Anyone in a relationship knows that compromise is essential for success.
But what exactly does that mean? Where do we draw the line with compromise? How do we define healthy compromise? According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, “compromise is a settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions” or “something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things.” The key here is mutuality— this means both partners must come to the table willing to make concessions.
When two individuals create a relationship, there are inevitably areas of difference. After all, they are unique people. To maintain harmony, both partners must make adjustments. When only one person consistently yields to the other, the relationship becomes unbalanced and suffers. For example, a partner who tries to avoid conflict may over-accommodate the other just to keep the peace. Never voicing their needs leads to a loss of self in the relationship. Likewise, a person who insists on their way all of the time — without adjusting to any of their partner’s needs — creates an imbalance. In fact that individual is not participanting in basic adjustments necessary to create a respectful and successful intimate connection. When the message is to obey what one partner wants, it ignores the needs of the other. However, finding a balance between honoring yourself and being flexible can be challenging.
So, how can we make choices for the good of the relationship without giving up an important part of ourselves?
First, identify your core values and beliefs. These are the personal ideals that guide you through life and should not be given up for anyone. Likewise, don’t sacrifice your dreams and career goals to someone else’s idea of who you should be and what you should do. Lastly, maintain the family relationships and friendships that are important sources of love and support. A good partner respects these important aspects of what defines you.
Next, nothing works better than good communication when differences arise. It can actually lead to a mutually beneficial change. Approaching conflicts in an open, non-judgmental way is a good starting place. Active listening, without trying to force your views, encourages negotiation. Asking clarifying questions to better understand your partner helps because it shows you are interested in their point of view as well. Finally, being honest about your thoughts and feelings, even when you know it may lead to conflict, is critical. It is difficult and unavoidable but honesty breeds trust. It opens the door to addressing concerns that may otherwise compromise individual happiness and relationship success.
Lastly, asking these important questions can help to validate your feelings, ideas and values and move toward conflict resolution:
Good relationships include healthy, respectful disagreements. Our goal should not be the absence of fighting. It should be to develop skills to meet halfway and live on the middle ground.
By Deirdre Hally Shaffer, LCSW
©2017 Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation
For additional resources on working toward a compromise, read Communicating on Difficult Topics.