We’ve all heard the old adage: “Compromise is key” or “Marriage is all about compromise.” In a nutshell, the idea here is that you or your spouse make concessions when disagreeing for the sake of the marriage.
However, this formula is more harmful than healthy, and here’s why.
It doesn’t require a lot of effort to give in on an issue. The delusion here is that if you sacrifice what you want in exchange for your partner’s happiness, then you’ll be happy too. Essentially though, it’s a cheat code for getting out of a tough conversation. Compromise is less about you finding happiness and more about you avoiding the work.
Solution: Do the work.
Go deeper than what you each want. Talk about why you want it.
Let’s say you both are ready to buy your first car together. You want an SUV, but your partner wants a sports car. First, stay away from the tendency to critique the other’s preference; instead, talk about the values that drive your choices.
Perhaps you want an SUV because you value an active lifestyle together — one filled with biking, waters sports, and outdoor recreation. Or, you value spending time with friends and family on road trips and plan to have a kid within the next few years.
Speaking to values spur on deeper conversations that go beyond superficialities and uncover what motivates you as a person.
It Leads to Resentment
You have ideals and goals for your life. Marriage isn’t about quashing your dreams in favor of your partner’s. When you give up what you want for the sole purpose of putting a negotiation to bed, you’re planting a seed of resentment. It may not be apparent at first, but it’ll become a serious issue over time.
Solution: Lead with truth and come together.
Ask your partner for the floor. Express your heart’s desire. Put everything on the table. Then, ask your partner to share with you as you listen actively and observe patiently.
Avoid playing it safe here, as doing so will be a disservice to both of you. Remember you don’t want to hold anything back only to regret and resent later. Vulnerability will be the best tool to move forward.
Maybe you’re apprehensive about starting a business together because you’ve seen businesses cause breakups in your family. Or you want your kids to be homeschooled because of your positive experience with at-home learning.
Once you’ve laid out all the cards, find the overlaps in history, values, and goals with your partner. In the car example, maybe your partner now better understands the value of an SUV after you both see eye to eye on having kids in the near future.
Also, find the sticking points. Think critically and creatively to come up with solutions for your disagreement. From the business example, you could start the venture on your own at first. Then, bring your partner in once the business stabilizes, so both of you aren’t in the trenches out the gate.
Both Partners Lose
When one of you caves in a compromise, resentment is born. This affects both of you, not just the person that yielded. Even if you get your way, your partner may act out in a variety of ways that put the health of your marriage at risk.
If both of you meet in the middle as a “quick compromise” without doing the work, then you may have a haphazard solution that doesn’t serve either of you.
Solution: Aim for a win-win.
Of course, it’ll take some work, but the path to a mutually beneficial solution will prove to be a fruitful journey and destination. The key is to have a mindset hinged on constructing, joining, inviting, and encouraging (as opposed to destroying, separating, excluding, and criticizing).
If your partner is taking on a new hobby and invites you to join, give it a shot, at least once, to show you care. For that matter, take each and every disagreement and view it as a challenge to strengthen your relationship.
How Compromise Works When Ending a Marriage
If you’ve reached a serious impasse and are planning for divorce, you’ll need to apply the same solutions above to achieve success after marriage. In other words, you won’t get anywhere by drawing a line in the sand on every issue and asking your partner to compromise. Similarly, you can’t cave in on the things that truly matter to you.
Instead of employing one-sided compromises, you’ll have to communicate constructively and truthfully with your partner in order to make huge decisions on finances, assets, child custody, and child visitation.
It’s important to point out that you’ll need to opt for divorce mediation (over litigation) to take control of your divorce. Mediation is not a courtroom; however it empowers you and your partner to take matters into your own hands instead of relying on a complete stranger, AKA the judge, to make big decisions for you.
Mediation is powerful because it presents an opportunity for both of you to get what you want by doing the following:
- Prioritize what’s most important to you and why
- Focus on these priorities, instead of fighting over lesser objectives
- Be completely open and honest regarding your financial situation and other needs
- Doing what’s best for your children
With mediation, you have a chance to achieve success in your post-marital life that you may have not been able to gain during the marriage.
Compromise inherently produces the mirage of a single winner or two dissatisfied parties. It’s a surefire way to build resentment while keeping real issues bottled up.
Your path to a healthy and successful life will be lined by open communication, creative solutions, and a growth mindset.
In a marriage, you’ll have your fair share of arguments, but you can transform each of these moments into opportunities to develop a deeper, long-term, loving relationship with your partner. If you’re ending a marriage, you can employ these same tools to attain long-term health and wellness, for you, your ex-partner, and your children.