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The Difference Between Compromise and Sacrifice

Love gives meaning to our life. It is what connects us, nurtures us, makes us feel safe and validated and important. We all have a concept of love, a specific idea of what it means, and how it changes in different contexts.

But do we all have the same expectations of love? And, at the end of the day, what are we willing to give (or give up) for it?

There is no question that love can involve compromise and sacrifice. For example, in order to foster a meaningful partnership with my husband I have had to give up spending solitary months hitchhiking the globe with a journal, a sarong, and a pair of flip flops in tow. My daughter, too, appreciates this compromise. We do what we have to to make things work, and there are rewards for these decisions. I now have a closet of clothes, for example, a consistent roof over my head, and a shelf to harbour multiple journals and books, thanks to my husband’s excellent work ethic. And a house full of people to snuggle.

A compromise is an exchange. In order to get this, I recognize the need to give that. For compromises to work, there’s needs to be a certain perceived level of justice. Room for possibility. Otherwise it is merely sacrifice – a concrete action: giving something up. And although in love we often make sacrifices simply in the name of love, sometimes there can come a point when this can challenge our ultimate view of what love should be.

The Romantic Ideology suggests that the ideal love is uncompromising and unconditional. You do everything – anything­ -  for the person you love because you love them. But what happens when you begin to give up things that are vital to your personal happiness? Your values? Your dreams and aspirations? Your identity?

This is a big question for a lot of people, and in particular women that sacrifice elements of their own personal goals and evolution to take care of the people they love (men do this too, of course). So how do you know when something has crossed the line – when compromise becomes self-sacrifice?

There are no ultimate answers. Our hearts tend to feel a squeeze when things are unaligned, and eventually if this isn’t acknowledged, this squeeze can be detrimental to ourselves and the relationships we are trying to nurture. Balance is key in everything, and while giving things up for the people we love is often necessary, there needs to be action in the opposite direction to balance the scales.

No time for girl’s night out with a toddler at home? Sneak in a glass of wine in the tub and a playlist of Ghetto Funk on the ipod (or whatever your club tunes of choice might be). Reminisce. Escape. Find space, however small, to give your heart room to breathe. Use the squeeze and make a little lemonade.

But if the squeeze becomes too much to bear, think about what your sacrificing. Eventually there needs to be enough pull on the other side of that line to keep you on your feet.

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