19 May The Gift of Agreement
You know as well as I do that what makes marriages and international diplomacy work is compromise. We give a little, they give a little, everyone gets some of what they want, and everyone gives up a little of what they want. A middle position is found and agreed upon and there you have it – compromise!
Now, I don’t know much else about international diplomacy but I know a few more things about marriage and one of the things I know is that sometimes there is no middle ground. Sometimes life and relationships lead us to the inevitable either/or moment. There we have to figure out what the best answer is both in terms of the decision itself and what’s best for the relationship overall. We will either be at your parents’ house, my parents’ house or neither on Christmas morning. We will not be at both and to be halfway between puts us somewhere in rural Estill County! In terms of classic compromise, there is no answer. Welcome to marriage!
So, what do you do? Well, there is some pretty good research on marriage that talks about compromise and marital satisfaction. This research says that the couples who report the highest levels of marital satisfaction have a great ability to work through and find compromises. It also says that when there is no compromise, they employ another strategy that helps sustain their marital satisfaction. The strategy is what this researcher calls agreement as a gift and is exactly what the name implies. It is saying by words and attitude that “since there is no middle ground on this and since I love you like crazy, let’s go your way.” By the way, that part about saying it by your attitude is critical. A begrudging and pouting gift is no gift at all.
Before you go too far down the “that’s going to get unfair pretty quickly” path, there is a second part of agreement as a gift and that is the idea of reciprocity. Couples that employ this strategy not only have a fundamental love for one another but they also have a fundamental trust that as often as one gives, that one will also receive in equal measure over the years together. So even though the balance may not be found in every individual moment, the middle or balance position is assumed over the long haul.
Do you love your spouse enough to offer agreement as a gift? Do you trust your spouse enough to know that over the long haul balance will be achieved? If you answer yes to these questions, you have a big leg up on a satisfying marriage. If you can’t, it might be time to do a little work on it.