At 40, Is It Too Late to Change My Behavior and Get Better At Compromise

Hi Evan, I am 39 year old female who finally realized a couple of years ago that I was attracting the wrong kind of men. I did a lot of internal work, including therapy, to change. I’m happy to say that last year I finally met a wonderful man and we’ve been together several months. The problem is that we’re both stubborn and sensitive, and want things our way. Part of our problem is the result of being single and living alone for many years. I know that I am part of the problem. I KNOW that I should compromise, but when something happens that drives me crazy, I can’t seem to choose different behavior. I am worried that two type-A 40-somethings won’t be able to make the necessary adjustments to make the relationship work. Please tell me how to get better at compromise. I’d rather choose the relationship over being alone and having everything my way forever.

Jennifer

This is a fascinating and loaded question. I’m happy for you that you’ve done some internal work and that you’re attempting to change. That’s the good news and you should be applauded for it.

Here’s the bad news:

You still – from my perspective – have a number of blind spots that are getting in the way of your happiness.

It’s a popular theory, to be sure, but men are not magnets, drawn to you against your will and theirs. We are human beings. We make choices. You may be attracted to the wrong men. You may have chosen the wrong men. But you did not unknowingly “attract” the wrong men to you.

    2. You can only change your personality so much.

You’re stubborn. You’re sensitive. You want things your way. I get it. I have some of those traits myself, and I will be the first to own that this makes me a “difficult” person, in general. The problem is that no amount of therapy is going to change your stripes. Therapy doesn’t turn introverts into extroverts or mean people into nice people. All therapy can do is work around the edges and nudge you in a healthier direction. This is a MAJOR plank in my coaching platform, namely that…

Marriage is about balance. It’s about puzzle pieces neatly fitting together. It’s not a constant struggle or fight for power or compromise.

    3. It’s much easier to change your choice of men than it is to change yourself.

I am a Type-A opinionated go-getter. I am attracted to Type-A opinionated go-getters. I coach Type-A opinionated go-getters. I am married to an easygoing, happy, flexible woman who doesn’t see me as overly difficult. We get along on 95% of issues and easily find ways to compromise on the 5%. Which brings me to the interesting fourth point.

    4. You are more likely to soften and compromise with a softer and more compromising mate.

I may have some of the traits of the typical alpha male, but my wife is so amazing that 8 years into our marriage, I’ve largely turned into the “Yes, dear” guy. Why? Because it works. Happy wife, happy life. My wife makes things so pleasurable for me that it’s ultimately easy to give her exactly what she wants. In other words, her attitude is what makes me want to be a better (read: more flexible and generous) husband.

When you compromise, you WIN, because you get to maintain a happy relationship.

Presuming that what you wrote is true, it sounds to me like you and your boyfriend are both highly opinionated, stubborn, pain-in-the-asses who really love each other and want to make things work.

I respect that, but, as an objective third party, I can’t say that I’d advocate for such a marriage.

Marriage is about balance. It’s about puzzle pieces neatly fitting together. It’s not a constant struggle or fight for power or compromise. To be fair, many relationships ARE like this – two challenging people constantly struggling for the upper hand – but they are not the kind of marriages I try to help clients cultivate.

I’m not telling you to break up with your boyfriend, Jennifer. I am telling you, however, that, in my experience, it’s much easier to find an easier guy who naturally lets you have your way than it is to battle it out with another difficult, sensitive soul who is stuck in his ways.

But if you want to learn to compromise, there’s only one thing to know:

When you compromise, you WIN, because you get to maintain a happy relationship. When you refuse to compromise, you lose, because you put your desires over your partners’ desires. This reinforces the message that your needs are more important than his – a stance which should rightfully kill any relationship.

If you want to learn how to choose a healthy, complementary partner for a long-term relationship where compromise is EASY, please click here to learn more.