How important is compromise in dating? 5 questions to ask yourself
When I was dating, I had a pretty clear picture of the man I was looking for, only I couldn’t find him anywhere. I took heart from the Michael Bublé song, “I Just Haven’t Met You Yet”, and continued my search. Still single in my early forties, I finally realised that the person I’d been seeking actually didn’t exist. I saw that I had a rigid idea of my future partner and I wasn’t open to anyone who didn’t fit the mould – and this was thwarting my chances of finding love.
I also saw how I judged people and rejected them, often for superficial reasons: they weren’t sporty enough or slim enough; they had a dull job or wore drab clothes. Finally, I understood that nobody was ever going to tick all my boxes – it was an impossible ask. I had to let go of my fixed ideas and compromise on some of my wants if I was ever going to find someone to love.
The idea of compromise can be hard to get our heads around when it comes to dating. Many of us have worked hard to create a life that we love – why would we share that life with a partner who didn’t display all of our desired attributes?
But while it’s important to hold on to our values, reluctance to compromise can lead to a lonely life. The following five steps may help you to explore the notion of compromise and to find someone who’s right for you:
1) Throw away the list
If you have a fixed idea of the person you want to end up with or a written list of preferred attributes, I suggest you replace this list with a broad-brush vision that’s less rigid and more flexible. Be open to surprises. Try contacting people online or going for coffee with people who aren’t your usual type.
2) Be guided by your feelings
Rather than thinking whether a date has all the qualities you’re looking for, ask yourself how you feel when you are with the person. Do you feel happy and at peace? Do you feel safe? Or do you feel on edge or unsure of where you stand?
Many of us tend to over-think relationships. Will this person fit into my social group or my church? Will my family and friends like him or her? How will his preference for travel fit with my desire to stay at home? How will her love of dance go with my two left feet? It’s inevitable that we’ll ask these questions, but try to be guided by how you feel in the person’s presence, rather than the analysis that goes on in your head.
3) Decide your ‘must haves’ versus ‘nice to haves’
There are some areas in which you won’t want to compromise, and then there are others where you might be willing to be more flexible. Write down or think about the ‘must have qualities’ versus the ‘nice to have’ qualities, and then review what you’ve written or thought about. Are the ‘must have qualities’ realistic? Does this person exist? Are there any further compromises you’d be willing to make? Remember the broad-brush vision from Step one.
4) Understand and heal your blocks to love
Often, we have rigid ideas about our future partner and dismiss or reject potential dates because, deep down, we are afraid of love, intimacy and commitment. We look for convenient excuses to ignore a message from someone online or to walk away from a potential partner. Our reasons make perfect sense to us. We rationalise our decisions.
Until we take a look inside our hearts and realise we are afraid of being vulnerable, of getting hurt, of being seen or of loving and losing. If we discover this is true for us, we deserve to spend some time soothing our fears and healing our blocks to love, which we can do through journaling, praying to God for guidance and healing, sharing with trusted people or working through in counselling or coaching.
5) Keep your eyes on the prize
If you’ve been looking for a relationship for a long time, it’s easy to lose heart. We tell ourselves that it’s too much hassle or hard work to find someone to love. We tell ourselves that we’re OK on our own. If you notice that you’re thinking this way, remind yourself that a committed, intimate relationship is well worth the effort.
Write down or think about all the positives a relationship could bring and if you can’t think of many, ask your friends who are in good relationships. Dating does require effort, so it’s important to be clear on the benefits so that we are motivated to continue the search.
With the above in mind, see if you can approach dating with fresh eyes, more openness to different types of people, more willingness to compromise and a readiness to be surprised. And the next time you sing along to, “I Just Haven’t Met You Yet,” consider the possibility that the right person for you may be quite different to the one you’ve been looking for.