Compromise is a word that you hear a lot when it comes to relationships. Most of us have some idea of what it’s supposed to mean – finding a way to ‘meet in the middle’, or maybe taking turns when it comes to certain decisions. But compromise isn’t always as simple as it might seem. While it can be a really useful tool for managing disagreements, it can also be a potential source of tension.
How to compromise without feeling resentful
Sometimes, we act as if we’re ‘compromising’, but what we’re really doing is caving — giving into a decision because it’s easier, but secretly feeling a bit angry and put out.
Compromise isn’t about simply finding a practical way to resolve decisions together. It’s much more about fully understanding where each other is coming from and reaching a decision in the spirit of what is truly fair to each of you.
Why can compromise be tricky?
Let’s walk through a scenario. A couple wants to go to the cinema. But they have different taste in movies. One of them wants to see an action film, and the other wants to see a romantic comedy. There are no films showing that they might both like to see.
They talk about it for a while, and it’s clear they’re not going to come to an easy agreement. In the end, one of them simply gives up and says they can go see the romantic comedy. The other person is happy, but the first one is secretly a little resentful that they had to give in.
Now, that might not seem like a particularly big deal, but it does contain a pattern that, when applied to something more serious or important, could be really problematic.
The couple might feel that one of them is giving in and the other getting their way is a form of ‘compromise’. After all, one of them has ‘compromised’ what they wanted – arguably for the greater good of the relationship. And there might be a vague feeling that, maybe next time, they’ll go to see the film that the first person wants to see.
But what’s missing from this interaction is proper communication. Both partners are just voicing their opposing views, but not really listening to what each other has to say. The focus is on the situation, not on each other’s feelings. While they have been able to reach a solution of sorts, it’s left one of them slightly annoyed, and perhaps ready to bring the whole thing up again later on
Why is communicating important when it comes to compromise?
If you both communicate openly about a conflict, then you’re both more likely to be able to reach a compromise that is understood fully by everyone involved, and as such, less likely to cause problems further down the line.
Instead of simply suppressing your objections, try to talk about them openly. This doesn’t mean digging your heels in and refusing to give any ground, but rather being candid and honest about what you’re finding difficult. In turn, it will be important that your partner feels able to do the same and that you’re able to listen too.
When you’re both talking openly about how you feel about a problem, you’re more likely to be able to move towards a decision that is truly fair. By talking it over, you can make a decision that takes into account what’s important to both of you.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll reach an agreement — after all, if there’s no movie you both want to watch, one of you may have to watch one you don’t! However, it does mean you’re much less likely to feel put out or disregarded. So often, disagreements are less about the practical facts than they are about one or both people feeling they’re not being given the emotional attention or respect they deserve.
On a practical level — yes, sometimes ‘meeting in the middle’ or ‘taking turns’ can be good ideas. And being able to do this is certainly better than not reaching any decision at all.
But these practical methods shouldn’t overshadow what’s really important: that you both feel heard and understood. These should be deployed only once you both feel you’re communicating openly and respectfully. That’s the meaning of true compromise: an agreement that feels inclusive and fair.
The example above might not seem too serious, but the ways we communicate or make decisions in relationships often form into patterns. If the same pattern was repeated on something more important — say, deciding which property to live in or even when to have children — then you can see how the potential for serious problems to develop is very real.
How do we communicate about this?
There are ways to make conversations more productive and less likely to turn into big disagreements. These are applicable regardless of whether you’re talking about something small or something big.
Take a look at our 5 communication tips to try with your partner. These simple tips will help you think about ways to express yourself and practical considerations surrounding the conversation that will make it easier to express yourselves to one another without anyone becoming defensive or angry.
Compromises In A Relationship You Can Expect To Make When It's Healthy
I love to get what I want. Who doesn't? Getting what you want feels good. And after years of being single, I am used to getting and doing what I want all the time. However, after recently beginning to date someone, I realized that mentality doesn't serve me anymore.
There are obviously compromises in a healthy relationship that I will have to make in order to make both me and my partner happy. But how can I do that without totally giving up my own needs and wants at the same time?
There is a difference between compromise and sacrifice. There are good compromises that improve a relationship, and bad compromises (sacrifices) that will lead to bitterness and resentment between you and your partner. The importance is knowing what will drive your relationship forward and what will hold you and your partner back.
Good compromises help you and your partner grow together as a team. They foster trust, accountability, consistency, and security in your relationship. A compromise shows that you have a common goal in mind: a healthy partnership, rather than your own singular happiness at heart. Compromises aren't selfish, whereas someone who expects you to make sacrifices probably is.
Do you and your partner know how to meet in the middle in order to have a successful relationship? Here are the six compromises you should be making if you expect to have a healthy relationship
The Way You Fight
My parents have been married for 40 years, and they pretty much have one rule: Never go to bed angry. It wasn't always like that. My dad loves to drag out fights, and my mom likes to ignore conflict in general. However, with two very different fighting styles, their relationship, despite being founded in love, wasn't bound to last.
In a relationship, you can't avoid fights, but you can come to an agreement on how to argue best. It's love language-adjacent. If your partner needs space after an issue arises, and you immediately need to talk things through, come to a mutual decision to give yourselves a few hours, and then come back together to talk.
When it comes to fighting in a relationship, it's important that everyone feels seen and heard, and that means addressing both you and your partner's fighting (and making up) styles.
How And When You Have Sex
Speaking of making up styles, let's talk sex for a minute. Everyone has a different libido. Some people need it (boning) every single day, and others can go a few weeks without pleasure down there. But once you get into a relationship, you have to come to some sort of agreement about your sexual schedule, so that neither you nor your significant other goes unsatisfied.
Whether that means having sex randomly a few times a week, or actually penciling in date nights into your schedule, it's important to keep the romance alive by keeping the physical aspect of your relationship in tact. Otherwise, if your partner doesn't feel desired, you can slip into friend-zone territory. And then, poof. Welcome to the friend zone. Population: you
Where Your Finances Go
If you combine funds in your relationship, then you're going to have to compromise on where that money is going. I know that if my boyfriend and I shared a bank account, he wouldn't be too happy to know that all of the money was going to a new fall wardrobe from ASOS, just as I would be annoyed if he put all of our money in a fantasy football draft.
Being in a relationship means financial compromises, despite how unsexy that sounds. Unfortunately, love and money are, in some way, connected, especially the more serious you get with someone. Although, be careful of getting too caught up in the money part. If you do that, relationship resentments are bound to arise.
Some Mutual Hobbies
My ex really loved architecture. I think houses are pretty, and I would love to live in a really big and expensive mansion one day, but I don't understand the subject much more than that. However, it was his passion. On the weekends, he liked to tour houses and explain the history of them to me. He bought me books on architects and took me to stores to look at mid-century modern furniture. Fun, I know.
To me, this was all a pretty big snooze fest. I would rather be watching reality TV on Bravo. But when you're in a relationship, you have to make compromises, and that means learning about your partner's interests. Did I have to become an expert in architecture? Absolutely not. But it was important for me to support my boyfriend in his hobbies, especially the ones he wanted to share with me.
When you're in a relationship, sometimes, you're going to have to do things you don't want to do, go to a wedding that sounds pretty boring to attend, or watch a television show you'd never watch on your own..
As long as you maintain your own interests at the same time, and your partner engages in some of those with you, then you're in the healthy-compromise territory, and your relationship will grow stronger.
Your Parenting Habits
If you and your partner plan on having kids, then you have to come to an agreement when it comes to parenting. Does your significant other believe in spanking, but you don't? Better have that conversation before it happens first.
Parenting involves a lot of compromise: bedtimes, diet, where you'll send your kids to school, when you'll let them start dating. It's a lot of moving parts — ones that need to be agreed upon with your partner first.
If you're planning on having children, make sure that you and your partner have great communication skills. Because to be honest, parenting is a mix of compromise and, on occasion, sacrifice, where you're putting your child — not your own needs — first.
Your Relationship To Time
I am a chronically early person. If I am not an hour early, then I literally feel late. Maybe it's a compulsion of mine, and I understand that it is annoying, but it's a personality trait I have that I can't seem to do away with. If you are getting lunch with me, you can guarantee that I will be the first one there, waiting with our drink orders and a table.
However, my ex liked to be late all the time or exactly on time. Rushing gave him a rush. He loved to race through traffic, and when we would travel, he'd always get us to the airport just as they were doing last call for our flight. It drove me crazy, gave me anxiety, and, to me, it was disrespectful because he knew I liked to arrive places early.
Neither of us wanted to compromise on the issue or find a happy medium, and we ended up breaking up. You might not think of it, but people have very different relationships to timing.
We all have that friend who is always running late and seems totally incapable of doing anything about it. If you're going to be in a relationship with someone, make sure that you compromise and are respectful of one another's time
You can expect to compromise some things in a relationship. That's what happens when your life stops being all about you. But if you feel like you are giving more than you are receiving, or if your compromises start to feel more like sacrifices, then it might be time to reevaluate the standards and boundaries that exist between you and your partner, or else you'll be falling into dangerous people-pleasing territory.
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