As a mental health professional, I tend to see clients when they are in conflict. They seek me out when they have reached an impasse. My first three articles focused on getting out of those stuck places.
In discussions of personal rights and boundaries, people not taking responsibility for their emotions and actions, and people taking responsibility for the emotions and actions of others, we miss that in healthy relationships, compromise is key.
There are few things more beautiful than the loving, caring and giving that happens in healthy relationships. But to be healthy, it needs to be fully consensual, recognized and appreciated.
Fully consensual also means that it’s not a response to internal negative emotional pressures such as guilt or fear, and that it’s not in response to external negative pressures such as anger, manipulation, emotional meltdowns or guilt tripping. Recognized means that each person recognizes the “rightness” of each other person’s rights and boundaries, that they recognize their responsibilities to act ethically, and that they each take responsibility for their own emotions and actions.
When all is said and done, and a compromise is reached, it’s a beautiful thing that enrichs, rather than divides, relationships. That’s something to be celebrated and grateful for after the compromise is met.
Gratitude is the key to appreciating the gift of accommodations all parties make in relationships. Most of us know what it feels like to be taken for granted. And if you think about, that’s the feeling of having the things you do for others, not recognized and not appreciated.
There's accommodating, and there's buckling under. When both people acknowledge that giving something, out of love, that they would be fully within their rights to not give – that’s a gift. The appropriate response to a gift is gratitude. Expressions of gratitude are important to feeling appreciated.
So here’s the key. If you have determined that you are within your rights, but you are feeling pressured to do something else, giving in to that is not healthy compromise.
If you are willing to do it, it is being recognized as a gift, and the other person is expressing gratitude for the gift. That is healthy compromise.
To be perfectly clear, this kind of communication can be a real challenge, but it can also be a game changer in relationships with those you love. In future articles, I’ll address how to do the soul searching necessary in order to identify what you really want — and what you are willing to compromise without feeling resentment.
I also want to address boundaries in more detail, how to know when they are healthy, and how to defend them with kindness and compassion.
Once you have those tools, we can also go into manipulative and coercive behaviors in more detail, so that everyone can all be armed with the knowledge that helps us identify when such negative behaviors are happening
I’ll also look into an arsenal of communication skills that help people in relationships understand what is happening during arguments, and how to shift from arguing to constructive communication.
Alexandra Tyler is an LGBTQ, poly, kink, sex worker supportive mental health therapist in Atlanta. She specializes in treating trauma/PTSD, depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues and teaching relationship communication. Twitter @ATylerLCSW, Facebook @AlexandraTylerLCSW.CCH. Read more columns on her website, CultivatingJoy.net. One-time reprint here with permission.