I was right. Not just a little bit, but 100 percent right, just like I am with all the disagreements between my wife and me.
And yet, somehow my wife could not see the flawlessness of my logic. Despite knowing that I'm rarely proven wrong (if the word rarely means about 97 percent of the time), she still had the audacity to suggest that I was wrong about where to put our new television in the living room.
Battle lines were drawn, experts (anyone who agreed with me) were consulted, and arguments were made. Appeals were pled to logic, emotion, and anything else that we thought would prove our individual causes.
Of course, given that we were both seminary students, the arguments became theological. I'd recommend to my wife that this might be one place where she should follow my leadership, and she'd remind me of my responsibility to love her sacrificially. Round and round we went: I pushed for a location above the fireplace; she pushed for one along the opposite wall.
Days went by with no movement from either camp. A compromise seemed out of the question until one day I saw an ad for a local furniture store. The ad contained the answer to our problem: an entertainment center that would raise and lower the TV at the push of a button. The entertainment center was economical, making me happy, and it was aesthetically pleasing, making my wife pleased as well. Now her desire to be able to make the TV disappear could be granted, and my wish to be able to still see the TV from the kitchen area could come true.
I was at the store in record time.
Though tremendously childish, this argument taught my bride and me three serious points about the art of compromise in marriage.
Start with Good Communication
Just because two people are using the same word or phrase doesn't mean that they're defining that word the same way. My wife and I have a lot in common: We're the same ethnicity, are both native Texans, grew up in the same denomination, and attended the same seminary, just to name a few. Yet in this particular instance, opposite definitions of the phrase focal point was a major source of the problem.
I, like most men I know, assumed that a room could only have one focal point. So when my wife said that the fireplace would be the room's focal point, I assumed that the TV would have to be located there. We watch a lot of TV, and I didn't understand how something that we focused on so often could be on the opposite side of the room from the room's "focal point."
Looking back, this wasn't the first time my wife and I have defined words differently. While dating, we discovered that our families have different ideas of what the word irritated means. To my family, it's nothing to be irritated. I might be irritated a good 10 to 12 times a day. To my wife, however, to tell someone that you were irritated with them meant that there was a huge problem and an argument was soon to follow.
Many women already know that there are certain things that their husband might be clueless about, and the number of possible focal points in a room is one of them. Often my wife and I have discovered that it's helpful to stop and attempt to make sure that we both mean the same things by the words we use.
Compromise can be a win-win situation rather than a lose-lose circumstance. Part of the difficulty is that the word compromise is often used of people who no longer have principles. In modern vernacular, someone who at one time stood for something that he no longer stands for is said to have compromised, which isn't a compliment. Often we take this stance toward compromise in marriage, but that's a faulty approach. Viewing every argument as something to be won because you're undeniably and unquestionably 100 percent right will only lead to more strife and animosity.
In the context of a relationship, there are times when compromise means both parties have to sacrifice something. Take how to spend the holidays, for example. Most couples end up having to sacrifice time with both of their families to make the holidays work. Despite the fact that this is often necessary, it can feel like a lose-lose situation because neither person is really able to do what he or she wants. Every compromise doesn't have to be this way. In our furniture situation, the answer wasn't for both of us to sacrifice, but rather to find a solution outside of the situation.
Disagreements and conflicts are often best solved by a resolution that seeks to give both parties what they desire. As British statesman Edmund Burke once said, "Every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter."
Don't Take Things Personally
Although any relationship will have arguments, some of them ridiculous, we should not be afraid to laugh about them later. Too many couples let their arguments linger. Even when they're able to compromise, their hurt and animosity at not getting their way continue to fester below the surface. Negative feelings, however, are like garbage; if they're hidden rather than removed, they will only cause more trouble later.
Today we laugh about how such a dumb thing as a TV's location could cause an argument between two people who love each other. Obviously, some issues are a lot graver than where to put the TV. Those arguments weren't so easy to solve, and those are the ones that make it so easy to hold onto feelings of animosity. The reality is that I wasn't really upset that my wife didn't want to put the TV over the fireplace; I was upset that she didn't want to go with my idea. It's when we take things personally that we have trouble compromising, and even years later we can be upset at how things turned out. If we take ourselves a little less seriously then we can laugh about these times.
Today my wife and I come home from a long day of work. We fix supper, talk about how we made it through the day, and then one of us will hit a button on a small remote control. And our TV magically rises from the back of the entertainment center. We have no hint of discord. It turns out that I may not have been 100 percent right after all. Now I just have to keep my wife from reading this article.
Aaron Sharp is a master of theology graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Elaina, live in Texas.
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