Why compromising feels a lot to me like losing

In my early teens, I seriously considered a career in politics. I could see myself running the planet, declaring war on people I didn’t like and commanding all living beings from my secret caviar-filled mountain-top bunker. At the time, it seemed like a reasonable goal.

Some of my aspirations have slightly evolved in the years since, mostly because I have grown to truly despise the notion of being political. It goes without saying that anyone with a functional brain hates politics (if you don’t agree, you need to get that aneurism checked out, stat), yet most people believe it’s good practice to be political, to bite their tongues and (shudder) to compromise.

I’m a pretty compromising guy. I have a happy household where I am the only male in a sea of three females, which could actually make me the definitive master of the art. But mostly when I compromise I do it with honesty. If I don’t want to do something, I’ll say so. It’s worth it for the points, and it pre-empts any later concern about what could be causing my frequent grimaces of pain and self-pity when I end up doing it anyway.

I like to do things for people who I deem to deserve it. And I like deciding who those people are. But lately, that list has been getting shorter. I’d go to the ends of the Earth for my family and close friends and I’d go some considerable (though shorter) distance for many others. But in general, I’m no longer much compelled even to get out of my chair.

The reason, is that I don’t believe human beings are capable of a give-give scenario with relative strangers. In the absence of love or sex or deep emotional involvement, someone is going to be doing more taking than giving. It’s practically a rule.

They say common needs make for strange bedfellows; that there are circumstances under which teaming up with an erstwhile opponent can offer otherwise unattainable benefits. On the surface that may be true, but only if those strange bedfellows have an identical level of dependency on one another’s resources.

Because the snag with compromising is that it doesn’t work in reverse. If I give you something today, in order to keep you happy, I can’t just take it back tomorrow. Look at what happened to Germany between 1945 and 1989 because all the compromising Churchill and Roosevelt did with Stalin didn’t change for one second that he was a total asshole.

In such a relationship, you can’t say everything that is on your mind. You may find yourself having to go with an idea you know to be inferior. And you’re always having to shred your own needs in order to satisfy the other party.

I know my unwillingness to compromise makes me appear unsympathetic. Perhaps arrogant. That’s a pity. I don’t wish to be any of those things. But since, for the most part, you’re asking me to lose by asking me to compromise, I don’t see much upside in it anymore.