In the Name of Love

A philosopher looks at our deepest emotions

I Never Realized That You Are a Compromise for Me

How can we be unaware of our romantic compromises?

"All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take." Mohandas Gandhi

 "U want but u compromise, that's life. And U want & u wait & u don't compromise, that's LOVE." SMS message

Many people are aware of the romantic compromises that they have made. However, can one make a romantic compromise without being aware of doing so? The answer to this is complex. We are usually aware of our love for another person but there are times when we might experience  various features associated with love, but we do not analyze our experience as that of love.

When Tevye, in Fiddler On The Roof, asks Golde, his wife of many years, whether she loves him, she is surprised at the question and wonders whether he is upset or tired and advises him: "Go inside, go lie down! Maybe it's indigestion." When Tevye nevertheless insists on being answered, Golde says: "For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow. After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?" And when he continues to insist upon receiving an explicit answer, Golde says: "I suppose I love you."

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

The identification of our emotional state is difficult when the feeling component is not intense. Such identification requires a kind of comprehensive outlook and analysis that is sometimes not easy to achieve. As the feeling component in romantic love is intense, people can usually identify their feelings as those of love. However, the difficulties in identifying romantic compromises are greater.

Consider the following true story of Mariana, an attractive and highly intelligent woman at her mid-thirties. Mariana had two serious relationships in her life; the first lasted five years and the present one is still continuing after four years. When looking back at her life now, Mariana believes that her first relationship involved a romantic compromise, but she did not feel this way when she was in the relationship. How can this be?

Mariana met the first boyfriend while abroad with a group of young people who engaged in occasional sexual activities with each other. Mariana did not like this, and her meeting with Salvador was a kind of salvation, a fresh experience in which sex was not central. Salvador was an educated, handsome man who treated her well and their relationship went far beyond their sexual activities. Mariana now believes that during their five years together, her passion toward him was not intense, although they had regular sexual relationships in which she experienced orgasms. At that time she was not aware of making any romantic compromise. And in any case, her divorced mother had told her that passion is not the most important aspect of a marital relationship.

While Mariana was with Salvador, she lived in three countries-and Salvador was not with her all the time. Mariana now believes that these constant changes might reflect the underlying sense of discomfort that she felt concerning her relationship. Upon returning to her country, at the airport she met another man, Joseph, with whom she immediately fell in love. It was only at that very moment that she realized that Salvador was a compromise for her. In one minute, Mariana was clearly aware of something she had not realized for five years-that her current partner was a compromise for her. Today, she is still madly in love with Joseph. The sexual passion may have decreased somewhat, but everything else remains strong-the wish to be together, the enjoyment in each other's company, and the certainty that he is the man she wants to be with for the rest of her life.

In order to explain Mariana's unawareness of her compromise, let me indicate major types of romantic compromises. I distinguish three such types as follows:  

  • (a) Compromising on the value of the partner;
  • (b) Compromising on the nature of love;
  • (c) Compromising within a given romantic framework.

The first type of compromises, which is the most painful one, occurs when we judge the partner to be inferior to us and when we believe that we deserve more.  The judgment that your partner is inferior to you implies that you believe that your romance is a compromise.

The second type of romantic compromises refers to the nature of love in the relationship. One major issue in this regard concerns mutual love between the lovers-whether the two lovers love each other in equal intensity. A second major issue concerns the intensity of the various components in love. You are making a kind of romantic compromise if you do not love your partner the way he or she loves you; similarly, you are making a romantic compromise if the intensity of passion in your love for your partner is not high from the very beginning.

The need to compromise does not merely refer to the choice of a partner and to the nature of the love, but also to activities and experiences within the personal framework in which people live together. Here we find the third type of compromise. Belonging to a certain framework involves the benefits and limits of this framework. Thus, within the marital framework people have to compromise on major areas of conflicts such as money, sex, children, in-laws, and work. There are a variety of ways to engage in loving activities within a relationship and therefore there is a room for compromising on the specific way of doing so. The third type of compromises is the most common and is easier to undertake when there is no compromise in the first type and not very much compromise in the second type.

Mariana did not consider Salvador to be inferior to her; he was kind, intelligent, and successful. There were also not too many difficulties in their everyday relationship; on the contrary, Salvador was very considerate and agreed to Mariana's wish to spend time in various countries and even followed her to those places most of the time. The type of compromise that Mariana made was the second type. She did not love him in the way he loved her and consequently she lacked the drive and urge of an intense passion for him.

Mariana did not suffer when she was with Salvador; their relationship was satisfactory, even enjoyable, but it was not the profound love she has felt with Joseph. People can live in "satisfactory" relationships like this for many years, but a single encounter, such as when Mariana met Joseph, can make the relationship suddenly seem inadequate and insufficient.

If Mariana had been asked whether she loved Salvador during her time with him, she would probably have replied in a manner similar to that of Golde, wondering about the nature of that question. But now that she has experienced her love for Joseph, the nature of love itself has become more evident to her.

The above considerations can be encapsulated in the following statement that a lover might express: "Darling, if you are not aware of your profound love for me, please don't worry about it; otherwise, you may even discover that I am a compromise for you."

Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D., former President of the University of Haifa, is Professor of Philosophy. His books include: In the Name of Love: Romantic Ideology and its Victims.

more...

Subscribe to In the Name of Love

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.