Compromise, Resentment and Recurring Conflicts

Compromise, resentment and recurring conflicts are all facets of the same underlying dynamic. Each one manifests sequentially, then reoccur repeatedly. This makes them an insidious and potentially vexing dynamic to confront. Yet, it is one with which we are altogether too familiar. The good news is it doesn't have to be this way. There are answers and with a qualified marriage counselor there is hope.

The compromise cycle begins with approaching a situation with different ideas of how to accomplish the task at hand. One party decides after some discussion, typically with good intentions, that they will “go along to get along”. Accompanying this is an innocuous rationalization that “a relationship is about compromise.” This creates an understandable narrative that the next time it will be done "my way" because we are taking turns and compromising with each other.

This view of compromise implies the healthy give and take of taking turns. However, this describes only one half of this dynamic, the giving or “compromising” side. The other side of this is the “receiving” side. On this second side this compromise is not seen as the concession that it actually is. Instead it is seen as something much more collaborative in nature. The narrative on this side might be “She / He sees it my way and understands that this is the best way to go about accomplishing the task at hand.” In other words the argument was persuasive and the wisdom of this strategy was apparent. Because of this alternate point of view, the interaction is not seen as a concession or exchange; there was no “turn taking.” This implies that because no turn taking happened, none is needed in the future, and therefore none happens. This lack of “turn taking” is what causes our relationship to feel “unfair”, out of balance or worse yet, like someone is being “controlling”.

When this two sided dynamic is repeated over time, resentments are the inevitable result. These resentments tend to be covert until another compromise is at hand. At this point the underlying resentments emerge and conflict ensues. This conflict is born of the fact that we are not seeing these “compromise events” in the same way. One of us is seeing it as a “compromise”, the other is interpreting these concessions as “agreement”. The resulting conflict can be very frustrating, escalating into fights and finally ending without meaningful resolution. This only sows the seeds of future conflict.

It does not need to be this way; there is hope. With an experienced marriage counselor to assist you in getting to the core of these recurring conflicts, meaningful and lasting resolution can be achieved. By facilitating the understanding that is needed to make these recurring struggles a thing of the past you can give your marriage the lasting peace, harmony, and love it once had.

This article dealt with only one, very central dynamic in intimate relationships, compromise and recurring conflict. Understanding this powerful dynamic is just the beginning of a complete picture of a healthy marriage. When we are able to manage this dynamic with understanding, respect and commitment, our marriage can and should be the source of endless joy and that happily ever after we all signed up for.

There is hope.

Robert Whitman, Licensed Professional Counselor, MA, CAC III - Denver, CO