Compromise is a word you often hear thrown around when describing romantic relationships. In fact, most relationship experts will say that being able to meet in the middle is an essential part of having a successful relationship. But there are times that this advice can be unproductive at best. For example, if you're dead set on having children in the future but your partner isn't so keen on the idea, you might no be able to negotiate your needs, and trying to could make you both miserable. So what's the line between healthy and unhealthy compromise? How much should you really be giving up to live harmoniously with a partner?
The foundation of healthy compromise is self-awareness. Start by asking yourself: What do you want out of this relationship? What do you need from your partner to get there? You can think about small or big things —everything from chore division to kids to where you want to live eventually. It sounds simple, but thinking through these questions and your answers on your own before bringing them to your SO can help you be clearer about your expectations, allowing you to communicate more effectively and avoid a fight.
Next, bring those issues to your partner. Be honest, upfront, and specific about your wants and needs out of your partnership says Jess O'Reilly, PhD, Astroglide’s resident sexologist. She suggests a three-part conversation starter. Say you want to have sex more. O'Reilly suggests starting with a compliment: "It feels so good when we connect sexually. I feel more relaxed and you make me feel so sexy." Then, make an inquiry to open up a conversation: "How do you feel about our sex life? What can I do to make it even more fulfilling for you?" Next, bring home your point with a simple request: "Can we carve out time on the weekends to make sure we prioritize it? Would that work for you?"
The wrong way to approach your request would be to complain about your current sex life. You don't want to put your relationship or your partner down — you want them to see and understand your side of the story.
If your partner is the one requesting a compromise, Dr. O'Reilly suggests that you each remain open to hearing them out as possible. Many people associate the word with the idea of sacrifice, or not getting what they want, which makes them immediately resistant . It may be time to rethink that. “We need to reconsider the notion of making concessions," Dr. O'Reilly says. Doing something for your partner doesn't need to feel like a loss if the action brings you both more joy, love, and fulfillment, she says.
At the same time, you do need to recognize when a request your partner makes doesn't feel right. "Ask yourself if this is something you’re open to," says Dr. O"Reilly. "Does it align with your values? Then ask for clarification. What are they asking for specifically? Break it down into specific actions."
Ultimately, she says, "If [what they're asking] would affect your sense of self or something you really value in your lifestyle, it may not be a great fit."
When your partner brings up a request or compromise, ask yourself: Could you be proud of this change? Could it help you to grow? Could you learn from trying it out? Does it align with your personal values? Would they be open to a similar type of change? If you answer mostly yes's to these, the request appears to be perfectly doable.
Ultimately, if you feel good about yourself, your partner, and your relationship, you're probably already doing OK when it comes to compromise. But if you find that your self-esteem and sense of self-worth is suffering, consider whether or not you’ve been compromising too much — you might just need to take another look at what's going on in your relationship.