Compromise Is Not Caving In

Compromise Is Creating Win-Win Situations

Couple relaxing on sofa
  Dean Mitchell / Getty Images

We hope you don't think compromising with your spouse is giving in, caving in, selling out, walking a tightrope, or losing control. When we use the word compromise we don't mean giving in a great deal to keep the peace or allowing yourself to be dominated. It is especially important to not give in if it means going against your own moral beliefs or if giving in could endanger your well-being physically, emotionally, or legally. Make sure your agreements/compromises are mutual decisions.

Many believe that life is full of compromises -- especially in marriage. Others believe that being able to reach an agreement rather than compromise is better for a marriage.

Diane Lore: "Therapists also say that it's important to realize that no marriage is perfect and that fighting is often part of the ebb and flow of compromise."
Source: Diane Lore. "Fight Fairly and Keep the Peace in Your Relationship."

One of the worst things you can do in your marriage is to believe that your way is the only way or to go the route of saying "whatever." Both approaches are ways to avoid listening and communicating with your spouse.

Sophie Keller: "The word compromise has never sat well with me. It always seems a bit stifling and implies sacrificing my own needs for someone else's. So instead of compromising, I think of coming to an agreement. In the same way that the word compromise suggests taking away what I wish for, the word agreement suggests I am freely, of my own volition, coming to a decision with my partner that works for both of us. In making this decision, we take each other into account and our goal is to take what we both want and make it work for both of us."
Source: Sophie Keller. "Marriage Advice: Come To An Agreement Rather Than Compromise." 12/13/2011.

A lack of respect for one another's beliefs may cause you to not be able to bridge your differences by agreeing to disagree and you will find yourselves disagreeing intensely and arguing continually.

Create Win/Win Situations

A good compromise is not just about avoiding conflict. A successful compromise agreement is one in which you and your spouse together create a win/win situation.

  • Try to see both sides of an issue. Share one another's ​needs, thoughts, concerns, and feelings can help alleviate resentment and a sense of being threatened.
  • Remember to use I statements, fight fair, and do not shut your spouse out by using the silent treatment.
  • As you negotiate, look for common ground and common goals.
  • John Gottman: "Before you try to resolve a conflict, remember that the cornerstone of any compromise is the fourth principle of marriage -- accepting influence. This means that for a compromise to work, you can't have a closed mind to your spouse's opinions and desires. You don't have to agree with everything your spouse says or believes, but you have to be honestly open to considering his or her position ... Often compromise is just a matter of talking out your differences and preferences in a systematic way."
    Source: John M. Gottman, Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. 2000. pgs. 181-182.
  • Accept one another.
  • Megan Northrup: "Communicating basic acceptance of your partner's personality is vital to solving all marital problems. It's impossible for two people to solve their problems when each feels criticized, disliked, or unappreciated by the other." Source: Megan Northrup. "Solving Your 'Solvable Problems.'"

When You Can't or Won't Compromise

If either of you is too rigid or too stubborn or too insensitive or too set in your ways to reach a compromise, or if the issue is one where compromise is impossible, then agreeing to disagree with one another may be the best choice. When you agree to disagree you must let go of any lingering feelings of resentment about the issue that is the bone of contention.

Some issues where reaching a compromise may be quite difficult or even impossible include:

  • To have children or not.
  • Differing parenting styles.
  • Use of pornography.
  • Incompatible values such as having a television in the house or not.
  • Physical or emotional abuse.
  • Jealousy.
  • Not keeping your word.

Note: If an issue appears to be unsolvable and continues to negatively impact your marriage, see a marriage counselor for help.