Regardless of how healthy and happy your relationship is, you and your friend or partner are not the same. That means you’re bound to have differences of opinion that lead to disagreements. Maybe you like rugs in your space, prefer thai over Mexican food, or align with a different political party; whatever the differences are, there are times when you can’t happily coexist while you both embrace a very different perspective or preference. That doesn’t mean the relationship is unhealthy, but it does mean compromise is necessary ever so often.
Compromise is the settlement of differences by mutual concession.
Compromise doesn’t mean you completely agree with your partner or vice versa—it’s healthy to maintain your personal values, beliefs, opinions, and preferences while still meeting halfway. If you’re poking around the internet, you may stumble on reddit relationship advice that’s adamant that compromise is a dirty word, but healthy compromise is simply about finding a balance and bridging the gap so both partners feel heard, understood, and can agree to an effective solution. In the long run, this balance will lead to a healthier relationship and positive growth.
Not everyone is taught how to compromise from young, so one or both people in a relationship can struggle to meet halfway, so here are some ways you can practice healthy compromise in your relationships.
1. The Sacrifice is Mutual, Not One-Sided
In many relationships, there’s one person who’s naturally more giving, so it’s easier for that person to offer to sacrifice more in order to make the other person happy or end a disagreement. But consistent, one-sided compromise is common in unhealthy relationships where one person does most of the heavy lifting. Over time, this person can be or feel taken advantage of and grow tired, frustrated, or resentful.
While both of you are coming from different perspectives, no one’s perspective is more important than the other’s, so compromise in a healthy relationship means both people consistently give up something to come to an agreement. While the compromise may not always be easy, it’s critical and only fair for both people to make sacrifices.
Be willing to give up something to reach an agreement. And get creative—the perfect solution isn’t always evident. Sometimes, you’ll have to take some time to brainstorm a reasonable compromise for both people.
2. There’s Good Intent
In a healthy relationship, you may not always feel happy and well-intentioned, but you love the other person and want to bring your best to the table as often as you can. You won’t always approach a compromise joyfully and ready to sacrifice well for the sake of the relationship, but you’ll do your best! So it’s completely normal for you to not feel in the giving mood sometimes. But if one or both of you is constantly approaching compromise in a selfish way or being manipulative, that’s a problem.
Compromise can be especially difficult if one or both people are manipulative and selfish—so not only do they want the other person to give more, but they’ll actively do and say things to make their friend or partner feel guilty if they don’t sacrifice more in a compromise. They might be reproachful or retaliate in various ways, like giving the silent treatment or verbally abusing the other person.
In a healthy relationship, both people are interested enough in the success of the relationship that they approach compromise with a giving, humble posture and a desire to see the disagreement settled. That may not be the case all the time, but try as much as you can to give joyfully and be willing to call out yourself or the other person if mal-intent is suspected.
3. Both People Maintain Their Unique Identities
In a healthy relationship, individuals maintain their values and beliefs without fully giving up aspects of themselves that make them unique.
It’s easy to compromise so well, that two people simply meld their opinions and preferences in a way that mute or water down their personalities and preferences. That’s not the goal—the goal in compromise should be to maintain a healthy relationship while coming together to resolve disagreements. But people shouldn’t give up so much in their attempt to compromise that they give up pivotal aspects of who they are. That endangers individuality and authenticity as opposed to encouraging people’s uniqueness to flourish within a relationship.
In each relationship, both people have to determine how they want to compromise on various issues while staying true to their authentic selves. They can:
- Find a new alternative to the conflicting issue
- Find a solution that blends both people’s preferences
- Find a way for you both to maintain your preference in a peaceable setting
Different disagreements require different treatments. On small issues, you might choose option 1 or 2. But on larger issues that relate to people’s foundational beliefs and values, it’s important to find a solution that avoids a complete surrender of self for the sake of a relationship.
For instance, while you might simply paint your living room blue if you can’t decide between blue and yellow, if someone eats meat as a cultural practice and the other person is faithfully vegan, then different meals can be cooked to respect and celebrate each person’s preference.
4. Communication Is The Cornerstone of Every Compromise
Compromises don’t always happen without a hitch. Sometimes, one person gives up more consistently because of circumstances or the compromises feel difficult for both people.
In a healthy relationship, both people ensure they make it easy, safe, and comfortable for the other person to share hard truths with them. Each person should feel able to communicate when a compromise is especially difficult or downright impossible. That way, a new solution can be found and individuals don’t feel manipulated, disrespected, or abused in the name of compromise. Open communication also leaves less room in a relationship for resentment that often comes out of especially unhappy compromises. So if you’re dissatisfied with the way a compromise panned out, be sure to make that clear to the other person in a non confrontational, peaceable way.
In unhealthy relationships, communication is poor and inconsistent leading to hurt feelings, resentment, and overall frustration.
At The End Of The Day...
Compromise isn’t easy nor is it something we’re born knowing to do well. Be patient with yourself and your friend or partner. Some compromises are going to challenge your relationship, others may feel easy. Just persevere and be as consistent as you can.
Once you understand and can implement compromise in your relationship, you may begin to notice some significant changes. Over time, the word “compromise” won't feel negative or scary at all, but rather a vital ingredient to your happy union.