The Art of the Compromise

I received a text from my mother the other day. She was chuckling over the little spat I’d just told her about that came off the back of hubby and I moving house.

We’ve been back and forth about what items to keep, what should go where, and what should be thrown out (interestingly, I always think his belongings should be thrown out, while meanwhile he earmarks only my things for the trash). Anyway, that’s besides the point, and was to be expected.

“Ha … step two of married life!” read my mother’s message. “Compromising!”

I assume she means that the honeymoon period is over and now we’re getting down to real married life business. The compromise.

Learning to cut a deal is an essential part of a healthy relationship.

Plenty of people hate the idea of compromise. They like things to go their way. They don’t see why they shouldn’t. Maybe you were just born stubborn (like my Taurean husband) or maybe you’re used to getting what you want (hello, boardroom managers and Generation Y*).

Well, it’s simple. There are two of you in a marriage. Both have your own completely valid opinions, and both have your own ideas of what constitutes an ideal outcome to any given situation.

There is definitely an art to compromising. Remember—the very definition of the word means that you should both be happy with the end result. It doesn’t mean that someone constantly gets steamrolled into something they don’t want to do. And it doesn’t mean that you grudgingly give in to your partner and then resent them.

Compromise is not about winning or losing. It’s about workability. And it’s about caring about how your partner feels and wanting them to be satisfied, not debating a point for the sake of it.

Keep talking

You’re each entitled to your own opinions—about anything from whether to eat Thai food for dinner down to how your children should be educated. Which means you are also entitled to voice that opinion—ideally, in a calm and civil manner.

Giving your partner the silent treatment while secretly fuming is not productive. Not telling them what you want and then giving them the silent treatment is certainly not helping either.

Keep the lines of communication open and honest and make sure you both get heard. Remember to use “I” statements and not accusing “You” statements.

Pick your battles

Ask yourself: are you just arguing over the small stuff through force of habit? Does it really matter whether your underwear gets folded a certain way? (Something I compromised on years ago after I realised my very particular husband likes things done the way he likes them done and that my sub-standard underwear-rolling was upsetting him. True story.)

Save yourself for the things that you really do care about.

Be sure you’re square

If you have to debate the pros and cons, make lists, or hash it out over a few sessions, do that. But regardless of how long it takes you, make sure you’re both happy and there’s no resentment lingering once you’ve made a decision. Be clear to your partner that you want them to be happy. They should want the same for you.

What do you think about compromise? Are you good at it? Any tips to share?

*I myself am a Generation Y, so please don’t think I’m Gen-Y-bashing! You know as well as I do that we’re used to the good life.

About Emma

Emma Merkas is the co-creator of couples' inspiration website $30 Date Night and author of the 'How Was It For You?' relationships and dating column in Australian newspaper, mX. You can also find her at her own blog or on Twitter @30dollardate.


  1. My husband I celebrated our first year of marriage in April. Once we figured out that each others feelings meant more than being right or getting our way, it made a big difference in how we communicate. Its also easier to compromise when you know why its important to the other person instead of “its my way or the highway”.

    • Congratulations on your first year of marriage! You’ve hit the nail on the head – changing your focus does make it easy to compromise, rather than just being stubborn for stubborn’s sake.

  2. Wonderful wonderful post!!!….Everyone married should read this and always always remember “forget the little things”…enjoy your significant other…

    Take Care…

  3. Ahhh – being right isn’t the win… Tell the truth (about yourself) and remember what matters… When I get it “down” I’ll let you all know 😀

    • I suspect it takes some practice, Kris! And the foresight to stop yourself mid-sentence and ask if it really matters or if you’re just debating it ‘because you can’.

  4. I can relate to your sub-par underwear rolling. 🙂 My husband is the same way,so now, he does the laundry!
    It took us being together a year or two before we really figured out that we have different arguing styles. I like to go off and ruminate, and get clear about what I want to say; he wants everything fixed this minute. So now we have a deal that I can go off by myself for a while, but I have to promise to come back to “fix” things.
    We’re about to celebrate our 12th anniversary, so I guess it’s working so far. 🙂

    • And here I was thinking Denis was the only one in the world that cared about that! Ha.

      Your arguing styles sound very familiar. I often need time to just figure out what the emotions I’m feeling are and why they’re there! It’s lovely that you both took the time to understand what each other needs and have gotten around it.

      Congratulations on your upcoming anniversary!

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