The most common relationship advice that is given is that the way to an intimate marriage is compromise. That is completely wrong. Start with being kind.
In order to understand why compromise is NOT the key to a successful, thriving marriage, you first have to understand what IS the key – it is for you to learn to be uncompromising in your relationship.
To clarify, being uncompromising does not mean you always get your own way. This is not an invitation to become a bully, or otherwise be unkind.
The issue is that when you compromise, you give up your own desires and needs for the sake of your partner. Essentially, you give up a piece of who you are–and that is not going to do you any favors in building intimacy in your relationship.
If you want a conflict free, bland companionship, compromise will definitely help you create that. You and your partner can avoid conflict and move forward together in a comfortable way, always compromising when you’re not fully aligned with one another.
But do you actually want comfort more than you want erotic chemistry? Do you want agreement more than adventure and spontaneity? Do you want compromise more than uncompromising intimacy?
Being uncompromising, being true to yourself, is what keeps the deep, unwavering connection and intimacy alive. The catch is that most people misunderstand what “uncompromising” means.
Being uncompromising means that instead of holding back aspects of who you really are to make your partner more comfortable, you bring the truth of who you are to your relationship. If you have a thought, a feeling or a desire, something that’s important and true for you – bring it to the relationship.
Does that mean you’re always going to get your own way just because you shared what you want? No, it definitely doesn’t.
Being uncompromising is not actually about getting what you want. It’s about sharing all parts of yourself with your partner. In sharing your feelings, and letting go of holding back to make your partner comfortable, you get to where no part of you feels unwelcome in the relationship. No part of you feels as if it doesn’t have a place in the context of your marriage. And you get to feel whole, integrated, and vibrant.
Here’s an easy example to help you picture it. Let’s say you really want to have Thai food, and your partner and children all want to eat Italian food.
Rather than ignoring your craving for Thai food and keeping that feeling buried inside, being uncompromising means you let your partner know that even though you’ve had Italian food every time you’ve gone out together as a family for the past six months, you are really desiring Thai. You still may end up going out for Italian, but it will feel really different because you chose to speak your truth–not with resentment or blame, with simplicity, vulnerability, and opennes.
By simply saying what you want out loud, you bring an energy of honesty and deepen your connection. This kind of openness often leads to creativity and new ideas that neither one of you would have thought of on your own. Or it may turn out that your partner is just used to going along with Italian because that’s what you’ve been doing for so long but is actually very glad to try something new and go out for Thai food. In that situation, you never would have known if you hadn’t shared your own desire.
When you are uncompromising in the sense of bringing what is true for you into your relationship, then you have a chance to discover what’s going to work best for both of you–together.
The key lies in being kind while you are uncompromising.
However, being kind is not always as easy as it sounds.
When my husband and I first got married, I often felt like he didn’t want to talk about my desires and didn’t care to fulfill them. But after years of believing this, we actually about it explicitly. In that conversation, I came to understand that he absolutely wanted me to have all my desires.
It just really mattered how I spoke to him about it. The disconnect and disinterest I felt from him did not represent how he actually felt–it was the result of how I had spoken to him, when I blamed him for not giving me more of what I wanted in the way of attention and emotional connection he just felt blamed and couldn’t even focus on what my desire was.
My husband did not want to be spoken to with any kind of blame or judgmentdes in my voice. Any kind of put down, or projection of my disappointment on him, made him shut down and close himself off to what I was saying.
He wanted, and needed, me to be kind.
Once I understood that, I knew I could say anything to him–as long as I did it from a place of love, and with kindness.
This may sound overly simple. Afterall, we’re taught from a very young age to be kind to others. But there’s a specific method to being kind in the context of an intimate relationship. When you use this method of being kind, the benefits are life changing. I know because I reap the rewards in my 26 year marriage every single day!
Let me tell you about a couple that I coached many years ago:
I knew they loved each other and wanted to be together, but I was shocked at how she spoke to him. She was speaking to him in a tone of voice that was off-putting, full of negativity and blame. What’s worse is that he didn’t even look offended.
He was just used to it. And, also, not coincidentally, he was emotionally shut down.
She assumed that he was shut down because of the content of what she was saying – but I noticed that it wasn’t what she was saying, it was HOW she was saying it. (As I observed their interactions, I suddenly realized that I was observing exactly how I spoke to my husband too.)
This couple had gotten used to her speaking in a way that stings, that feels toxic. It had become normal for them, even though it completely worked against her goals and desires.
Being kind is the ticket to being uncompromising, so that sharing yourself creates intimacy and exquisite depths (rather than emotional shut down in your partner). Try it–because it takes practice to express what you desire in a way that is consistently kind.
Many men and women don’t speak up and share their desires.They tend to have a desire and then wait and wait before bringing it up. When this happens, and you have waited awhile and only speak up when you’re frustrated, feeling taken for granted, ignored, or misunderstood, the communication is not likely to be made with kindness. When resentment builds up, the communication is colored in a very unappealing way. Many women get defensive, dismissive, critical, or shut down, and soon what could have been a win-win situation with kindness and transparency, has turned into an argument that leads to increased disconnection.
When you prioritize being kind – the kind of kindness where you speak gritty truth, confronting erotic fantasies, or deep, heartfelt frustrations, or you share some aspect of your personality that you really want to have seen – there’s an opportunity to say what you want. Be uncompromising, and use kindness to you affirm your deepest desires!
Listen to this episode of The Intimate Marriage Podcast which is all about Being Kind.
In the meantime, if you want to know more about how to stoke the passion in your relationship, read my book Uncompromising Intimacy.
Or learn more about Intimacy Coaching in long term relationships here.