If there were three tenets holding up a successful marriage, they would probably be care, compromise and… separate bathrooms. Of these, compromise in marriage tends to be the most controversial simply because it often involves meeting your spouse halfway or giving up a little of exactly what you want.
Now, you could cross your arms, pout and say, “Marriage is not about compromise.” But in all honesty, most relationships, marriage or not, rely on a give-and-take equation rather than one person giving up everything and the other getting their way all the time.
Compromise in marriage comes with its own glitches. “Who’s giving more?” “Is there a perfect balance of compromise at all times?” “How do you get past the gendered concept of compromise?” These are all questions that might pop up in your head.
To seek some clarity on the subject of marriage compromises and sacrifices, we consulted Shazia Saleem (Masters in Psychology). She specializes in separation and divorce counseling, and offered some insights on the importance of compromise in marriage and how to do it right, at least most of the time.
Why Is Compromise Important In A Marriage?
Shazia says, “Healthy compromise is important for any relationship to survive. In marriage, especially, when we tend to have high expectations, it’s important to remember that the ‘us’ needs to be prioritized over individual egos most of the time. When two unique individuals come together, marriage becomes the common platform for them to be bigger, better humans, and a relationship that should be a win-win situation for both.”
Compromise in marriage is sometimes seen as a negative term, subverting individual choices and needs. However, this usually only happens when only one party compromises. None of this will help you survive a marriage crisis. The heart of compromise is that it needs to happen in all corners of the relationship or marriage for it to work. No compromise in a marriage means you’re stuck in a no-win situation where you’re both too stubborn to make a move or a gesture.
So, how do you compromise in the right way? How do you build a marriage where you know how and when to compromise while still maintaining your quirks and unique aspects (things that make you so wonderfully you)? Read on to find out.
9 Expert Tips To Compromise In A Marriage The Right Way
We’ve established that compromise in a marriage is important. Now, let’s take a closer look at certain steps to take instead of being quick to declare that marriage is not about compromise. Here are some tips on how to compromise in a marriage the right way:
Related Reading: 13 Tell-Tale Signs A Man Is Unhappy In His Marriage
1. Be clear about your needs
One of the best examples of compromise in a relationship is to acknowledge and articulate your needs in a healthy and loving manner. Now, we all have our own needs in a marriage and often, we expect our partner to be a mind reader and know exactly how we’re feeling and what we need at any given point in time.
Remember, your partner is human, as are you, and thus cannot read your thoughts or your critical emotional needs in a relationship. Also, let’s not forget that as we grow and evolve as individuals, our needs and desires in terms of what we want and expect in a relationship and marriage, also change.
Marriage compromises and sacrifices take shape in a healthy way when you feel safe and brave enough with your partner to come out and be clear about what you need. Have an honest conversation about how they can make you feel more loved. If you think you need more time together or date night ideas, tell them. If you feel you need more alone time, tell them.
Don’t say this in a way that disrespects the efforts and compromises your partner is already making. Turn it into a conversation where you meet each other halfway, where you appreciate what they do, while also telling them what else they could do to make the marriage more joyful. And be sure to take the time to hear them out, too.
2. Be respectful of each other’s boundaries
We love healthy relationship boundaries and love learning how to lay them down in a loving and respectful manner. When you’re trying to compromise in a marriage, boundaries play a major role in knowing each other and also knowing when to push and when to take a step back.
Shazia advises, “Don’t wait till the ink dries on your marriage certificate to have healthy and clear boundaries. At the beginning of a relationship, people often try to impress each other at the cost of their values and belief systems. Then, once they’re married or in a committed relationship, there’s a sudden shift and they start strongly holding on to what they believe in.
“Be clear about your boundaries right from the start, so your partner knows right away what they’re working with and what concessions they need to make during the course of the relationship.”
Boundaries are essential in any relationship, and are especially important in a romantic equation since most of us grow up believing there’s nothing you wouldn’t give up for a soulmate and/or a spouse. When pondering over the importance of compromise in marriage, boundaries and respect need to be established early on and very clearly.
3. Understand your spouse is a person in their own right
Yes, we know what all the movies say. Marriage means two become one. True soulmates match and understand each other perfectly, etc etc. But we’ve got news for you. No matter how much you love each other or how perfectly you’re matched, you’re still two separate, different people who came together, hopefully with realistic relationship expectations. You’re still bringing certain unique qualities to the marriage. And that needs to be respected and celebrated.
“While we may love one another’s quirks and eccentricities at the beginning of a relationship, with marriage comes a tendency to want to change your spouse. Expectations change, and we suddenly want our spouse to fit into a more husband-ly or wifely role. At this stage, it’s always important to remember and respect each other’s individuality and accept one another as a unique person without trying to change them,” Shazia explains.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t call out a spouse if they exhibit harmful or toxic behavior. For instance, if you’re dealing with a narcissistic husband, we’re not saying you must silently suffer and take it. But that’s different from losing your mind because your spouse still collects Marvel action figures or has motorbike paraphernalia all over the house. Quirks like these are part of the person you fell in love with, after all!
4. Listen when your spouse talks, even when you don’t agree
“My wife and I have a rule when we argue. We pretend it’s a timed debate and we give each other 3-5 minutes to lay out our side of the case. That way, both of us get to speak and each of us has to listen to the other. Also, this means, we actually have to be thoughtful and not just scream at each other,” says Charlie, speaking of how he and his wife have evolved a functional system of compromise in their marriage that works even in some of their most unpleasant moments.
Compromise in marriage is so much about listening better in your relationship. There are always going to be disagreements, even in the healthiest of marriages, but if everyone’s fighting and screaming and no one’s listening, there’s no compromise and therefore, no resolution of the issues. Mind you, I like a good bout of fighting myself, but even I will concede that it’s exhausting when we’re both screaming but no one’s listening.
“Agree to disagree,” advises Shazia, “It’s very crucial to understand that difference of opinion is natural and common amongst two individuals. But how you handle this is up to you. Choose to handle the difference and disagreement in a decent and respectful manner and you’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to find common ground, rather than sulking and thinking marriage is not about compromise.”
5. Work out your non-negotiables
This is possibly my favorite relationship lesson of all time, mostly because it allows me to really dig deep and discover things that I consider absolutely sacred. My partner needs plenty of time in the great outdoors while I need lots of couch and TV/reading/podcast time. We love hanging out, but how we spend our downtime is a big part of us as individuals and as partners.
I could sulk when he goes off to camp (I hate camping); he could pout when I choose to stay home in my pajamas and watch the Twilight Saga for 10 hours. But this time is not negotiable because it decompresses us, makes us better, calmer people and partners. We’re not rejecting each other, we’re just taking time out for ourselves. And a little self-love goes a long way in cementing loving relationships with other people.
Once you’ve laid out your non-negotiables, it becomes clearer and easier to define the things you are willing to compromise on. That way, you’re not shocked or infuriated if they expect you to meet them halfway or go easy in certain situations. Your partner will know what to expect from you and vice versa.
Related Reading: 12 Things You Should Never Compromise On In A Relationship
6. Plan vacations fairly
This might sound oddly specific, but bear with me. In our hugely busy, overworked lives, days off and weeks where you both have time off are rare and thus must be cherished. Shared vacations are hugely important – you get couple time without the everyday distractions of household chores and other work. Maybe you even plan a little getaway for just the two of you, away from the kids.
But even then, there will be things that you want to do on holiday that your spouse may not. This is a situation ripe for marital conflict since the whole point of a holiday with them is to spend time together. My partner and I both love traveling, but I need my creature comforts, which is to say, I do not find outdoor showers romantic.
I want to be up fairly early because I love hotel breakfasts, he wants to sleep in. I prefer staying close to the city center, he wants to be holed up in the middle of nowhere with only nature for company.
In the spirit of examples of compromise in a relationship, there are at least a couple of days when I let him sleep for as long as he wants and I wander off and explore on my own. Not quite sleep divorce, but it works. When he wakes up, he comes and joins me wherever I am. I remind myself that it’s his vacation too and sleep is very important to him. He lets me choose where we stay and isn’t too disappointed that they all have four walls and air-conditioning. See? Compromise.
7. Talk about family time
By family, we’re not just talking about the one the two of you are creating, but also about your respective sets of parents, siblings and assorted extended family members who may be in your lives. In many cases, one spouse may be closer to their family than the other, which could lead to a lack of compromise when it comes to spending time with them.
“I’m not particularly close to my folks but my husband is close to his,” says Jules, “I often used to resent the amount of time he spends with them – every major holiday, the constant phone calls and questions – it just wasn’t my thing. They’re nice, warm folks, but I just don’t like people all up in my business.
“Obviously, this was an issue because I felt there should be no compromise in a marriage when it comes to putting each other first and making sure no one else has a say in our lives. I sometimes accused my husband of putting his family over and above me and listening to their opinions too much. But finally, we talked it out, and we’ve agreed that he gets to spend time with them all he wants, as long as I’m kept out of it.”
Family is important but so is compromise in marriage. Ensure that there are no relationship communication problems on this front because we all tend to get a tad touchy and defensive about our families. Talk it out, listen well and compromise.
8. Discuss finances
The thorny issue of finances comes up frequently when talking about examples of compromise in marriage. There are tried-and-true tips for married couples to split finances but personal finance is, well, personal, so it’s best to sit down and air out any issues over spending patterns and who has more control over joint money matters.
Be open about who earns more, what you spend on, what you want to spend on and create a shared vision of a financial future. Matters like what you want to do in terms of buying a home, going on holidays and so on, could become contentious if you’re not prepared to hear each other out and compromise.
So, where does compromise come in here? Again, keep in mind that people view money differently based on upbringing, education, earning potential etc. Your spouse may be a more lavish spender or maybe they’re hysterically miserly and terrified of not having enough cash.
Your financial outlook may be completely different and you might end up on opposite ends of the spectrum where money is concerned, muttering to yourself things like “marriage is not about compromise and I want a new refrigerator that costs more than the house”. As with most conflict resolving processes, begin with talk therapy and being prepared to meet them halfway.
9. Learn each other’s love languages
Everyone has their own love language. Yours could be words of affirmation and your partner’s could be acts of service. It’s easy to assume your partner doesn’t love you the way you need to be loved (and this is valid and should be talked about). But, one of the most important examples of compromise in a relationship is that everyone has their own way of showing love.
Knowing each other’s love language comes from spending time together and observing your partner deeply. Acknowledging that they do in fact love you, just maybe in their own way, is to compromise in marriage and strengthen your love all at the same time. There’s no one way to show commitment, affection, respect etc. and recognizing this is perhaps one of the most liberating things you’ll do for yourself and your relationship.
“I’m a touchy-feely person and my spouse is not,” says Griffin. “I’m also terribly anxious by nature, so I’m always assuming no one loves me as much as I love them. I just retire to a mental corner and wallow in self-pity. It’s taken years of therapy and time with my spouse to realize that they might not be very physical but they unerringly show up for me when I need them.”
Seeking professional help is also not a bad idea if you’re looking for better ways of healthy compromise in a marriage. If you are, in fact, looking to ease your burden with a therapist, Bonobology’s panel of experienced counselors is just a click away.
Marriage is held up as an aspirational institution, the best and most sacred way to affirm your love and commitment to one another. This means there’s naturally a lot riding on this relationship and it’s easy to lose your individuality and disappear into your prescribed role in the marriage.
Compromise in marriage versus no compromise in a marriage is a tricky question, which is why forging your own unique middle path becomes integral to maintaining your peace of mind and ensuring your marriage remains healthy and robust. In other words, you might need to compromise on how to compromise in your marriage.
“Prioritize yourself and your needs in an appropriate manner. Everything starts with yourself. If you cannot take care of yourself, you cannot take care of other relationships. When self-care and respect is taken care of, a person will not lose individuality,” Shazia says.
Remember, every marriage is unique and there’s no one way to do things. Marriage can also be rigid in its roles and rules and leave you wondering, ‘is marriage restrictive?’. But, there’s no reason for you to get stuck in an endless loop of prescribed and expected behavior.
Be gentle with yourselves and each other but also call each other out when needed. There are ways to be clear about your needs and desires without making your spouse feel like they don’t measure up to your ideals of a spouse. Compromise doesn’t mean giving up your ideals, it’s more of a shift toward understanding that there are multiple ways to live with and love another person. Good luck.
Compromise in a relationship is about meeting each other halfway and creating a relationship that is based on give and take. It’s also about ensuring that both parties have a voice and a say in the marriage, rather than only one person steering it.
Do not compromise on your dignity and peace of mind in a marriage. If a marriage is physically or emotionally abusive, or if your needs are constantly being put second to your spouse’s, it’s time to put your foot down.
It is rare for a marriage to work entirely without compromises. Clear and healthy boundaries should be drawn about what is non-negotiable but some compromise must be arrived at about seemingly mundane things like vacations, sex and finances.