How to effectively compromise in a relationship?

Every person has heard the phrase “make a compromise” but not everyone has a clear understanding of the effective approach to compromising in a healthy relationship. Oftentimes, people perceive their decisions as a compromise when they’ve actually acted submissively to purposefully avoid conflict or to appease their partner. In the long haul, this way of thinking, diffusing one’s feelings, thoughts, and wishes as well as the lack of healthy communication can lead to dissatisfaction in the relationship – where one partner becomes dominant and the other one dominated.  

If we have to agree to one simple and straightforward definition of the term “to make a compromise”, that would be the following: “Compromising is the mutual involvement in the decision-making process, in which both people reach a consensus that is an altogether fair and respectful decision to both arguments.” Compromise is not about satisfying the desires of one person or the other – it is actually about meeting in the middle and finding a common ground that accommodates the needs of both people in the relationship!

There’s no denying that this is all more easily said than done. When you are faced with real-life situations that challenge both partners with their opposing opinions, making a compromise can become a real deal-breaker for some couples. People are often led by their emotions and intrinsic condition to stand up for their personal beliefs, which can affect their ability to make a clear judgment in critical moments throughout the relationship. This can seriously test the bond between two people and the emotional investment they make in their mutual happiness and well-being as a pair. 

Good & Bad Compromise

When do we know that we compromise rather than sacrifice? An effective way to help you understand whether you are on the right track to building a healthy dynamic is to check in with yourself where you stand in your relationship with these next few questions:

Do I feel connected to my partner? Do I understand their personal needs? Do we work as part of a team?

Are there mutual trust and a sense of security when we take collective decisions?

Do I feel like my opinion is respected? Are we heading in the same direction because this is what we both want?

If you have a “yes” answer to all of these questions, it shows that you and your partner share the same path of progression in life and you work as a team rather than as single-minded people in a couple. 

In other words: “You are capable of making a compromise, which is a sign that your relationship is more important than your ego.”

Saying this, it’s crucial to emphasize the importance of the individual and their unique identity, which should never be overshadowed by the other person’s personal values. Instead, both individualities should ideally blend in and be positively endorsed for what it’s worth. 

There are 4 main steps that you can follow when you want to make sure this kind of mutual understanding is applied during the decision-making process:

  1. Look at the situation from another angle and ask yourself whether it is so important for you in the long term to resolve the conflict your way.
  2. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes helps you develop true empathy for the other’s person difficulty in their position.
  3. Find a comfortable third option that syncs well with both parties and there are no winners or losers. 
  4. Practising “mental yoga” in your relationship can help you build amazing flexibility in your character. The more you try the better you become at your ability to stay open to other people’s opinions and personal experiences. If you stay stiff and never practice this skill, you will keep being rigid in your ways, which would then inflict a lot of anger and resistance on you over time. 

In the next 5 tips, we will look in more detail at the ways couples can use to compromise effectively through active listening and understanding. What you should remember at this point is that being able to compromise effectively can strengthen your relationship whereas the inability to do so can make partners drift further apart, causing conflict, psychological pain, and self-centeredness. These are usually a sign of serious problems later down the line and an unfavourable course of events for both partners…

Clear communication of YOUR needs

Before we start discussing the importance of your partner’s needs, we need to bring up your own needs in the relationship together with the importance of communicating these successfully. If you are torn with a big decision such as choosing which city to relocate to as a couple, you should make sure that you express your opinion clearly, without any hidden motifs, over-cautiousness, and fears that you can put your relationship at risk. Thinking as a “we” is just as vital as standing up for your own wishes and unique identity as a person during the decision-making process. 

Give yourself enough time to think about your own position in the discourse and the opinion that resonates deeply with you, instead of rushing into emotional fights that may not reflect your real wish in this situation. A good practice that can help you improve your self-awareness is to keep a journal for a few days and notice a trend in your thoughts in this period. 

Attentive listening

After you have communicated your honest needs and opinions on a certain subject matter, you should allow the other person to do the same in response. Attentive listening from both sides is very important to ensure that everyone’s opinion is valued and respected, no matter how unconvincing it may sound at first! Like Dr. Leon Selzer (Cognitive Science & Psychology) says: “Conflicts are best resolved when the needs of both partners are acknowledged as important and legitimate”.

A successful practice during arguments in a decision-making process is to listen to your other half and double-check with them that you understand what they mean before you have misinterpreted their opinion and your discussion has escalated into a fight. You can do that by asking them a question that paraphrases their words, without expressing negativity or disagreement (Example: “So, what you are saying that city A is a better option because you have more career opportunities there?”). It’s crucial to make your partner feel understood and confident in their belief that the opinion they express is respected, despite the disagreement. 

Weighing all the options

When you are having a conversation in which both opinions are opposing but you need to come to a mutual decision, you should both be open to a third option that considers the needs of both people at least partially. In most cases, one problem has more than one solution to it. You should keep this in mind when you are feeling firmly convinced in your opinion before you have weighed out all the possibilities carefully as a team and individually. At the end of the day, you need to think about what’s more important to you – winning an argument or maintaining a happy relationship in which there are no winners and losers!

If you are stranded with a big decision such as living in a big city with a lot of opportunities or a small peaceful town with very few opportunities, you can always look for a compromising third option that satisfies both partners to some extent. A couple that is strongly invested in making the relationship work will always find a way to solve problems together as a team, in which both partners are willing to make a compromise and share the same path in the future.

Deciding as a team

One of the most important steps in the decision-making process, when two people are making a compromise, is to come to a mutual agreement. An effective approach to this eliminates the chance of one person sacrificing their own happiness for the other person in order to avoid possible conflict. If you approach relationship problems like that you risk becoming the victim, whose opinions and thoughts get disregarded during important decision-making conversations. To avoid falling into this pattern, you need to think from the perspective of what is fair and what isn’t – to both people in this situation. After you communicate your feelings and thoughts as a team, come to some conclusion that responds to the needs of both of you, without holding grudges against one another. Honesty is a key element in this process that will help you build a healthy relationship dynamic as well as an effective compromise-making approach.

Be confident in your partner’s feelings

Oftentimes, after reaching a consensus, people tend to keep a backlog of their compromise decisions, for which they expect a reward at a later stage in their relationship. Such behaviour shows that you have not compromised effectively – but instead, you have given in to the other person’s thoughts and opinions. To make sure that you have found the golden mean with your mutual decision, you should talk to your partner and be fully certain that there are no feelings or thoughts remaining to be communicated. When you reach a consensus, both of you should be fully confident in the way it worked out for two you. This lays the groundwork for happiness and long-lasting love in your relationship. If you lose confidence in one another, you risk ruining the trust between you, instead of building even more trust, love, and understanding. 

What if it doesn’t work?

Compromising effectively is an art that requires a lot of patience, emotional intelligence, and common values, shared by both partners. If any of those three components is missing, it could be that your relationship will suffer or even break in the long term.

If you are often fighting and you have very different viewpoints on the important questions in life while you are constantly finding it hard to make a compromise, you should try to take a step back and gain a broader perspective on your relationship. Disagreements are totally normal when they don’t hurt one or both people’s individuality and personal values. 

Sometimes, it could be that one person struggles with trauma or attachment issues, which they developed during their childhood years. This can always be resolved through therapy and coaching if conversations in the relationship won’t work. If it happens that the two of you can’t communicate effectively, you can both turn to someone who can advise you professionally and give you another perspective on your issue. 

Now, let’s finish on a positive note! We should say that when both people value their relationship deeply, mutual happiness always wins. 

If you are interested in inquiring about consultation and you want to grow a healthy dynamic in your relationship, you can contact us at NEXT LEVEL LOVE for more information!

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