Friday, July 18, 2008

Merging Coke and Pepsi

Contrary to what most would like to believe compromise is not easy, nor is it simple. If it could be just as easy as getting cheese on one side of the pizza, we'd be in business. But sometimes, its all gotta be cheese and you're gonna need to like it and agree with it. The concept may be pretty cut and dry…give a little, bend a little, prefer the other person, blah, blah, blah.. BUT to actually put those things into action on a daily basis is not easy, its work. It’s hard, diligent, consistent work. If someone tells you and believes in all honesty that compromise is simple or easy, 8 ½ times out of 10 they are not a part of a stepfamily.

Those of us who are, understand fully that compromise is taken to new levels when you are in the process of merging two families. It’s like making Coca-Cola and Pespi one company. GASP at the thought? Well think about it…if you are merging two companies, you no longer need two presidents or Human Resources departments. Two marketing teams and two separate mailrooms aren’t necessary. The former processes of two systems cannot function efficiently as one company . As a matter of fact, using two systems in one "company" will bring about chaos and disorder. Either we are going to do things the way Pepsi did them or the way Coke did them or COMPROMISE. To do things totally the way that Coke did them would be dishonorable to Pepsi and their way of doing things. To do everything like Pepsi wants, would mean that you overlook the system that Coke has used successfully. If you are trying to develop a new soda, you can’t function and produce the same way you did as Coke or Pepsi.

Let’s say, Coke overruled, overlooked and disregarded all of Pepsi’s formula and systems. The new company, although it is now two companies merged together, would be nothing but Coke again. Pepsi and what it stood for would be lost in the shuffle and instead of the world getting an exciting new soda, we get just Coke again. Not that Coke is bad, but when you are expecting something new…you don’t just want a Coke. The same is true in families.

So in a stepfamily, you don’t need two people responsible for organizing something. You don’t need two ways of doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, handling the groceries or getting the cars serviced. Something has got to give. You hear phrases like “But we always do this, this way”, or “My family always does this on Christmas” and you aren’t sure how to navigate over the rocky waters of giving a little, getting a little. Its ‘one thing if it were just you and your spouse-most marriages face that just starting out. But then you add your children, and her children and your children’s mother’s family and your husband’s ex-wife’s family, you have the potential for a lot of disappointment. We even have the added situation where one of the previous spouses' is deceased. You can't even critique or hear a unbiased account about the way a former person handled processes to evaluate what would be best now, without stepping on a landmine of defenses and protection of the old adage "speaking ill of the dead". Compromise is so sticky and it bites...hard. But there is hope...if you can master three keys (none of which are very popular) it may help you manage compromise and keep the main thing, the main thing.

Compromise by Merriam's definition means to settle a dispute or disagreement by mutually accepting less than what was originally wanted or to accept a position because of the understanding that what was initially wanted is unattainable.

To settle. That’s the 1st key. You want the issue settled. What do you have to give to make that happen? Sometimes it’s just a little, like “your” side of the bed. Sometimes it’s a whole lot, like spending Christmas with your spouse’s family instead of your own. Sometimes you just have to stop talking. Yup, that means shut up. its harsh, and its meant to be. Not always, but sometimes you'll need to just zip it. Even if you know you're right. What the most important thing? Peace in your household or being able to put your pots and pans in the cabinet on the bottom right versus the upper left? Making your spouse happy and complete or having to prove to be right about everything.
Accepting is the 2nd key. It’s being able to just let go of some ideologies about what you thought married life would be like. You just suck up the fact that hey, what I initially thought I wanted is unattainable, at least right now. I envisioned and desired those things without enough relevant information. The compromise would be to settle and adjust. To stop putting your lofty expectations and dreams on the backs of other people. Have a little grace for the way things are, versus what you want them to be. Give a little, and maybe get a little. Strive for contentment at all costs. It’s more valuable than getting your way.
Understanding is the last key. It doesn't mean you will never see improvement or see things adjust again to what may make you happier. You might, and you have peace in the meantime. But you get other benefits, your children are watching. They will see what you give of yourself and your way of thinking in order to bring joy or contentment to your spouse. They will understand and prayerfully model later what it really means to love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

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