Compromise is a necessary part of any successful, enduring marriage. For two people to work together as a team, each member must give and take once in a while. But many of us have no idea how to compromise. "Unless we become skilled in the fine art of compromise, our relationship can quickly degrade into feelings of dissatisfaction and discord. Not to mention a disillusioning sense of being all alone in the relationship," says Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. Most people are used to making decisions for themselves alone, but once you commit to a relationship, you must consider the needs, wants, and happiness of your partner. That holds true even more so when you live together and get married. It takes work, but this step-by-step guide will hep you learn how to compromise in a marriage.
Communicate Your Needs Clearly
Use "I" statements to communicate to your spouse exactly what you need or want in the relationship. For example, you might say, "I want to live in the city because it's closer to my work, which will cut down on my commute, and I like the excitement of it, whereas I'm bored here in the suburbs." Or you could say, "I feel ready to start trying to have kids because we're married, financially stable, and my biological clock is ticking." It is important to speak for yourself without making assumptions about your spouse's needs or wants, and to express what you want and why.
Refrain from attacking your spouse with demands. You might not get everything that you ask for, and they deserve to have a say in any major decisions in your lives.
Listen (Without Interrupting)
After you’ve expressed your desires and offered an explanation of why this is important to you, give your spouse a chance to respond. Don't interrupt and allow them to speak. Pay attention to what they're saying and do not dismiss their thoughts immediately. "Disagreements are best resolved when each person’s needs are assumed to be legitimate and important," says Seltzer.
If your partner responds with a detailed counterpoint, then you should repeat what you heard without malice to make sure you are on the same page. You might say, “So, you’re saying that you would rather live in the suburbs because your work is here and the city is too loud and chaotic for you, right?” Avoid sarcasm and speak with a steady, non-judgmental tone. This is a discussion and not an argument. You want to show your spouse that you appreciate and value their needs and wants, too.
Carefully Weigh Your Options
Consider all your options, and remember that there are more than two options for every issue. You could live in the city. You could live in the suburbs. Or you could live in a suburb closer to the city that has high-rise apartments and enough public transportation to allow you to have the best of both worlds. In this case, before drawing these conclusions, you could look at your budget and the cost of living in both the city and suburbs. Consider your options both as individuals and a couple. Remember, in the end, you have to think about the decision as though you are part of a pair and not just for yourself. If you were single and wanted to live in the city, of course, you could just do that. But you’re married and there’s another person involved in this decision.
Put Yourself in Your Partner's Shoes
Truly understanding your spouse is difficult, especially when your own desires cloud your judgment. That’s why it is all the more important for you to step out of your own mind for a moment, and consider your spouse’s opinions and feelings. How would they be affected if they just gave in to you? What would be the positives and negatives for them? Why do you think they hold a different opinion? What kind of sacrifices would your husband or wife be making if he or she went along with your ideas? Let your spouse know what responses you come up with to these questions and offer empathy.
Consider What Is Fair
For compromise in a marriage to work, one person cannot always be the doormat. In other words, you cannot always get your way, and your spouse cannot (and likely will not) always give in to you and your needs. Also, you have to consider the fairness of each decision. If you move to the city, you might have an easier commute and be happier in the fast-paced lifestyle. But will your spouse’s commute double? Will he or she be put out by the frenetic life? Is that fair to them?
Make a Decision and Stick With It
After you have weighed your options and considered your spouse’s feelings and the fairness of the situation, you must make a decision together and stick with it. If you have been completely honest while undertaking all the other steps, you should come to a resolution that you both approve of and that will inspire zero doubts as time wears on.
Check in With One Another
When there’s give and take in a relationship, one or both of you is likely making a sacrifice or giving up something they wanted or needed. If this happens often, you or your spouse could start to feel taken for granted or ignored. This can cause resentment to build, which can break down a marriage. Check in with one another to make sure there is no resentment or hurt feelings. Make sure when you agree to a compromise that you will not hold this sacrifice over your spouse’s head, doubt your decision, or stew about it. You have to make the decision, stick with it, and move forward in a positive light.