Let’s face it. Compromise almost never gets good press. In fact, the common understanding of compromise involves a lose-lose proposition that we should avoid at all costs!
Consider two formal versions of the word:
NOUN: An agreement or settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.
VERB: To accept standards that are lower than is desirable.
In other words, compromise is understood to involve “meeting halfway”, “finding middle ground”, or “coming to terms” with an arrangement that no one is happy with!
Is this what we’re doomed to in marriage?
The good news is that — like most communication skills – – compromise can be learned, practiced, and mastered! In fact, needing to compromise forces us to exercise creativity and flexibility: two things that – like it or not – are in demand across ALL realms of life (but particularly in marriage).
Some of us, however, are a little rusty when it comes to this vital relational tool. Keep reading for my suggested list of five different ways of compromising and commit to experimenting with one of these new strategies the next time compromise is needed in your marriage!
5 Ways to Compromise in Your Marriage
1. Meet in the Middle
This is perhaps the most commonly known form of compromise because it involves simply identifying the “mid-point” between your two stances.
Say, for instance, that you disagree with your partner about what time your teenage daughter’s curfew should be.
If your spouse would like her curfew to be 10:00 p.m. and you prefer 12:00 a.m., you can simply calculate the average and tell your daughter to be home by 11:00.
The advantage of this approach is that the solution can appear very straight-forward. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t always work when the issue is intangible or more complex.
2. Take Turns
If meeting in the middle isn’t possible or agreeable, you may wish to try taking turns. In this case, you would get your way this week and give your partner their way the next. Your daughter would thus have her freedom until 10:00 p.m. one week and be able to stay out until 12:00 a.m. the next.
The advantage of this method is that it’s “fair” to both of you. The disadvantage is that you may be unwilling to concede totally by giving the other person a turn.
3. Come Up with a Third Alternative
A more imaginative way of arriving at a resolution is to generate an idea that doesn’t fully represent either of your views. In this case, you might agree that your daughter’s curfew on the weekends can be 12:00 a.m. but needs to be 10:00 p.m. during weekdays (at least on school nights).
This method invites you to consider other options but doesn’t always suggest a solution you can both live with.
Do you and your spouse argue about the same topics repeatedly?
Just reach out: I can help you finally put these issues to bed!
4. Ask for a Binding Decision from a Third Party
You can also present your case to someone you both trust and then agree to live with their ruling on the matter. For instance, you might ask advice from a close friend who has already survived the teenage years. If she believes that your daughter should have a consistent 9:00 p.m. curfew, you will have to live with that.
This is a great tactic when you could benefit from hearing from someone who may know more than you do about the subject. However, you (and your daughter) may not be thrilled with the outcome.
5. Ask “Who Feels Most Strongly About This?”
A final way you can approach a sticky issue is to determine who feels most passionately about the matter at hand. In a phrase, it’s a way of choosing your battles.
For example, if your daughter’s curfew isn’t a major issue for you but it is for your spouse, allow your mate to make the decision and let it go. Next time, if you feel more strongly about the topic, your spouse might allow you to determine the outcome without interference.
This can be an effective approach is one of you refuses to budge and the other doesn’t care as much about the outcome. The potential downside is that you must trust your partner enough to know that the freedom to choose will come back to you in due time. If you don’t have faith that they will be even-handed and fair in this regard, this probably isn’t the right strategy for you.
If the example I’ve been using here sounds familiar and you’re
looking for tips on parenting a teen, check out our blog on
Preparing to Parent Your Teen: How to Maintain a United Front.
Compromise is a natural, normal, and healthy part of any great marriage and learning how to do it well will help you in all parts of your life. There are many ways to compromise and reach a win-win solution with your spouse, so be creative and take the time to explore the right approach based on the problem, your personalities, and the goal you’re ultimately trying to reach. The important thing is to not allow anything to come between you and to treat every challenge as an opportunity to work as a team!
Do you find it difficult (if not impossible) to reach agreement with your spouse?
Are you at a complete impasse about something?
If so, I’m here to help. I teach couples how to effectively resolve “impossible” problems and am standing by to hear from you! Simply contact me or send an email to [email protected]. I answer every note personally!
For more thoughts on how to approach and reach compromise with your partner, check out these tips from Wikihow.
(This article was originally published on January 25, 2019 but has been updated for this release.)