Having the ability to compromise is a crucial skill that can help individuals in a relationship to reach a common ground and effectively resolve conflicts. In this article, we delve into the meaning of compromise in relationships, why it holds significance, how one can become more at ease with it, and when it is appropriate to compromise and when it is not.
What Is the True Meaning of Compromise?
When you’re in a relationship, chances are you and your partner will have different values, preferences, or habits. For instance, you may have different views on things like where to go on vacation or what colour to paint the kitchen. These differences can lead to conflict, with each party wanting different things and no easy answer. This is where compromise comes in.
“In a relationship, compromise is an invitation to collaborate with your partner while solving problems,” says Claudia de Llano, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of “The Seven Destinies of Love.” It’s not fair for either one of you to get your way all the time, so compromise helps ensure that both partners’ views are heard and a mutually beneficial solution is worked out accordingly. Compromise entails mutual respect and regard for each other’s feelings and needs, says de Llano. It requires both partners to cooperate with each other and make adjustments to accommodate each other.
Why Compromise Is a Pillar of Healthy Relationships
Compromise is an important tool in relationships because it helps resolve conflicts. If you or your partner are unable to compromise and insist on things only being done your way, it can lead to repeated conflict, which can erode the relationship over time. A sign of a healthy relationship is not that you and your partner agree on everything but that you can compromise and work out your differences in a mutually respectful manner.
Compromise teaches us that our own point of view or desires are only part of the equation in a relationship, says de Llano. “When we compromise, we validate our partner’s feelings, needs, desires, and aspirations. We are showing them that we respect them, their needs matter, and that their point of view is valuable—even though it’s different from our own,” she says.
What Are Examples of a Compromise?
These are some examples of compromise in a relationship:
- Planning dates: It’s important to take each partner’s preferences into account while planning dates. For example, if your partner is vegan, that could mean checking ahead of time and only scheduling dates at restaurants that have vegan options on the menu. This may mean that you can’t go to your favourite restaurant together because it doesn’t have any vegan options.
- Expressing love: You and your partner may have different love languages. Learning to speak their love language can help them feel loved and cared for, even if it’s not the same as the preferred method of showing affection. For instance, even if you prefer to express affectionately verbally, if they prefer to express it physically, you can make an effort to be more physically affectionate with them so they feel loved in their love language.
- Dividing household chores: You and your partner can negotiate how to split up housework. For instance, if you hate taking out the trash, you can ask your partner to do it every night and in return, you always do the dishes after dinner.
- Spending time together: You may prefer to spend your weekends doing outdoor activities; whereas, your partner may prefer to catch up with friends and family. You could compromise by going for a run or hike together on Saturdays and seeing loved ones on Sundays.
- Splitting up the holidays: If both your families are expecting you for the holidays, you and your partner may have to work out a compromise. For instance, you can spend Thanksgiving with your family and Christmas with theirs. Or, you can do Christmas Eve with your family and Christmas Day with theirs.
These are just a few examples of compromise in relationships. In reality, compromise is applicable to just about every aspect of a relationship, including managing finances, raising children, planning vacations, participating in activities together, and supporting each other’s careers and goals.
Getting Comfortable With Compromise
If you and your partner are learning how to compromise with one another, these are some steps that can help you get more comfortable with it:
- Have a respectful discussion: The first step is to have a calm and respectful discussion with your partner, says de Llano. “Each of you should express your feelings and viewpoint without interruption.” Tell your partner what you think, want, or expect and explain why it’s important to you. Listen to what they have to say.
- Acknowledge each other’s feelings: Each partner should acknowledge what they heard their partner say and why it’s important to them, says de Llano. Even if you don’t agree with them, acknowledging their feelings can help them feel seen and heard.
- Be willing to give and take: It’s important to be willing to give and take. Keep an open mind and be flexible. Only wanting things your way is not conducive to a healthy and happy relationship.
- Look for solutions together: Work with your partner to find a solution together. Discuss the pros and cons and choose the option that works best for both of you. This may mean doing things your way, their way, or finding another option altogether.
- Make compromises lovingly: Remember that compromise is a loving gesture and not a punishment or a sacrifice, says de Llano. If you are the one compromising on something, do it graciously and lovingly.
- Appreciate your partner’s compromises: If your partner is compromising on something for you, be mindful and appreciative of it.
- Avoid reacting emotionally: You may get angry or upset if things don’t go your way, which can make things worse. If you can’t reach an agreement right away and feel yourself getting frustrated, de Llano recommends taking a moment to stop, pause, and think before you react. Step back from the situation and take some time to evaluate your priorities.
- Seek couples therapy: If you and your partner often find yourselves struggling with conflict and unable to compromise, it may be helpful to go to couples therapy. A couples therapist can help you talk through your issues and find solutions together.
When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Compromise
It can sometimes be hard to judge when you should and shouldn’t compromise. These are some factors to keep in mind.
When You Should Compromise
It would be best if you compromised when:
- The issue is important to your partner: If your partner feels strongly about something and is insisting it is important to them, this may be a time to compromise to accommodate them, especially if it doesn’t infringe on your core beliefs or values.
- The compromise is fair: The best solutions involve give and take on both sides so that the compromise is fair and equitable. For instance, if you like beach vacations but your partner prefers the mountains, you can pick a place that has both. Though it may not have been either of your first choices, it’s a reasonable compromise that accommodates both your preferences.
- The relationship is balanced: A healthy relationship is one where both partners are considerate of each other’s needs and preferences. Making compromises to accommodate each other can help you and your partner grow closer together and strengthen the bond between the two of you.
When You Shouldn’t Compromise
On the other hand, you shouldn’t compromise when:
- Your core values are being compromised: Avoid compromising on your core values. For example, if you’re trying to decide which movie to watch, you can compromise and let your partner pick a movie they like. However, if your partner wants an open relationship and you don’t, then it’s important to make your boundaries clear. If you feel strongly enough about something, it’s worth fighting fairly for it, says de Llano.
- Your boundaries are being violated: Compromise does not extend to boundary violations in a relationship, says de Llano. “If you’re being put down, spoken to inappropriately, or feeling harmed, your mental, physical, and emotional safety come first.”
- You’re the only one compromising: A relationship where only one person makes all the compromises is an unhealthy dynamic. If you find that you’re the only one making compromises, both big and small, it may be time to reevaluate your relationship.
It’s crucial to understand that compromise necessitates joint effort from both partners to establish a shared definition of happiness. At times, it involves giving up something one would prefer individually to move ahead together. Compromise is not the same as sacrifice, which can either be a solo act done for the sake of a partner’s happiness or an instance where one partner’s giving is not proportional to the other’s. Genuine compromise entails mutual respect and giving for the benefit of the partnership.