Broken relationships, and the myth of compromise: exploited givers, wounded takers, and a way forward

This may be wrong, but I don’t believe compromise is a biblical truth. As it relates to relationships, compromise entails both people losing a little. As it relates to an individual, compromising what you believe trades eternal reward for temporary gain.   Despite this, I was advised time and time again early in my marriage, to make compromises to establish harmony. In doing so, instead of harmony, I sewed resentment and deceit to get the better end of every “negotiation”. 

True harmony does not come from compromise, but rather from sacrificial giving. If both partners seek to see the other made complete, and prefer their partner over self, harmony reigns. Serving one another rather than seeking to be served is the kingdom way. 

“That’s great for healthy relationships, but if I give in, [he/she] will walk all over me.”  What is to be done in the case of the unevenly yoked couple?   I’ve discussed uneven yoking before, but will risk repetition here, because I believe it is important. In an evenly yoked relationship there is no need for compromise, and in an unevenly yoked relationship, there is no room for it.   The two most common types of people in unevenly yoked relationships are exploited givers and wounded takers. 

The Exploited Giver

This is the person who doesn’t want to upset the status quo, so goes along with the partner’s requests/demands, even though they may violate  the giver’s basic needs.  Compromise for the exploited giver usually opens the door to be manipulated out of more than they bargained for. 

Exploited givers often had emotionally traumatic experiences early in life. When they were forming the psychological construct of what it means to be an individual, they were deceived into believing they were responsible for other people’s problems, or even worse, that they were to blame for their own abuse. Exploited givers seek to avoid causing more pain by giving in, but this accomplishes exactly the opposite. 

Sacrificial giving is still possible for the exploited giver, but requires two caveats: believing newly acquired truth over established lies, and setting boundaries. 

  • The lie that you are to blame for how everyone else feels or for every bad thing that has happened to you feels like reality. Being told the same thing enough times not only makes it feel true, but can lead to acting as if it were true. Often exploited givers will force the issue and push people away to get what they believe to be inevitable abuse or abandonment , out of the way.   The truth is, you are valuable and not deserving of abuse or rejection. You are so precious that God became a man and died for you. 
  • Jesus gave sacrificially everywhere he went. He gave the ultimate sacrifice, but he also had boundaries. Every town Jesus went to, he was met by throngs of people who wanted something from him. They would bring out their sick, camp out to hear him speak, and even yell out to him as he was attempting to travel along the road. Scripture tells us time and again, that Jesus had compassion on the people and met their needs. Scripture also tells us he retreated in seclusion to pray. In fact Luke 5:16 tells us he did it often. Jesus sacrificially gave, but also tended to himself and his relationship with the Father. If Jesus can set boundaries and care for himself amidst ministering to needy people, it’s important for us too. 

Dear exploited giver: saying “no” doesn’t mean you are cruel, it means you have boundaries. Being told “you made me (fill in the blank) because you did/didn’t do something” is a manipulation. You are not responsible for anyone else’s emotions or behavior except your own. 

The Wounded Taker

These people live with the constant worry that if they don’t get what they deserve, they’ll be hurt or neglected. Like the exploited giver, they learned this bent lesson early due to trauma most often . Their pain is masked as aggression and they live by the adage: always look out for #1.   Sacrificial giving is anathema to the wounded taker. It is a show of weakness they are convinced will be exploited. Anything less than complete dominance is seen as failure. Even the smallest concession yields fear and hostility. 

The wounded taker can learn to sacrificially give too.  Believing truth over lies and banishing fear, are key. 

  • The lie is: to give is to lose, to serve is to be weak, and weakness is unacceptable. The truth is: to give is to love and to serve is to lead. Meekness is not weakness. Weakness is needing strength and not having it, meekness Is having strength and not using it.  
  • The fear is: if I lose control of the relationship, I’ll be the victim.   This leads to all manner of controlling behavior. Because of this, the wounded taker can be an oscar worthy actor, attempting to maintain control. After a blow up that threatens the status quo, the wounded taker can revert back to the most romantic of times. Surprise dates, opening doors, long in depth conversations; anything to rapidly return the facade of stability. It’s heartfelt at the time, but motivated only by fear of loss, and not true sacrificial giving.   Fear only motivates so far, love transforms forever. 

There are certainly other duos that can be unevenly yoked, the exploited giver and the wounded taker are among the most common and most painful. If you find while reading you identify as the exploited giver , please seek out godly counsel and pray freverently for your partner. Being “right” never reconciled a partner, but boundaries, love and prayer have.  If you identify as the wounded taker, seek accountability and counsel as well. Controlling some one else will never bring security, but seeing them as the Heavenly Father sees them can set you free and bring a security that God loves you both and his desire is that you would both be more like Jesus. 


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