The Art of Compromise

April 29, 2009

I was recently talking with a friend who’s been lucky enough to be married to his high school sweetheart for nearly 40 years. In my circle, this is practically unheard of.

We were discussing the situation of a mutual friend, who has been in and out of various long term relationships for a couple of decades and has been in a new one for the past year. He waxed eloquent about how wrong this latest relationship was and noted that he’d called each of the relationships correctly for the past couple of decades.

“So, ” I asked him. “Do you really think that age 60, the perfect mate is going to come along for our friend? Someone with no baggage at all? To me, the risks/benefits ratio is pretty clearly in favor of the relationship.”

“We’re talking about a RELATIONSHIP,” he exploded. “Not an economic analysis!”


“Every relationship entails compromise, especially in our senior years, when we bring to it so much past relationship experience,” I pointed out. “There are pros and cons to every relationship at this stage of life, and that’s a risks/benefits analysis no matter how you cut it.”

I was thinking about his comments. My friend is with the same woman he fell in love with in high school. When you grow up together in a relationship, you don’t think about risks and benefits. You take for granted that person will always be there and your compromises evolve over the years. Naturally.

In an older relationship, if you have any awareness at all, you identify the compromises up front. You decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.

Love is a big benefit, but, as I learned when my first husband left and in my last relationship, love alone is not enough. Other factors are of equal value. A compatible view of the world. The desire to walk together, not simply in the same direction, but on the same path. Mutual respect. Trust. Intellectual compatibility. A shared history is always nice, whether it’s 40 years or two. The ability to be there for the other in good times and bad, both emotionally and physically.

A couple has to sing in harmony on more than the high notes.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with assessing variables in addition to love.

If you want it to work at this stage of life, a relationship has to be an equation that balances.

3 comments on “The Art of Compromise
  1. Alan says:

    Great insight! These points didn’t dawn on me until I was in my mid 30s. I’m sure w/ some people they never learn.

  2. Thanks, Alan. School of life is a hard teacher, but an effective one!

  3. Mike Brady says:

    Thinking of my parents: I think that at some point you give up enough of your self that you can no longer live without the other person — they become the meat of your meat.

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