Compromise as a Mutual Decision

For the record, I'm not saying that a husband and wife both voluntarily choosing to take on traditional gender roles is wrong or abusive or even anti-feminist. I'm saying that forcing your spouse into that traditional role, regardless of his or her feelings, is wrong.
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Compromise is absolutely a critical part of healthy, happy relationships.

But compromise is a mutual decision between two or more people.

Compromise is NOT one person always giving up everything while the other person never gives up anything.

My husband Dan and I have compromised plenty in our relationship, both prior to marriage and within marriage. Below are just a few examples of the compromises we have made.

  • I was ready for an engagement a full year before Dan proposed, but I waited for him to be ready to marry me. That said, he had a very reasonable deadline (a full year after he proposed) for a proposal before I moved back to France. I was willing to wait... but not indefinitely.
  • I moved to Findlay, Ohio when we got married, where I did not want to live, and Dan agreed that we would not live there forever. When Dan started applying to jobs, he only applied to places where we both wanted to live.
  • Dan and I decide together how to spend time with both of our families and how to allocate our vacation days.

Compromises are not limited to romantic relationships either. If you've ever done a group project for school, then you've probably had to compromise. I know that with my past roommates, we came up with compromises for cleaning schedules, grocery-shopping, visitors and more.

Compromises are expected in almost any relationship. Not every individual compromise is a perfect, even split. Some compromises will involve a necessary sacrifice, when a middle ground isn't possible. That said, in a loving, healthy relationship, both/all people compromise in similar quantities overall.

You know what is not a compromise?

Forcing another person to do something they do not want to do, whether this is through emotional manipulation, physical coercion or another scenario.

In fact, that sort of relationship is dysfunctional at best, and abusive at worst.

Consider the following examples:

  • Forcing a pregnant girlfriend to have an abortion
  • Forcing a pregnant teenager to continue with an unwanted pregnancy
  • Making every single parenting decision for your children without ever consulting your spouse, or the other parent
  • Insisting your children hug or kiss a relative when they are uncomfortable doing so
  • Inviting frequent overnight guests to your apartment without ever consulting your roommates first
  • Making all financial decisions for your family, without discussing them with your significant other
  • Refusing to call an individual by their preferred name
  • Insisting upon constant agreement as a condition for friendship

Does any of that sound like compromise?

So why do we accept comparable situations, but between a husband and a wife, as compromises?

For the record, I'm not saying that a husband and wife both voluntarily choosing to take on traditional gender roles is wrong or abusive or even anti-feminist.

I'm saying that forcing your spouse into that traditional role, regardless of his or her feelings, is wrong, and a far cry from a healthy compromise.

What about...?

Asking your spouse to make all career sacrifices, while you make none?

Not a compromise.

Expecting your spouse to have sex with you whenever you want, regardless of how your spouse feels at the moment?

Not a compromise.

Demanding your spouse be the sole breadwinner, even though you both have equal earning potential, and your spouse doesn't want that pressure?

Not a compromise.

Guilting your spouse into taking your last name, when your spouse doesn't want to, while you don't change your name?

Not a compromise.

Unilaterally making all decisions about when and how to spend time together?

Not a compromise.

One person feeling compelled to apologize all the time, even for small and insignificant things?

Not a compromise.

Not letting your significant other spend time with friends of the opposite sex, because you have jealousy issues?

Not a compromise.

How to evaluate compromise.

How do you know if your compromises are healthy or dysfunctional?

There's not a perfect evaluation, but you can ask yourself a few questions.

How do I feel about the compromise? Happy, satisfied, complacent, respected? Or unhappy, resentful, stressed? You're not going to love every compromise you make in a relationship, but you should feel at least okay about it.

Am I compromising what I want, or who I am? Sometimes you need to compromise on what you want, but you should never compromise your integrity.

How does this compromise work with our goals as a couple? How does it match your personal goals? Your spouse's personal goals? Compromise should move you two forward, whether that be in terms of career, family, personal growth, or something else.

How does this compromise compare to other past or recent compromises? If you're always the one giving in, or giving up more, that's a sign of an unequal relationship. If you both routinely come to a fair decision together, then giving in just once might be a necessary sacrifice on your behalf.

What do you think about compromise?

How do you compromise in your relationships? What advice would you give to other people looking to make fair compromises in their relationships? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Brita is a freelance writer and copywriter who founded the Christian feminist lifestyle blog Belle Brita. Once upon a time she lived in France, but for now she enjoys exploring the best of America.

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