You and your spouse could have a disagreement that begins like this:
One of you has just received a bonus check from work. Your spouse thinks it should be spent on a nice vacation. You say it should be placed into savings in case the hot water heater goes.
You both offer good reasons to support your stance. He says, “We work hard, and deserve some time away as a reward.” You say, “Sure we do, but I also don’t want to take cold showers when the water heater finally goes!”
Both of you have a strong opinion, neither of you will give an inch, and every encounter you have becomes an opportunity to further advance why you’re “right.” Each of you digs in your heels. What starts out as a simple argument escalates into a full-blown battle. The unity of your relationship is jeopardized as you both become more entrenched on your own “side.” Heated arguments and steamy silences ensue, and a divide develops between you.
You’re at a standstill and neither of you wants to give up your position. What then? In this article, you’ll discover whether or not you and your spouse are effectively engaging in the art of compromise and some tips on how you can come into agreement more effectively.
Marital Disagreement Can Be a Good Thing
Simple disagreements can take on a lot of weight. It seems a lot is at stake: your pride, your standing in the relationship, even your ability to reason logically. The situation is that much more loaded when the two of you disagree over big things. So how do you negotiate these situations?
Start by realizing that disagreements in a relationship are perfectly normal. You and your spouse are each individuals, with unique thoughts, needs and experiences that will occasionally clash. If I told you about a married couple that never has a disagreement, you would either laugh as if I had told a good joke, or you would wonder, “What’s wrong with them?”
Sure, there are couples who never disagree, but this doesn’t mean they’ve found perfection in one another. On the contrary: It can mean their relationship lacks passion. They can’t muster up enough emotion to make a disagreement possible.
So, if you and your spouse are in disagreement, in some ways it is a good sign that you at least have the passion to be in conflict. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t marshall the energy to argue.
With that said, disagreements do need to be handled appropriately. Drawing battle lines isn’t a healthy habit to develop. In fact, constantly taking a “side” opposite your spouse can become very detrimental to the foundation of your marriage, as “me” begins to take precedence over “we.”
Another danger in drawing battle lines is that when a disagreement becomes heated, it can ignite hostility between you and your spouse. The attacks may become personal with name-calling and dismissal of one another’s opinions. This erodes the trust that is so essential to a strong marriage.
Here are some steps to gauge how effectively you and your spouse compromise and some tips on how you can come into agreement more readily.
Step 1: Understand the Meaning of Compromise in Marriage
Compromise in a marriage is not a straightforward matter. You and your spouse may think it means that, as a couple, you will reach the perfect compromise every time you try.
A “perfect” compromise is really an ideal, which means it’s probably not going to happen each time. One or the other of you will find yourself giving in to the other from time to time to preserve the relationship. That’s okay as long as you are satisfied that the overall balance of compromises are maintained.
Instead of looking at each argument and determining who “won” or “lost,” look at the history of your marriage. If you’re satisfied that over the course of your marriage each of you has given in to the other fairly, then over the long haul you’ve been compromising well.
Step 2: Discuss and Come into Agreement
When there’s a topic you both feel strongly about, agree to hear one another out fully. As you take turns listening, make this the ground rules:
- The speaker gives their thoughts and feelings on the topic.
- The listener, in their own words, explains back these thoughts and feelings as the listener understands them.
- The speaker decides if the listener has understood what they’ve expressed before moving forward.
At this point, you have reached an agreement that you each fully understand the other’s position, and from here, you can brainstorm together on possible solutions that you can come to agreement on.
This will take practice, as it is the skill of negotiation.
Step 3: Keep a Record of Compromises
This isn’t a negative “keeping tabs” so much as a record of you and your spouse’s important and semi-important decisions. This is a “Compromise Book,” a tangible record of the agreements you have come to, and how the process has worked in your relationship over the years.
It’s a record of the facts, and when one or the other of you begins to feel, “I always give in,” you’ll have a record to support whether there is too much compromise coming from one partner.
On the idea of compromise, I’d like to hear from you …
Do you and your spouse compromise, or constantly draw battle lines?
Is a “Compromise Book” something that could help your relationship? How?
Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,
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