Lots of people encourage their love partners to change – or to do things differently. Do you know the difference between “Bad Compromise”vs. “Good Compromise”? Read on so you know the signs of a toxic love relationship.
About a decade ago, I dated a guy who every time his name was mentioned, inspired my girlfriends to sing the theme song to Batman.
Not because this man looked great in black Spandex tights. No, no. It was because he was a bad man.
“Dadadadadadada Bad-man! Bad-man!” my girlfriends would sing, right after I’d finish telling a particularly bad Bad-man episode—of which there were many.
I’ll call him Bruce Wayne to protect his not-so-innocent secret identity.
Bruce Wayne didn’t want me to attend my favorite morning yoga classes. He explained he did not want anything—other than himself—to bring me morning pleasure. So I stopped going (to make him happy and relaxed) and began drinking red wine (which made me happy and relaxed instead).I remember when I first confessed this “compromise” to my girlfriends, I did so as a joke. I said, “Can’t make it to your favorite morning yoga classes?” while holding up a glass of Cabernet. “Try yoga in a glass! Same relaxing effects, only faster, more convenient and it won’t upset boyfriends.”
My girlfriends would all shake their heads in disapproval. “I can’t believe you’re giving up your beloved Jivamukti!”
Next up was Bruce Wayne’s request for a wardrobe change.
“I prefer you stop dressing in anything sexy,” Bruce Wayne scolded. “It makes me think you’re interested in meeting other men.”
For the record: I wasn’t.
I like to dress sexy to feel sexy for me and my man. Kaput.
Basically, turtlenecks became a staple throughout all four seasons.
Next were Bruce Wayne’s objections to my hair. At that time, I had a wild, shoulder-length, thick and manic mane of wavy hair which everyone complimented – except Bruce Wayne.
He seemed to have a Samson-and-Delilah reaction to this mane o’ mine.
I intuit he felt my hair gave me too much power over men. Somehow Bruce Wayne convinced me to cut my hair to a non-threatening earlobe length.
When I look back now on this relationship, it’s clear how Bruce Wayne is a good example of a man who asks for “bad compromise.” The kind of compromise which demands compromising your soul and your authentic self.
Looking back I’m surprised how this old me (who I suppose is really the young me) would bend so radically to please a guy – even giving up bending myself into my favorite yogi poses.
Happily, the new me (who I suppose is the old me) knows better. The new old me can clearly see how there’s a huge difference between “bad compromise” and “good compromise” in a relationship.
My favorite philosopher buddy Aristotle explains that the reason why so many people are unhappy in life is because they choose mates simply for “pleasure” or “utility.”
Real-deal love happiness, according to Aristotle, comes from being involved in “a relationship of shared virtue,” where you pick a mate who gets you at your core self – or “soul self” – and lovingly inspires, challenges and supports you to become your best possible soul self.
“A relationship of shared virtue,” therefore, is when you and your partner both welcome putting up with the temporary pain of personal change for the greater gain of personal growth.
Basically, Aristotle believed that true happiness comes from surrounding yourself with people, habits and experiences which help you grow into your best possible self.
With all this in mind, putting in the work of “good compromise” is a positive way to ensure you’re stretching and strengthening your soul so you can grow into your best possible self – thereby increasing your overall happiness.
Or, to sum up “good compromise” in a highly memorable movie line, it’s when Jack Nicholson’s character in As Good As It Gets says to Helen Hunt’s character…
“You make me want to be a better man.”
Are you right now wondering whether a specific compromise request is a good compromise or bad compromise?
If so, I want you take some time to quiet your mind and meditate on this question. Breathe in love, breathe out fear. Breathe in growth, breathe out stagnation.
Thankfully, the old me is now happily involved in a “relationship of shared virtue” – which only involves good compromise. So, if you haven’t seen me in my favorite morning yoga class lately, please know that I only have myself to blame!
Good news: The new old me is now getting older and wiser.
Bad news: The new old me is getting older and wider as well!
Live your happiest life. Get my research-based happiness newsletter delivered conveniently to your inbox.