I’ve heard time and time again that love is all about compromise and I’ve always fought against that idea. While I understand the sentiment, there seems to be something drastically lacking with that view of love. Is love about both partners losing something, about subtracting from life in order to gain? Maybe it’s because we live in a world dominated by balance; where the world is hanging in a delicate equilibrium and every interaction impacts another interaction (Newton’s laws, ecological systems etc.) In my training and experience with couples, love seems to be less about compromise and more about an emotional bond.
I hear from too many couples, in my practice and in my personal life, that relationships are about equaling input, a tit for tat approach, a conditional approach that relies on compromise and balance. “If my partner doesn’t, then why should I?” Sound familiar? It’s as if somewhere in the register of the relationship there will be an ultimate leveling of input; of tasks completed, of times of connection, of bearing the load, and so on. Like our relationships are one running log just waiting to be zeroed out, or a long math equation continually moving towards all exchanges being equal. I find this view of love and relationships exhausting and tiresome, and pretty far from any actual experiences of love and intimacy.
My background would suggest that love and relationships aren’t built on equaling the scales, or compromising around every turn. Integral to the success of relationships is a couple’s bond and connection. Ever think about how friendship seem to be ‘sealed’ after a really good weekend together? Or how a night of good conversation makes us feel closer to those we love? Moments of intimacy that we wish could never end have experiences of emotional bonding at their core. It is when we embrace this view of love that the weight of constant compromise is lifted and space for connection is created.
This change in perspective can radically alter how one views their partner and themselves. Suddenly love isn’t about measuring up but about developing a deep and secure connection with your partner. Love is about working to come back together rather than finding where your partner failed you. How might couples start to build this emotional bond with one another? The following are just a few things couples can do to increase their emotional bond:
-Make space for bonding to happen. Take time weekly, monthly and yearly to connect with your partner; do things that you enjoy doing together and make space to keep the emotional bond alive.
– Suspend the idea that being right, or compromising, is the way forward and look for the opportunity to connect with your partner in times of conflict.
– Learn about your partner’s fears and insecurities and how they show up in the relationship.
Developing an emotional bond supports the relationship when things don’t, or can’t equal out. When a ‘good compromise’ can’t be found couples have to learn how to lean on their bond to navigate the stress. In some ways the emotional bond that couples experience is the glue that helps weather the storm.
By freeing ones self and one another from the idea of compromise couples can begin to see their partner with their struggle, their inner conflict and find a different kind of balance in their relationship– a balance based on connection and safety, rather than some scoreboard or tally system. This new balance of an emotional bond might be more secure and more fulfilling than the relief of all things equaling out. Another way of developing this emotional bond is to enlist the support of a therapist. Couples therapy can help couples to identify what gets in the way of connecting or even to facilitate conversations that can help couples deepen their bond. Deepening that connection just might be what couples have been looking for all along.