Welcome to the tenth day of the 2019 Love Blog Challenge! Today’s prompt is Compromise. Check out the announcement post for all the prompts and rules this month. You can still join the link-up for yesterday’s topic, Family. This post is going up late due to unforeseen circumstances. Thank you for your patience!
If you google “compromise in relationships” or “compromise in marriage,” many of the top search results argue AGAINST compromise…
The Internet is filled with dictionaries, and each dictionary then lists multiple definitions for each word. This Merriam-Webster definition of compromise is similar to my thoughts on it.
“something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things”
When Dan and I want different things, we talk it out until we reach a compromise. What that compromise looks like differs greatly depending on the specific situation!
Compromise doesn’t only look like two people making concessions and reluctantly agreeing somewhere in the middle. This definition is why so many writers argue against compromise. Creative compromise includes looking at the big picture, discussing needs and desires in-depth, and finding a win-win solution.
What is compromise in marriage?
Compromise in marriage looks like two people, each with their own interests and desires, working together towards a favorable outcome. Compromise in marriage includes both little decisions and big decisions.
Small compromises in marriage
The small compromises in marriage are often the easiest to make, but that doesn’t make them unimportant. Here are just a few examples of small compromises in marriage.
- Meals, either what to eat at home or where to eat out
- Nighttime rituals, including when to go to bed, bedroom temperature, ambient noise, etc.
- Home decor
- Free time
- Household tidiness/cleanliness expectations
Some of these decisions come up frequently in marriage, like what to eat! Others come up less often, but still might need to be renegotiated as you and your spouse change. For example, a new job might require adjusting your sleep schedule while a new baby might require adjusting your expectations of household tidiness.
Even though these compromises might be small, it’s still important for you and your spouse to work towards common goals. You and your spouse should both feel happy with the small compromises in your marriage.
Large compromises in marriage
Large compromises in marriage require a great deal of discussion and collaboration so that both spouses feel happy with the end results. Generally speaking, you and your spouse shouldn’t have too many large compromises during the course of your marriage. This is for two reasons.
One, you should both already be on the same page regarding the big picture of what you want in life, well before you two get married. Large compromises in marriage are mostly decisions and questions to discuss before marriage. Ideally, you both have a general short-term agreement for these decisions before moving in together.
Two, when large compromises in marriage are necessary, they’re generally due to life changes that happen infrequently. Even if you’ve discussed things before marriage, in all honesty, you don’t always know how you’ll respond to a hypothetical situation until it happens for real.
Maybe you’ve dreamed of being a stay-at-home parent, but a few months into parental leave, you’re dying to be back at your job. In this situation, you and your spouse need to renegotiate your family’s division of labor.
Maybe you never wanted to be in a long-distance relationship, but your spouse has an exciting new job opportunity that starts next week, and you need to stay behind for six weeks to pack up the house. In this situation, you and your spouse need to renegotiate where you both live.
Examples of large compromises in marriage
- Financial goals: While a household budget should be updated as income and expenses change, you and your spouse should both be working towards the same overall financial goals. However, how do you set those financial goals, especially if you have different priorities? While you and your spouse should decide initial financial goals (and financial responsibilities) prior to marriage, you need to reevaluate this with major financial changes. How will you spend a large bonus? What lifestyle changes will you make, if any, with a big bump in income?
- Extended family priorities: This might take a little trial and error at the beginning of your marriage. It will also need adjusting if you and your spouse move closer or farther away from your extended families. Overall, however, you and your spouse should find a middle ground on your mutual commitment to your families and your in-laws. This includes, but isn’t limited to: vacations, visits, financial assistance, elder care, etc.
- Division of labor: This is one compromise that will need to be adjusted throughout marriage. Who does what in your relationship? Do you both work outside the home? Who handles which household duties? How does this change if/when you have children? How does this change if either of you experience a life-changing injury or illness?
- Where to live: This is another large compromise that could come up a few times in marriage. Do you want to live in one city/state/country for as long as possible? How will you respond to a job loss or job opportunity? Are you both working towards living in a specific city, but willing to live elsewhere until that happens? What percentage of income are you willing to spend on housing? How important is home ownership? Will moving to a new location increase one spouse’s commute or sacrifice one spouse’s job?
Why is compromise important in marriage?
Marriage involves two people coming together to form a new family unit. Two people with their own unique needs, wants, and desires. Two people with different personalities and different family backgrounds. Marriage is about two people taking their unique selves and coming together as a couple, as a new family.
But that doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen without work.
Compromise in marriage keeps one spouse from calling all the shots. Neither spouse gets to decide unilaterally where they will live, if/when they will have kids, who will do what, or what they can buy.
Marriage is a partnership based in love. That partnership requires a mutual willingness to work together for shared happiness. That’s compromise.
How to compromise in marriage
Time to get into the nitty-gritty! How do two people compromise in marriage? The exact process might look a little different depending on the decision at hand. For example, choosing a restaurant for dinner requires a brief (albeit still thoughtful!) conversation whereas choosing which house to buy is more complicated.
The key to finding a win-win compromise is communication! You need to be both honest and specific when sharing what you want. You also need to listen carefully to what your spouse wants. A heartfelt conversation is the foundation of a feel-good compromise.
Share what you want and why
Explain what you want. Be specific. Give as many pertinent details as you can. Be honest about what you want. Do you really want that specific luxury car, or do you want a sedan with a high safety rating and certain cushy upgrades? The former might include the latter, but those are not identical wants.
Why you want something is just as important as what you want. Explain why you want something. Your reasoning behind your desire adds necessary context to the conversation. You want those cushy upgrades because you spend hours in the car each day, and you want to be more comfortable.
Listen carefully to your spouse
Give your spouse the opportunity to present what they want and why. Don’t make assumptions about why your spouse wants something. If necessary, ask open-ended questions to learn more about their perspective. Avoid accusatory or sarcastic language, and don’t put words in their mouth. Just because your spouse says the household budget won’t support a new car payment doesn’t mean your spouse doesn’t care about your safety or comfort.
Remember that your spouse’s point-of-view has just as much value as your own. Make a genuine effort to understand what they are saying. If you don’t understand, keep asking questions, but be patient. This is especially important to remember if your spouse struggles to articulate their perspective. Not everyone finds the right words right away!
Fairly (and realistically) consider all your options
Your absolute want is one option. Your spouse’s absolute want is another option. What about your other options?
Here are a few ideas for the new car scenario.
- You and your spouse switch cars, because your spouse’s car is more comfortable to drive.
- Pay to add a few cushy features to your existing car to make it more comfortable.
- Buy a secondhand sedan with the features you want instead of a new car.
- You and your spouse shuffle responsibilities so you spend less time in the car each day.
All four of those options are possible compromises. They address your discomfort in your current car. They also address your spouse’s budgetary concerns.
When working towards a compromise, be creative. Think outside the box. Don’t just look at your two absolute wants and the path down the middle. Consider why you both want something different. Can you satisfy both your whys with a compromise?
When considering your options, you need to be realistic as well. Most of us have limited resources, whether that’s time, money, space, or something else. When making a big decision with your spouse, you both need to be realistic about how that decision fits into your life with your current resources.
Make a decision and move forward
Once you and your spouse have considered all of your options, you need to make a decision, together. How will you compromise? Which choice is best for you, both as individuals and as a couple with united goals?
Make a decision and stick with it. Then move forward with your lives. This compromise shouldn’t be used as fuel in your next argument, nor should it negatively influence the next big decision or compromise.
How to compromise on sex
For most couples, sex is an important aspect of marriage. However, quantity and quality of sex change throughout a marriage in response to life changes. A couple should communicate openly, honestly, and frequently about their sex life to maintain mutual satisfaction.
Is it even possible to compromise on sex? After all, I am a staunch feminist who strongly advocates mutual enthusiastic consent before sexual activity. Can a couple really compromise between wanting to have sex and not wanting to have sex?
Just like other compromises in marriage, compromises on sex require full transparency, clear communication, and creative solutions.
Quality of Sex
First of all, with few exceptions, you should not compromise on pain during sex. (Exceptions: pain as a kink, or pain that’s been addressed by a doctor, is getting better/going away, and isn’t too much to handle). If your spouse wants something that causes you physical pain, you do not have to acquiesce. In fact, you should be concerned if your partner is pressuring you into a sexual act that knowingly causes you pain.
With that massive caveat out of the way, let’s discuss how a couple can compromise to improve their quality of sex.
Want, Will, Won’t List
Create a Want, Will, Won’t List for sex! Dr. Doe from Sexplanations has a great introductory video on this concept.
Both you and your spouse start by making your own lists.
What do you WANT in your sex life? Be specific. Be inclusive. What are the ideal circumstances? What is the ideal outcome?
What are you willing to include in your sex life? Again, be specific. Maybe you prefer having sex in bed (want), but you’re willing to have sex on the couch. Maybe you prefer for you and your partner to be completely sober during sex (want), but you’re willing to have sex with a tipsy partner.
What are your hard limits in your sex life? What will you NOT do, period? This can include kinks, usage of birth control, sex locations, health status, etc.
So the PG-13 version of my list that I’m willing to put on the Internet looks like:
Will: wear lingerie
Won’t: if people can overhear us
Once you and your spouse both have a Want, Will, Won’t list, look at your lists together. Figure out where your Wants and your Wills overlap. Then talk about what you want your sex life to look like, as a couple.
The Wont’s are non-negotiable, unless the person with the Won’t changes their mind. Do not try to change your partner’s mind about something on their Won’t list. Only the person with the Won’t can suggest moving it to the Will.
Keep in mind that your lists might change over the years. That is normal and okay. You and your spouse should be communicating frequently about your sex life. Your Want. Will, Won’t lists are just one thing to discuss and revisit.
Quantity of Sex
Libidos can change throughout a relationship. Stress, health changes, and children can all reduce your libido. How can a couple work with mismatched libidos?
There are multiple possible compromises on quantity of sex. If one spouse wants sex once per month and the other wants it multiple times per week, weekly sex isn’t the only solution.
The Want Will Won’t list is also helpful when negotiating quantity of sex. Sex doesn’t have to be defined as intercourse or coitus. Same-sex couples figure out multiple ways to enjoy sex! Heterosexual couples should do the same.
The Want Will Won’t list can also reveal why one partner has become less interested in sex. It’s possible they have an unmet sexual need which has dampened their overall sexual desire. By honestly communicating what both partners want, a couple can reignite their sex life.
Here are just a few possible compromises on quantity of sex.
- Schedule sex. This allows the higher libido spouse to know sex is coming while also taking pressure off the lower libido spouse. Scheduled sex also gives both spouses time to prepare for what they both want in a sexual encounter. This might include planning a romantic date, clearing the calendar of other conflicts, or just mentally readying yourself to want sex.
- Be naked together, without the expectation of sex afterwards. Take a shower or bath together. Exchange massages. Cuddle naked. Appreciate this intimacy for what it is, not for what it could be. If this leads the lower libido spouse to initiate sex, that’s just a bonus.
- Masturbate. This can be a solo activity or a shared activity. Mutual masturbation can involve both spouses actively participating or one spouse watching the other.
- Romance your partner. Communication is key here. Don’t assume you know what will arouse your spouse. If your spouse has responsive desire, they need to be seduced before they’re willing and able to have sex.
Marriage.com has a great article with tips on working through incompatible libidos.
Remember, emotional intimacy and physical intimacy are closely related. You and your spouse must be willing to be open and vulnerable with each other when discussing your sex life.
Speak to each other with love and without judgment. Maintain an open mind. Be willing to work with your spouse to improve your sex life.
When should you NOT compromise in marriage?
There are a few decisions in life that have no compromise. Ideally you and your partner discuss these deal-breakers well before marriage. However, people do change their minds on certain things. Also, not everyone knows how they’ll respond to certain hard scenarios in life. It’s possible for two people to become incompatible. Finally, unfortunately, abusers often hide their abusive tendencies until it’s harder for the victim to break free. The abuse might not show up until marriage, a big move, or pregnancy/childbirth.
Do not compromise on kids
If you really want kids, don’t marry someone who doesn’t want kids.
If you don’t want kids, don’t marry someone who wants kids.
If you’re ambivalent about kids, make sure you’re positively okay about having kids before you marry someone who wants kids.
You can compromise (to an extent) on the timing of kids, the number of kids, and the way you get kids (pregnancy vs. adoption vs. fostering).
But you can’t compromise on kids or no kids. You just can’t. One of you will resent the other.
While you should really discuss kids a LOT prior to marriage (like when do you want to start trying, how will you respond to an unintentional pregnancy, etc.), it’s still possible that you or your spouse might think differently about kids after marriage.
That’s hard. Really hard. Because while you two still love each other, neither of you should have to make that big of a sacrifice for the other. If you both have strong and opposite feelings about kids, there is no compromise. And as much as relationship bloggers love to talk about the importance of self-sacrifice, the kids question is too big.
Do not compromise your values or morals
I recently wrote about a few of my boundaries and how I’ve responded to family members not respecting them. Not only does Dan respect these boundaries, he also respects my decision to be low-contact with the people who violated them.
But imagine Dan were a different sort of person.
What if he insisted on using gendered slurs in front of me? Can we “compromise” by him only using them one day a week, or only using one slur, or only using them when he’s angry?
No, of course not. Because I won’t compromise who I am as a person. I won’t compromise what matters to me. And Dan would never ask me to do so.
Your significant other should never ask you to compromise your values or your morals. Any decision that you two make together should allow you to still feel good about yourself as a person. You might be a little disappointed not to get exactly what you want, but you’ll still respect yourself.
Do not compromise on abuse
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together. It doesn’t matter how apologetic your spouse is afterwards. You do not have to accept abuse of any kind. Verbal abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse–none of it is okay.
Love Is Respect is a great resource if you suspect your spouse is abusing you or if you’re not sure what abuse can look like in marriage.
Meet Your 2019 Love Blog Challenge Hosts!
Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. On her blog and social media, you’ll discover more than authentic storytelling–she’s brutally honest about pursuing a fulfilling and joyful life even with Crohn’s Disease and depression.
Charlene is a 20-something wife and fur-mama living in Portland, Oregon. She’s a follower of Christ, watcher of SciFi, reader of fantasy, singer of show tunes, and lover of her husband! She uses her blog, Enduring All Things, to help couples build a marriage that will endure whatever comes their way.
Alessia is a lifestyle blogger, entrepreneur and post-graduate student in History from the best borough in London, up and coming Croydon. She’s a bit like Emma Woodhouse (Pemberley Digital version) and just about no longer the most eligible Catholic bachelorette, as she has found her Mr Knightley in sunny Derbyshire.
This is one of the longest blog posts I’ve written in a long time, but there’s just so much to share about compromise in marriage! I hope you’ve found this blog post useful, as well as the additional resources I’ve linked.
What do you think about compromise in marriage?