How to Compromise With Your Spouse

Three Methods:Making Decisions TogetherOvercoming Compromise RoadblocksCommunicating in the Future

Do you always feel like the doormat when it comes to making decisions with your spouse? Or, perhaps, it's you who always calls the shots and your spouse meekly obliges, to the point where you feel he or she no longer enthusiastically contributes to the relationship. Either way, compromise between spouses is essential to a lifetime of cooperation, ever-growing love and continued respect for one another. Learn how to start compromising in your marriage.

Method 1
Making Decisions Together

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    Aim to collect wins for the relationship. Many times, when couples are in disagreement, each partner tries to prove that he or she is right. Doing this increases the distance between the two of you. Remember that trying to be right can make the relationship lose. Think like a team—each player must contribute to the win. If one player loses, everyone loses.
    • Compromise provides a chance for the relationship (i.e. both of you) to win rather than just one of you. If you keep this in mind during an argument, you are more likely to reach a solution that benefits the well-being of your relationship.
    • The next time you and your partner are vying to be right, take a breather and consider what being right is doing for the relationship as a whole. Don't allow your pride to weaken your bond with your spouse. Try to reach the resolution that fosters growth and success for the relationship.
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    Make a pros and cons list for each of you. To reach a mutually beneficial solution, it may be a good idea to take a step back and view the situation more objectively.
    • Each of you can create a two-column list of pros and cons about the issue, including how the issue aligns with each of your personal beliefs and values. Once you have completed the lists, discuss them aloud to see if the benefits of the decision outweigh the downsides.[1]
    • Consider that issues that go against one of your personal beliefs may require more compromise from one partner than the other. Try to reach a conclusion that does not require either of you to sacrifice your values.
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    Conduct a brainstorm session. If you are debating a complex issue, you may want to ponder potential avenues over a span of days or weeks rather than jumping to a conclusion. You can hold a brainstorm session listing out all the possible ways you can handle a given problem. You can then go over the list with family members or friends and consider their opinions. Sleeping on the issue and letting it sit for a while may help you to reach a natural conclusion once the emotions die down.[2]
    • For example, imagine your spouse received a promotion that would require a cross-country move. The two of you might weigh the pros and cons--like more money for the household versus one spouse having to leave his or her current job. Then, you might choose to discuss the matter with your parents or your children. If everyone together can see that the move might be beneficial (even if the initial change is hard), then you might agree to go forward with it.
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    Speak up if something is happening that you don’t agree with. If you have become the doormat in your marriage, it is time to start saying how you feel, offering your opinions and giving your take on how you would like to do certain things. Improve your assertiveness by:[3]
    • Taking baby steps. The next time your partner asks your opinion about something seemingly small, such as an outfit or what movie to watch, provide an answer. Do this bit by bit, until you start to feel more comfortable using your voice.
    • Say “no” if you must. While you want to please your partner, you must expect that you won’t always be able to meet his or her every need or demand. Exercise your right to say “no”. For example, if you are really busy and your spouse asks for a favor, you might say “I’m sorry, I can’t right now, honey. Can we work out something else?”
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    Recognize when you’re compromising too little. Marriage is about give and take. Yes, at some point or another both of you will make sacrifices. But, it’s another matter when you’re always the one taking and never giving. If compromising for the sake of the relationship requires that your partner turn his or her back on core values and beliefs, you may be the one that needs to up your compromising skills.[4]
    • A one-sided relationship that does not allow you or your partner to be who you are or live out your truths is extremely unhealthy. See a counselor if you have trouble compromising to the point that your partner is always bending to meet your needs.

Method 2
Overcoming Compromise Roadblocks

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    Don't assume anything. It doesn't matter how long you have been together, there will always be things you don't know about one another. What’s more, relationships are hard work, as you both grow and change over time, so will your relationship.
    • Making assumptions can be self-limiting and prevent the growth of the relationship. How do you know when you are making them? Spotting an assumption is not always easy, but, generally, you are probably making an assumption when you feel rejected, neglected, hurt, or have an urge to lash out or blame your partner for something.[5]
    • Instead of assuming you know anything about your partner, make an effort to ask questions and maintain an open dialogue with one another.
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    Check your motivations. Emotions can be a major roadblock to compromise. When you feel upset or angry with your spouse, you might fight him or her on an issue that’s not even very important to you. Check yourself during a disagreement to see what’s really driving you.[6]
    • Are you truly invested in this issue or are you just disagreeing to prove a point? If you don’t feel strongly about the issue—and your partner does—relent in order to claim a win for the relationship. Don’t let your emotions divide the two of you.
    • For example, your spouse got a promotion that required a big move and you're feeling resentful about having to leave your group of friends in the area. You might fight your spouse on the issue despite knowing that the move would mean more income for the household. Instead of standing in the way of progress with resentment, let your feelings be known. Tell your spouse "I'm really sad about having to leave behind my good friends. Will there be room in the budget for me to visit them a few times a year?"
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    Watch your tone. Sometimes the tone of your voice can skew your intended message and cause your spouse to put his or her defenses up. Couples often find that it’s not always what you say, but how you say it, that matters.[7] Starting a tense conversation off with a soft, warm tone can make all the difference in how your spouse reacts. Try this:
    • When you have something important to say, take a deep breath before initiating the conversation. Use “I” statements that minimize blame, such as “I feel angry when you…” and use a friendly, affectionate tone. Refrain from using sarcasm or accusations that push the discussion into a bad place.
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    Keep an open mind.[8] Compromise is all about willingly seeing things from your spouse’s perspective and working to find a middle ground. If you remain close-minded or rigid in your own point-of-view, you reduce the likelihood of reaching a peaceful resolution.

Method 3
Communicating in the Future

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    Listen to understand. Most people listen in order to prepare a response. You should be listening to your spouse to get a full understanding of what he or she is trying to say. Actively listen and ask questions to better understand. Being a good listener involves the following habits:[9]
    • Turning to face your spouse and making eye contact. Or, sitting side-by-side and occasionally meeting his or her eyes, if full-on eye contact is too intimidating.
    • Allowing your spouse to get his or her full message across before responding.
    • Paraphrasing what he or she said to make sure you understood the message. “It seems like what you are trying to say is…”
    • Asking clarifying questions to clear up any misunderstanding. “So, you are saying that…?”
    • Adding your own response only after the above has been done.
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    Post helpful reminders around your living environment. Compromise is a key skill necessary for conflict resolution.[10] Early on, you may fall back into your old ways of disagreeing. You can prompt yourself to follow better habits by posting little reminders in your home, car, office, or wallet. These can be Bible verses, quotes, or any phrase that helps. Some examples might include:
    • “It’s better to bend a little than to break.”
    • “Compromise equals a win for the relationship.”
    • “Let your words always be gracious, seasoned with salt.” -Colossians 4:6.
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    Find ways to compromise in everyday life. Whether you have been the chief organizer or the chief follower, learning compromise is the key to a happy relationship from here on. Learn how to make suggestions that take into account both parties. Consider such possibilities as:
    • Agreeing to do an activity that your spouse wants to do this time--provided your spouse does an activity of yours next time. Set a date and stick to it.
    • Agreeing to do some of the activity that your spouse wants to do but adding in your ideas as well, so that the whole activity is a true combination of both your perspectives and desires.
    • Sharing tasks that neither enjoys doing by creating task charts that can be flexibly juggled around where needed. For example, vacuuming might be a chore taken on by one spouse most of the time except when they are unwell, away, or really busy. The other spouse can pick up on these occasions on the understanding that the spouse will return to the task when the situation is resolved, rather than the new arrangement turning into the norm. Chore creep after agreement can make the spouse who is lumped with an unfair level of chores very frustrated.
    • Agreeing to give each other time out from household and parenting duties on a regular basis. This will give both spouses an expectation of free time rather than it being assumed that "someday down the line the other spouse will notice how overworked I am..."

Things You'll Need

  • Time together
  • Self-confidence
  • Respect
  • Motivation

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