How Much Should You Compromise in a Relationship?
Teamwork makes the dream work.
Whether you’ve been in just one or many serious relationships, or have been dating your partner for just a few months or closer to a decade, one thing you’ve probably realized about relationships is that they require a bit of compromise; scratch that, a lot of compromise—on both sides.
Compromise can be seen, by some people, as a positive thing—an opportunity to meet in the middle and come to a conclusion that satisfies both parties. However, it can often be viewed in a negative context, equated with giving something up, self abandoning or sacrifice, notes Claudia Six, Ph.D., sexologist, relationship coach and author of Erotic Integrity: How to Be True to Yourself Sexually. “It has come to mean not doing what doesn’t work for your mate or what they don’t approve of, for the sake of keeping the peace,” she says. In her professional opinion, however, compromise is a positive thing; “Compromise can be very loving when done with self respect and in a way that supports the relationship.”
The Benefits of Healthy Compromise
When compromise is an essential quality in a relationship, the couple can flourish both separately and together in various ways. Here’s a look at some of the benefits of compromise in a romantic relationship.
It creates a safe and secure environment.
When you are both open to compromise, you can both feel rest assured that your relationship comes first over the needs of each of you as individuals, notes Gabrielle Usatynski, L.P.C, a Licensed Professional Counselor in Boulder, Colorado, and founder of Power Couples Education. “Couples only do well in relationships when they feel that they come first in each other's eyes, which means putting aside choices that are self-serving at the expense of the relationship,” she says.
It sets the right example for those around you.
If you’re parents, showing your children examples of compromise sets the blueprint for healthy relationships in their future. This shows that even if you and your partner don't always see eye to eye, you're able to come to some middle ground. “Parents are the primary role models for children on how to build healthy relationships, and studies have shown that children learn how to behave with one parent by watching how the other parent treats that parent,” says Usatynski. “If you and your partner want your child to learn to ‘share’ and put their own needs aside and be kind to others, there's no better way to instill that in them than modeling it yourself in your relationship with your co-parent.”
You’re less likely to feel resentment.
One of the worst feelings to have in a relationship—on both sides—is resentment. One benefit of compromise is that it makes resentment less likely, according to Paulette Sherman, Psy.D., clinical psychologist, author of The Book of Sacred Baths and the host of The Love Psychologist podcast. “It feels more fair to both partners and they act like team players and they understand that both people matter and will work together for the sake of the relationship.”
What happens when couples don't compromise?
When compromise isn’t a feature in a relationship, the other partner can feel invisible or marginalized, which can cause couples to grow apart because they feel their interests are too divergent or they can never get their needs met, according to Dr. Sherman. Mental health can suffer as well. “There may be some couples who are comfortable just doing their own thing and they don’t rely on the other person to compromise,” she says. “However, in marriage or a lifetime relationship where there is a lot of overlap and joint decisions making, it can make this stance more challenging.”
How much should you compromise in a relationship?
Compromise looks different for each couple, but the ultimate goal is for both partners to feel that there is a true give and take. For example, you switch off deciding on what movies to watch or what takeout spot to order from; or you do little things around the house to make each other happy even if it’s not your favorite chore.
No matter what—compromise should never involve one person sacrificing too much for their partner. This is considered unhealthy compromise. But how much is too much? According to Usatynski, too much sacrifice involves giving up on your core values or important lifestyle choices that are at the heart of who you are—like whether to have a monogamous or open marriage, to have children or to not have children, your relationship with other family members, what religion to raise your children, drug and alcohol addiction, who controls the money, etc. “These are examples of non-negotiable issues—known as deal-breakers—that partners can easily overlook because they do not want to lose their relationship,” she says. “It's easy to try to compromise on these issues, or put them off, minimize them or pretend they don't exist, however, if these issues are not fully resolved without either partner compromising, these deal-breakers will cause trouble and clashes down the road for the couple.”