Al and Tom* are stuck.
They’ve been together for almost 10 years. Over the past three years, Al obtained a master’s degree in a new field, and he’s been vigorously job-hunting. Now he’s found his ideal job. Only problem: It’s in Philadelphia, and we are in Washington.
“I didn’t mean to find a job 150 miles away,” Al explains, apologetically. “I wasn’t even looking outside of Washington. But that recruiter saw my resume, and, well, the job is exactly what I dreamed of.”
“You always said that I’m exactly what you dreamed of,” replies Tom. Tom has made it clear: He’s not leaving Washington. He has spent 15 years building a successful consulting business; his friends and his home are in D.C.
“Can’t we somehow find a way to compromise?” Al plaintively asks.
Compromise. What does it really mean?
My dictionary defines compromise as “a settlement of differences in which each side makes concessions.”
When I think of compromise, I think of two people, each not getting what they want.
In other words, ugh.
“So,” I ask, “if you want to compromise, what concessions are each of you willing to make?”
“Well,” Al offers, “maybe we could live in Baltimore? Each of us could take the train? It’s only about an hour or so in either direction.”
Tom wrinkles his nose. “I already work long hours, and if you took that job, you would too. When would we see each other if we had a two or three hour commute every day?”
Al sighs. “You have a good point.”
Al and Tom are stuck in the same tough dilemma that I see people get stuck in all the time, whether it’s with a partner, a parent, a child, a sibling, or a friend.
What do you do, when what you want conflicts with what the other person wants?
- When you want an alcohol-free or drug-free home, and she doesn’t?
- When you want a monogamous relationship, and he doesn’t?
- When you want to celebrate religious holidays, and she doesn’t?
- When you like quiet evenings at home, and he prefers spending evenings out?
- When you want a child, and she doesn’t?
Is it really possible to compromise in these situations
Tom speaks seriously: “I really love Al. I want to spend my life with him. But..I can’t see leaving my business, starting all over. What kind of consultant could I be in Philadelphia, anyway? And what about all my friends? I’m too old to start from scratch. And even if I could, I don’t want to. It would be way too much work.”
“I want to spend my life with you, too,” Al breaks in. “But this is an amazing opportunity for me. It’s a chance to get exactly where I want to be, professionally. If I don’t take this job, I don’t think anything like it will ever come around again. At least, not for a long time.”
“Can’t we find some way to make it all work?”
“Maybe not,” I reply.
And here it is, the dilemma that often comes with being close to another person.
When your wishes conflict, both of you may not be able to have your way and stay on the same path.
Rather than compromising–finding some middle way where neither of you gets what you want–you have the opportunity to get clear about what is most important to you.
“You have some hard work ahead,” I tell Al and Tom. “You’re going to have to figure out what each of you most wants.”
In a similar dilemma, you might decide that following your dream is what’s most important to you. Or, you might decide that leaning toward the other person is more important than going after what you want.
When you use conflict in a relationship to clarify what you hold most dear, you get a relationship where, if you decide to stay, both of you are there for each other because you really want to be.
Intrigued? Feel free to contact me if you’d like some help moving forward.
*All names and identifying details changed.