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How And When To Compromise In Your Relationship (+ When Not To)

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The two Cs – communication and compromise – are fundamental parts of every successful relationship.

This article explores the art of compromise, which ultimately comes down to a skilful ballet of negotiation in which top-notch communication skills are essential.

So… the two are inextricably linked.

The truth is, you can’t have a successful relationship without compromise.

Talk to any well-established couple and they’ll agree: the only way that two independent individuals can merge their lives seamlessly is through good old-fashioned give and take.

Quoting from a letter written by a Victorian mother to her daughter:

Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break.

These wise words may have been written well over 100 years ago, but relationships and compromise go together like, well, a horse and carriage.

So, we’ve established that compromise is essential, but there are some very important points to bear in mind…

First, this needs to be a two-way street, with both partners doing their fair share of giving and taking.

If you feel as if you’re giving more than you’re receiving, or the compromises become sacrifices, it’s time to re-evaluate the situation.

Second, there are some compromises you should never be asked to make.

Someone who truly loves you would never ask or expect you to turn your back on the core principles and ambitions that define you.

Third, while compromise is inevitable, there’s a whole heap of difference between compromise and sacrifice.

Good compromises strengthen a relationship, whereas bad compromises only lead to disappointment, resentment, and bitterness.

So, let’s take a look at the issues in relationships which regularly require compromise, then go through the no-compromise zones, before finally looking at how to learn the art of compromise.

6 Compromises You Might Need To Make In A Relationship

1. Money management.

Without doubt, money is one of the trickiest areas to tiptoe through successfully in any relationship.

If you’ve chosen to share funds in your relationship, a compromise needs to be reached about where the money goes and who’s responsible for what.

Deeply unsexy though it may be, a fundamental part of any relationship has to be making these financial compromises.

And the more serious and committed your relationship becomes, the more complex the connection between love and money.

2. Hobbies.

Being in a relationship and preserving the status quo means that there’ll be things you have to do that you’d prefer not to.

Watching a show on TV that you’d never watch on your own, for example.

Or going to a baseball game with your significant other when you’d rather be enjoying a little retail therapy at the mall.

Each can be a bit of a snooze-fest for one of you, but as long as your partner also compromises and graciously exchanges his/her own passions for yours in something like equal measure, this is a sacrifice well worth making.

See this time as an investment in your relationship.

While such compromise is a healthy part of any strong relationship, be sure you maintain your own interests, at the same time as supporting your partner in theirs.

Your own interests help define you, and it’s easy to get swept into coupledom and lose your identity in the relationship.

Without realizing, you can find yourself deferring to your partner’s pastimes. So beware of allowing these to take precedence over your own.

Of course, if you can find a hobby to enjoy as a couple, even better.

3. Parenting.

Here’s where your own upbringing is likely to influence your approach.

Your partner will bring different parenting experiences and therefore expectations into your relationship.

If you plan on having kids, it’s wise to discuss these important matters to make sure you’re on the same page.

Failing to agree to compromise on things like diet, bedtimes, discipline, and schooling, will only lead to additional strain on your relationship.

Taking the time to work out your holistic approach to raising your kids will pay dividends, not just in terms of your relationship, but for your children too.

4. Getting physical.

When starting out in a relationship, you probably just can’t get enough of each other, and sex is central to pretty much everything.

Once your relationship settles into a routine, though, you may well find that your libidos are not as well matched as you’d thought.

Everyone is different when it comes to the down-belows! One of you may want/need sex on a daily basis, whereas the other may only feel the urge occasionally.

It’s a no-brainer that romance is key to any lasting, loving partnership, and regular physical closeness marks the difference between that and, well, just friendship.

Clearly, an imbalance in libido calls for a compromise so that both parties’ needs are fulfilled without accumulating resentment and dissatisfaction.

Related article: How To Fix A Relationship That Lacks Intimacy And Connection

5. Your career goals.

Never is the two-way street of giving and taking more relevant than when it comes to careers.

Through the ups and downs of a relationship, there’ll be times when it’s necessary for you to make compromises to support your partner in their career.

Sometimes it’ll be vice versa.

The key is that neither partner should have to abandon their ultimate career goals for the sake of making a relationship work.

The relationship needs to flex around both of your professional ambitions.

6. Time keeping.

More often than not, one party in any relationship has a different approach than his/her partner to the matter of punctuality.

To one, being early for any appointment is a compulsion to the point where they actually feel late if they’re not early.

The other may feel that to be early is a waste of precious time during which they could have gotten so many other things done, and, therefore, they are habitually late.

Clearly, where there’s such a mismatch in approach to time management, a happy medium needs to be negotiated if the relationship is to thrive.

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3 Compromises You Should Never Make In A Relationship

1. Your values and core beliefs.

It’s unlikely that you’d be comfortable in a relationship with someone whose views are diametrically opposite to your own.

However, if you find yourself in a situation where your views do differ – and there’s nothing to say that you have to agree on everything – it’s important to stay true to your own core beliefs and values.

Healthy debate on these heartfelt topics can enrich your relationship, but don’t feel any need to compromise these self-defining beliefs in order to fall in line with your partner’s.

2. Your family.

Your significant other chose to enter a relationship with you and it’s you they love.

There’s nothing written in the statutes that they have to love your family too.

They must, however, accept that your relationship with your family is not open to compromise.

Sure, your own partnership takes precedence on a day-to-day basis, but if your partner asks or, worse still, expects you to continually compromise on your relationship with your family, that’s just not acceptable.

3. Your dreams.

Unrealistic as many of them are, we’re all entitled to have dreams and to hold on to them even though there’s not even a glimmer of hope that they’ll come true.

But there’s no reason why you should be a) told that they are pointless, b) belittled for aspiring to the impossible, or c) expected to give them up.

The deal with a partner is to give unconditional support and encouragement.

Remember: your dreams, your prerogative.

How To Negotiate A Compromise In A Relationship

For determined and strong-willed people, the art of striking a compromise doesn’t come easily.

Think of it as a dance of diplomacy. The choreography really isn’t that hard; it just takes patience and mutual understanding to learn the steps.

At the outset, we mentioned that there were 2 Cs of equal importance in any relationship.

Well, this is where your communication skills will be put to the test, as you talk your way to a compromise.

Here are some pointers to help you along.

1. Agree to meet in the middle.

Even polar opposites can agree to some middle ground where there’s a will to do so.

If you’re going to share your lives, a flexible approach to finding a happy medium is the only way to sustain your relationship.

So, one of you is warm-blooded and favors a cooler ambient temperature at home. The other, though, isn’t happy unless the furnace is working overtime.

The solution: find a median temperature, even if one wears a sweater and the other a t-shirt.

2. Take it in turns.

The approach here is to do something one person’s way this time and the other person’s way the next time.

It’s easy enough to get started, but the tricky bit is keeping things even and making sure that each partner gets a fair crack of the whip.

Undoubtedly, there are different ways to approach pretty much anything, neither of which is intrinsically better than another.

Deferring to each other alternately makes perfect sense and will appeal to most people’s idea of fair play.

3. Agree to the best of both.

This is the ultimate compromise, with each of you getting partial satisfaction as your wants/needs have been accommodated to some degree.  

When it comes down to it, the concept of a ‘partnership’ is all about equality, so finding a way to incorporate parts of each of your preferences into any decision will maintain harmony.

Even if your views on where to live, how to furnish your home, or where to spend vacations are apparently opposing, your well-honed communication skills should be able to settle on a solution which partially satisfies both.

4. Try one way first, but agree to give in gracefully if it doesn’t work out.

This approach allows a tentative shift in how you handle a particular situation, giving a chance to try a different solution.

Your partner is potentially more likely to accept this trial with pre-agreed assurances that things can revert to the original (and their preferred) method if unsuccessful.

It’s an ideal method of trying new ways to handle thorny situations like family finances or child discipline, where you propose a change of tack which you believe may prove to be more effective.

Your partner may not be convinced of the validity of your approach. However, the knowledge that it’s a potentially time-limited trial should give them the confidence to agree to the change.

They may find your way works better than they ever thought possible.

About The Author

Working as a freelance copywriter, Juliana is following a path well-trodden by her family, who seem to have 'wordsmithing' in their DNA. She'll turn her quill to anything from lifestyle and wellness articles to blog posts and SEO articles. All this is underpinned by a lifetime of travel, cultural exchange and her love of the richly expressive medium of the English language.