Although I am an adult who understands life is not fair, I am desperate for compromise that actually works. In general I feel the way Larry David does in Curb Your Enthusiasm, “A good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied.”

I often field questions about how Sustainable Productivity can work in real life. I will bring you examples from real life – mine and my clients – in order to show how you can use the 3-step Sustainable Productivity model to create a life you don’t need to escape. I started wondering if I could find compromise that actually worked by using Sustainable Productivity in relationships.

The Background

When Bixby and I first started sharing a toothpaste tube, we had 2 adults, 2 kids, 4 Labs and 2 cats sharing 1100 square feet of house. We adapted the best we could – except for Bluesy, the cat. He moved out and adopted the neighbors after all 4 dogs had him cornered in the living room one day. To be fair, Bluesy generally started it.

But the rest of us did the best with what we had. The kids decided to sleep in one room and have the other as a playroom. Bixby and I purged mercilessly to bring two full households into one. This was Sustainable Productivity at its best – decide where the pain points are and make small, sustainable changes over time.

The Pain Point

Until one day when Bixby lost it. Over the toothpaste tube. He decided this was not something that could continue lifelong.

You see, in every couple, there is one who squeezes the toothpaste from the bottom and one who squeezes from the middle. There is a hilarious Instagram thread where my favorite couple Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach battle this issue.

My name is Susan S., and I am a middle squeezer.

Admitting my problem was truly only the first step.

I tried to change to squeeze from the bottom. It was not sustainable – I would forget or be tired at night and not care. I would be petty and grumpy and squeeze from the middle on purpose.

He tried to change and ignore my egregious behavior. It was not productive. You can only stuff your feelings down so many times before there is a blow up.

The Adjustment

They say marriages break up over dumb things. That seemed like a drastic adjustment to make for a toothpaste tube problem, but we could not continue with this pebble in the shoe of our marriage. The pain point was the tube. If we could make an adjustment about the tube, we would solve the problem before it grew into a bigger issue like, “You never listen to me” or “You know what bothers me and do it on purpose.”

So we bought a 2nd tube. Bixby kept his neat, tidy squeezed-from-the-bottom tube in his gross, messy drawer. I kept my blurt-from-the-middle tube in my Marie Kondo-eque box organized drawer.

Evaluate Progress

And we lived happily ever after. After meeting on 14 years ago and being quarantined together for 12 months, we are still each other’s weirdos.