It is common advice that relationships and compromise go hand in hand. And while compromise in a relationship may be essential for success, it can be challenging to find the delicate balance between compromising and maintaining one’s sense of self.
Dr. John Gottman, the psychologist and relationship expert says the following. “Compromise is a critical component of a healthy relationship. It allows both partners to work together to find solutions that meet both of their needs, while still allowing each person to feel valued and heard. Compromise helps partners to understand each other, to build trust, and to strengthen their connection. It takes effort and commitment, but the rewards of a successful compromise are well worth it.”
Personally, I don’t like the connotations of compromise. It feels like I have to sacrifice something or give something up in order to live together happily with my husband. If both parties feel like they’ve lost something, this is not the foundation for a happy marriage or relationship. Over time, you’ll inevitably end up resenting your partner because you’ve given up too much of yourself.
What to do if you don’t want to compromise? Lesli Doares, a couples consultant, suggests using the word “negotiate” instead of compromise. “Negotiation means you are working towards a solution you both can embrace and implement. It makes it a win-win instead of compromise’s lose-lose.” So rather than giving in, make a choice that works for both parties, something bigger and better. Now we’re talking!
Here are a few expert tips for negotiating a compromise in relationships without losing yourself
Get crystal clear on your needs, values, and boundaries
Understanding what is important to you and what your non-negotiables are is crucial in any relationship. This will help you negotiate in a way that is aligned with your values, rather than sacrificing your individuality. I’ve written an entire book about needs, values, and boundaries to cover this, The Secret Laws of Attraction. If you aren’t clear on what your true needs and values are, and aren’t sure how to establish sufficiently robust boundaries, then you’ll struggle to find happiness in your relationship. If you don’t already know your top four personal and emotional needs, then you can take the free quiz to find out.
We all know that good communication is key in any relationship. It is especially important when negotiating a compromise. Clear and open communication can help you and your partner understand each other’s perspectives, work together toward a solution, and minimize the risk of misunderstandings. Here is a 4 -Step Communication Model you can use to set boundaries with your partner.
Take it in turns
Negotiating a compromise is a two-way street. Ensure that both partners take turns in making compromises. This way, no one person is always giving up something important to them. For a while, I was letting my husband pick all the films we watched. Then, I realized that we ended up watching far too many violent shows. (Guys seem to like blood and guts!) After discovering that violent or horror films keep me awake at night, we’ve compromised on watching dramas, comedies, or detective shows. He has to watch war and horror movies on his own!
Set aside “me time”
It’s essential to maintain a sense of self outside of your relationship. Set specific times for activities and interests that are just for you. Recharge and reconnect with yourself. You don’t have to share everything together. I joined the local choir with some girlfriends while my husband does CrossFit. Time apart doing different activities keeps you fresh and interested in each other.
Focus on the bigger picture
When you compromise in relationships, try to focus on the bigger picture of your relationship and the long-term goals you share. This will help ensure that your decisions align with your shared values and are beneficial for both partners.
My husband is a minimalist and I’m a maximalist. So, instead of feeling like I’m giving up my precious things, I’ve realized that I need to see the positive side. I get to learn how to be detached from my possessions, which is a very Buddhist enlightened way of thinking. I also get to practice letting go. By having fewer beautiful things, I appreciate those items all the more. In the end, we’ve come out with a more beautiful home as a result. We created this win-win from the bigger vision of having a beautiful, inviting home filled with only the most cherished objects.
Get professional help
If you and your partner are struggling to find balance, seek help from a therapist or relationship counselor. It can be a great way to work through your differences and find a compromise that works for both of you. I’ve even found hiring an outside expert makes things easier. So, I’ve hired a professional organizer to help meet my husband’s need for order since he didn’t have time to do it himself. I’ve also hired a professional cleaner to keep the house tidy.
Compromise in relationships may be essential to long-term success and happiness. Also, it is important to maintain your individuality and negotiate for what you want. Don’t let yourself be dominated or controlled by your partner by giving in all the time. And also don’t be the dominatrix! Focus on the bigger vision for your life together. Come up with some creative solutions that will keep everyone happy. Yes, you’ll have to make changes and so will your partner. But that’s how you grow into a more interesting person while preserving your sense of self.