Freedom From Compromise and Control

by Stephen Mills on May 3, 2009


I suspect many of you will not agree with what I say here and that’s OK.  It works for me and I offer it as another perspective.  Hopefully it will trigger some thinking and new ideas that you can benefit from.

In general I’m against compromise, especially in one’s personal life.  I think compromise is bad and I think it’s generally bad for all parties involved in the compromise.  Compromise often means a short-term “feel better” solution that leads to long-term disaster.  Compromise to “keep the peace” is just about the worst thing you can do because you simply avoided the battle that could have prevented a much bigger war later.

I think Ayn Rand said it better than anyone:

“In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromiser is the transmitting rubber tube.”

A husband went to his wife and told her that he was taking her car shopping that weekend.  Their financial situation was very good and he wanted to buy her a new car.  She had been thinking about a Mini Cooper and so she researched them and decided that was the car she wanted.

At the Mini Cooper Dealer that weekend, the wife noticed that her husband was very distant and uninterested.  She was very excited and really liked the car and the dealer.  She asked him what was wrong and he said nothing but they needed to look at a few other types of cars before they bought.

Her husband took her to another dealer and showed her a different car.  Here he was very exited and talked animatedly about all the features and benefits of this particular make and model.  It was obvious to her that he had already decided this was the car she should get.  She much preferred the Mini Cooper but she wanted to “keep the peace” and make her husband happy.  She didn’t have the energy to fight the battle.  So she got his choice in a car.

Every time she got in the car to drive it, the memory of that day came back.  This was NOT the car she wanted.  It ate away and gnawed at her.  It made her mad at herself that she was weak and gave in to avoid a conflict.  It consumed her and she finally broke down and discussed it with her husband.  They eventually traded in the car and got a Mini Cooper.  Did her agreeing to a car she didn’t want help her or her husband?  Absolutely not!  I’m sure that her feelings affected their relationship and harmed him in subtle ways that he or she never knew.

Many years ago some of my friends and I were making plans for a poker game that night.  This is something we did about once a month.  A casual friend was in the room and expressed interest.  I could tell he was very interested and I invited him.  He said he needed to “ask his wife”.  Later he told me he couldn’t go.  I asked “Why?  Do you have other plans?” He said “No, she just doesn’t want me to go.”

I went ballistic.  I refuse to live my life that way or partake in that kind of relationship.  Here was an experience of bonding and fun that he wanted to enjoy and he sacrificed it to feed the petty preferences of his wife.  He agreed for no reason other than to keep the peace.  He died a tiny bit that day and I’m sure he dies a tiny bit more every day.  I say that because I was around him enough to observe their relationship dynamics.  I don’t care what he thinks.  He’s pissing away his long-term happiness.

I will never understand why you would want people you love to miss out on something that they want.  You and those you love only get one chance at life.  There are no do-overs.  I’m happy when the people I care about are happy.  How does it hurt me for them to do something they want to do that I don’t?  It doesn’t.  It helps me and makes our relationships stronger and better.  When the people involved in a relationship are are independent, happy, and fulfilled, you have a stronger relationship.  They are better people and bring more to the relationship.  Sacrifice creates bitterness and resentment.  Those two attitudes are poisons to a relationship.

If your partner wants to do something that you don’t want to do, don’t try to stop them.  Do the  opposite.  Encourage them to go without you.  Tell them to go with a friend or to go alone.  Don’t make the mistake of going along just to make them happy.  You can’t hide your feelings.  If you don’t want to go then don’t.  You will both be better off, no matter what you think at the moment.

I love to go to movies in a big stadium theater with the giant screen and sophisticated sound.  To me the experience is entirely different, even with a quality home theater system.  My wife doesn’t like to go to movies very much.  She likes to watch them on DVD at home.  Our taste in movies is often quite different too.  Do I drag her to the theater to watch movies she doesn’t want to see?  No.  I’ve gone to a thousand movies by myself or sometimes with my daughter or a friend.  Is this a problem between us?  No.  In fact when she thinks I’m obsessing over something at my computer she encourages me to go to a movie.  This is a win-win.

I’ve taken vacations and trips without my wife and visa versa because our interests were not always the same.  Most of our trips are together but not all.  I know many people who want to experience a place but don’t because their spouse doesn’t want to go there.  Who said all your travels had to be together?  This is a poison that will eat away at you if you don’t fix it.  I don’t want to go spend a week at her sister’s house so I don’t go.  In a couple of months she’s going to her sister’s and I’m going to the mountains.

Many people who know me think I’m quirky and have some weird ideas.  They often express surprise that I’ve been married for 29 years and make comments that my wife must be a “saint”.  Well maybe she is, but that is not the secret.  Good relationships among friends, family, and lovers come from strong independent people who trust and respect one another.

Even if you think you know what’s best for your friend, your partner, or even your children, you can’t impose it upon them.  You need to let them discover it for themselves.  Further, you might be wrong.  You are not them.  You can’t live their life anymore than they can live yours.  Do together what you both want to do and do separately what you you don’t.

Freedom is beautiful and wonderful experience.  The whole world is a mass of people trying to control one another.  A lack of tolerance and respect for individual freedom leads to a world full of hatred, wars, and genocide.  It is through the structures of culture that allow people control each other that these evils develop and manifest.  I live an a relatively free society still.  My neighborhood has people of many different cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds living peacefully and happily amongst one another.  The reason is because there is very little way for us to control each other.  We each go about our lives as we please doing what we each want separately and doing together as a community to what we all have in common.  Where conflict does arise, it is always through some mechanism of control; the lowest level often being the neighborhood association.  Even that tiny bit of control begins to create conflict.

Strife and intolerance come into play where there is a mechanism for control.  It is usually through political power.  Where Muslim and Christians have the right to worship as they each see fit, there is little conflict.  Where they have to power to control one another through force, conflict arises.  Two major areas of control are politics and relationships.  The less power, the more harmony.

It is far better to alternate decision making opportunities rather than compromise every one.  For an incredibly simple example try this.  If you have a date night, alternate who decides where to go or what to do.  The other person has no input and provides no negative feedback.  I would rather live the edge of my experiences 1/2 the time, than live a watered down version that nobody likes every time.  Secondly, you may be surprised and find out that the edge experience of someone else turns out to be an experience of wonderful discovery for you.  I recently went to an opera for the first time.  I loved it.  If you put some creativity into it, you can come up with a million ways to stop compromising your life away.

Do not try to control anyone and don’t let them control you.  Think about it.  Would you get more mutual pleasure and benefit from a caged bird or one who freely flies in from the forest and sits on your shoulder when and as he pleases? If you set people free and let them freely fly back to you, you will have a beautiful relationship.  You might even be surprised at how often they return.

For those of you who are parents, do the same for your children.  Don’t try to pound them into something that you want them to be.  They are individual human beings and they are not you.  If you control them, you will simply drive them away.  Maybe not physically, but you will lose them spiritually.  The best thing you can do for them is to show them by example, not by preaching, what a responsible, fulfilled, loving, compassionate, positive human being they can become.

Accept and treasure differences, not just between cultures but all the way down to the most personal relationships of family, friends, and lovers.  Don’t trap others in prison walls you erect for them.  We will all be far better of as a result.  Refuse to let someone else control you.  Break free and if your relationship was meant to be, it will be better as a result of being being free.  Find out now.  Set your own and everyone else’s spirit free.

What do you think?  Leave a comment below. Get Free Updates to The Rat Race Trap by Email here or via a reader in the top left sidebar.  I would love to have you on board.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Volkar / Delightful Work May 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm

“If your partner wants to do something that you don’t want to do, don’t try to stop them. Do the opposite. Encourage them to go without you.” This is very powerful; authentic expression of desires is a sound basis for any relationship.

Here’s another excellent way to let true desires surface. Suggest a specific date then each of you on a scale of 1-10 write down your true number on how excited youa re about doing that. The total has to add up to 11 or more. This respects both parties without compromise.


Deborah (greenlasagna) May 3, 2009 at 1:40 pm

I think your attitude toward you friend’s not being able to go to the poker game is selfish and short-sighted. You don’t know what might be going on in their relationship, and it isn’t for you to judge. He may have a gambling problem that has reared it’s head in the past, and hurt their relationship. They may have been financially strapped at the time, and he didn’t want to tell you. There is always a reason why a woman has to take control. In my last serious relationship, I tried giving him independence. The first time he overdrew the checking account, I bailed him out. The first time he spent $80 on watching porn at 3 a.m. on cable, I forgave him, and again bailed him out, on the promise he would never do it again. He didn’t keep that promise, so the next time, I had the cable shut off. The second time he overdrew the checking account by taking his buddies out to $15 lunches when we could not afford it (and he knew it), I took away his credit and debit card. I let him go to “hang out” alone with the friends he chose who were in their 20’s (he was in his mid 30’s) because I was way past the maturity level of just “hanging out”. He ended up falling in love with one of their friends and leaving me. I feel like she got the worse end of that deal, because from what I hear, he’s doing the same crap to her. His friends all thought I was a mean, controlling witch until they heard the same complaints from her mouth. I’ve actually had a few of them apologize to me since then..The old Indian adage “Do not judge me until you walk a mile in my moccasins” is very true. Try using it sometimes.


tom May 3, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Wow Stephen, this is such a wonderful post.

I for one would say, through recent experience, don’t ever compromise your values, beliefs just to please another person. One way or another you will find someone else out there that appreciates you for who you are.

I do believe that despite differences in tastes both people may have, it is always a good idea to try something new and see how it goes. In the end, you are still spending quality time with that person.


Roger | A Content Life May 3, 2009 at 2:37 pm


Thought provoking post!

I think I understand your points, but I’m not sure I agree that non-compromise or quid pro quo is necessary for every situation. Sometimes I do things that others want to do and I don’t want to do because I like to see the joy that it brings them.

I agree 100% with your statement:

“For those of you who are parents, do the same for your children. Don’t try to pound them into something that you want them to be. They are individual human beings and they are not you. If you control them, you will simply drive them away. Maybe not physically, but you will lose them spiritually. The best thing you can do for them is to show them by example, not by preaching, what a responsible, fulfilled, loving, compassionate, positive human being they can become.”

Too many parents try to compensate for their own childhood by forcing their children to do things that they were unable to do. I’ve seen parents force children to play particular sports, musical instruments, and so on.


Stephen Mills May 3, 2009 at 3:01 pm

@Deborah, I appreciate your perspective but you are wrong. I do know what was going on. Far more than you do. A few years earlier I had spent a year sharing an office with him and my wife and I had been guests at their home multiple times. He was no longer a close friend but he once was and we went fishing and did other activities together. She was very controlling and it’s very sad too me.

@Tom Volkar, great idea! I would suggest a 15 or more.

@Tom, thanks for your comment. I’m always for trying something new. Sometimes it is not new though and you know what your in for.

@Hi Roger! “Sometimes I do things that others want to do and I don’t want to do because I like to see the joy that it brings them.” Ah, so do I but that’s different. In that case you really would rather do it than not. You have to be very careful to distinguish between occasional unselfish giving and compromising your life away. Are you enabling a controlling situation or are you bringing them joy? I watch a lot of “compromise” that seems to please nobody. I’m sure the woman in the story about the car was seeing a lot of joy in her husbands face that day. And what did it bring them? Resentment and regret. Also, there is a slippery slope that you must control. A thousand little compromises and then what have you got left? No time for your desires. Controlling people use precedent more effectively than the courts. Sometimes they need cold turkey.


Roger | A Content Life May 3, 2009 at 3:12 pm


“Ah, so do I but that’s different. In that case you really would rather do it than not.” That is true. I guess there is some sort of path that represents a middle way.

Also, it depends the general nature of the relationship. If you’re in a relationship with a controlling person, then no amount of compromising will make you or the controlling person happy. You never get what you want and no matter how much you give the controlling person wants more control.

Of course, if you’re in a relationship with a controlling person, it begs the question of why are you staying in the relationship? Sad though it may be, some people want to be controlled because it removes any responsibility for decisions. That’s part of the reason that cults exist.


Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills May 3, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Hey Stephen,

I can’t remember a post where you sounded so adamant. Obviously, this is something you feel very strongly about. It seems to me that there is an important underlying factor here that no one has touched on. In both of your examples there didn’t seem to be much meaningful communication between the husband and wife, or at least that’s the way it appears. I find that this is a common issue in all types of relationships.

Why didn’t the first husband want his wife to get her car of choice? Did he just not like that model or was his best friend killed in an accident while driving the exact same car? If he had a reason he should have explained it so his wife could understand where he was coming from.

In the second example, did the wife explain her reasons? If not, then why not? Is it a control issue or was her father a compulsive gambler who gambled away the grocery money and house payment? You see, if that were the case, it would be a different issue altogether.

All to often people take a stand without explaining why. That is not the way to build a strong relationship. Tony Robins once said that the quality of our life is in direct proportion to the quality of our ability to communicate effectively. Relationships are as good, or as poor, as the level of meaningful communication between the parties involved.


Stephen Mills May 3, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Jonathan, yes it is something I feel strongly about. Let me clarify for everyone that the example of poker playing was not chosen randomly. That was one example in a pattern that went on constantly. At one time I knew them very well. This was a pattern of behavior that went on all the time in little ways. It was not an anomaly. I find it interesting that some people seem to think there must be an underlying reason for this incident. I’m sure she thought it was a waste of money. He could have played poker with us once a month for 10 years and lost the maximum amount every time and he wouldn’t have spent us much money as she did decorating their living room. She just thought it was stupid. But for those that got together to play poker regularly, it was one of our favorite activities. It was fun and we had a lot of good times.

In the case of the car her belief was that he had already picked it out for her. He probably assumed she would trust his opinion on cars of course. He got excited about his choice before he ever asked. These examples are just that – examples. I don’t think we need to pick them apart. This goes on all the time and if you watch people interact you see it all the time. Parents tell their kids they can’t do something, not because there is any real danger or problem, but just because the parents think it is stupid and useless. But the kids don’t learn it is stupid or useless until they experience it for themselves. Whether in love relationships or parent-child relationships, you must be careful to not create a forbidden fruit situation. You’ll just encourage cheating and lying ways to taste of that fruit.

People give in to the controlling tendencies of others to avoid conflict. It happens constantly. I think I see it more than most people because it is so very much against the way I was wired. It’s obvious to me. I guess my RAS is on super alert for controlling behavior. 🙂 I have family who have allowed themselves to become trapped and it bothers me.

“All to often people take a stand without explaining why. That is not the way to build a strong relationship.”

As for your above comment, I agree totally. If you have a reason then state it. Then the other person can judge whether that is sufficient reason or not. Personally, just stating a reason is usually not good enough for me unless I agree with the reason. I’m not going to sacrifice something I want because of the irrational desires of another. I also agree that communication will often resolve the issue, but once again I suggest in the end you take a stand for what you believe in.

The small things may matter more than the big things. You can lose your happiness one small compromise at a time and I think this may be more common than losing it in big chunks. Sometimes people don’t realize the cumulative effect of the small stuff.

I don’t want to control and I don’t want to be controlled. I want to be free and have free relationships with others.


Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills May 3, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Stephen, don’t get me wrong here, I totally agree with you and the point you are making. I was just opening it up a bit. I probably feel as strongly about the lack of communication as you do about the control issue. I see so many situations where better communication could have nurtured understanding, where as a lack of it ends up nurturing resentment. Dominance is a weird dynamic and often comes from a lack of respect. Controllers show a lack of respect for others, and those being controlled show a lack of self-respect (or self-esteem). A little of the Golden Rule can help us avoid such tendencies.


Laurie | Express Yourself to Success May 4, 2009 at 9:41 am

Great post, Stephen; I really enjoyed it.

For me, I’ll compromise until I reach the point of becoming a martyr – then it’s no longer compromise and when I get to that point, I know resentment isn’t far behind.

Also, I like the concept behind your statement, “The whole world is a mass of people trying to control one another.” We’d be so much happier if we ‘live and let live.’


Giovanna Garcia May 4, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Hey Stephen,
I agree with another commenter, that this is a thought provoking post.
Thanks for sharing your story. I wish you a wonderful week.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action


Stephen Mills May 4, 2009 at 7:27 pm

@Jonathan, I agree. I also think that more thinking would go a long way.

@Laurie, thanks for stopping by Laurie and leaving your nice comment. 🙂

@Giovanna, Thanks again!


Robin Easton May 6, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Wow! I enjoyed both the post and you and Jonathan commenting back and forth. And I agree with all of in that. We need to be aware of the times we sell our soul through unhealthy compromise. And we need to be aware of lack of communication. Since none of this is an issue in my relationship I found it interesting and forgot that people live like this. My husband and I LOVE communication and communicating and have become masters at with each other. In fact we set aside a time to sit quietly and talk each week. I mean SERIOUSLY talk. No phones, no interruptions, this is specific talk time. I’ll do a post about it sometime, but for now suffice to say: I do not know how couples, families, businesses go through their lives without setting aside specific talk time. People will say they talk “all the time” but most couple, families, etc. Do it on the fly, through their hectic days and all they entail. And most people don’t even know HOW to communicate even when given the time out to do it.

This post and your comments and Jonathan’s comments was wonderful!! If I wasn’t working I’d LOVE to share more thoughts on it all, but just wanted to pop in and see what you were up to. :))


Ian | Quantum Learning May 7, 2009 at 9:30 am

Great article!

I agree with you on this. Compromise is a lazy attempt at a solution that meets the needs of all involved. It always leaves a measure of both satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the result.

And sacrifice has greatly benefitted those with power (sacrifice by everyone else, that is). But has not given much to anyone else. If I do something for someone else then I wouldn’t call it sacrifice unless I do it out of fear and with a heavy energy. If I do it with free choice and generosity then it’s a gift.



Derrick May 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm

I love your article and your website! Right down to when you describe how others may see you and your ideas as “querky or weird”.Your writings are refreshing and informative. I to am often referred to as querky and weird….go figure…lol.



timethief May 14, 2009 at 10:09 pm

“If your partner wants to do something that you don’t want to do, don’t try to stop them. Do the opposite. Encourage them to go without you.”

I couldn’t agree more. My husband and I have been married for over 30 years and there has never been a time in our relationship where either one of us demanded that the other accompany us to some event we did not wish to attend. There has also never been a time when either one of us had the temerity to try and veto the other’s attendance at an event either. We have encouraged and supported each other to be free to grow within our relationship, form bonds with friends of our own choosing, and take up interests of our own choice as well.

What astonishes us is watching couples who spend all their rimes struggling to control one another and entering unhappy compromises full of leftover emotional baggage like you have described in your thoughtful post. What a waste of two lives.


Oz October 26, 2009 at 3:53 pm

I’ve been lurking for the past few days; going through the archives. This post is F***ING brilliant:

“The whole world is a mass of people trying to control one another.”

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! And we never learn.


Mark Dowdell November 4, 2009 at 10:14 pm

I can’t stop agreeing with every point that Stephen has made here. So many people just don’t come close to getting it! Why in the world are the majority of people so hell bent on controlling others? It might not always be conscious or malicious, but almost everyday, I encounter people attempting to tell me how to live my life. I’ve wondered, and will continue to wonder, why in the world so many people have such an interest in telling me how to live, when they can’t even do it themselves. Where does this inclination come from? Did I miss a meeting? Didn’t America become an independent nation centuries ago? Or maybe I’ve just been lied to for the entirety of my life.

Awesome, awesome post. I look forward to more. And you’re giving me ideas for some posts of my own. Thank you!
.-= Mark Dowdell´s last blog ..Labeling Our World =-.


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