feel, what is meant by “compromise” is really a surrender. Instead of reaching a mutually agreeable solution, the woman must give up what she wants for the relationship’s sake. Roxane Gay summed up my feelings pretty well in her essay “The Trouble With Prince Charming, Or He Who Has Trespassed Against Us“:
The thing about fairy tales is that the princess finds her prince, but there’s usually a price to pay. A compromise is required for happily ever after. The woman in the fairy tale is generally the one who pays the price. This seems to be the nature of sacrifice.
I know this is not what everyone means when they advise compromise. Good men, men who do not want women to sacrifice for them, have told me how necessary compromise is for relationships, and I believe they value cooperation equally between partners.
However, there are men who will hold that obligation of compromise above their partner’s head, demanding they give in. And there are women, like me, who have given in, who will continue to give in.
So you’ll forgive me if I say I don’t compromise anymore, Dad. Everything I give a partner is freely and happily given, and if I don’t want to give, I won’t. I don’t surrender anything anymore. Compromise is a dirty word.