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How to Compromise

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Compromise – no matter how difficult – is a necessary part of any successful, enduring marriage. For two people to work together as a team, each member must give and take once in a while. But many of us have no idea how to compromise. You’re probably used to making decisions that satisfy you and you alone. Once you commit to marriage, you must consider the needs, wants, and happiness of your husband or wife. That means being willing to compromise. Here is a step-by-step guide to the art of compromise:

1. Communicate your needs and wants.

Use "I" statements to communicate to your spouse exactly what you need or want in the relationship. For example, you might say, "I want to live in the city because it's closer to my work, which will cut down on my commute, and I like the excitement of it, whereas I'm bored here in the suburbs." Or you could say, "I feel ready to start trying to have kids because we're married, financially stable, and my biological clock is ticking." What's important here is to speak for yourself only without making assumptions about your spouse's needs or wants and to express what you want and why. Also, you must refrain from attacking your spouse with demands. You have to realize you might not get everything for which you ask.

2. Listen to your husband or wife.

After you’ve expressed your desires and offered an explanation of why this is important to you, then you have to give your spouse a chance to respond. You must not interrupt and allow him or her to speak. Really pay attention to what he or she is saying. After he or she finishes responding, then you should repeat what you heard to make sure you’re understanding him or her. You might say, “So, you’re saying that you would rather live in the suburbs close to the city because your work is here and the city is too loud and chaotic for you, right?” You must do this without sarcasm and with a steady tone. This is a discussion and not an argument. You want to show your spouse that you appreciate and value his or her needs and wants, too.

3. Carefully weigh your options.

Consider all your options. You could live in the city. You could live in the suburbs. Or you could live in a suburb closer to the city that has high-rise apartments and enough public transportation to allow you to have the best of both worlds. In this case, before drawing these conclusions, you could look at your budget and the cost of living in both the city and suburbs. Consider your options both as individuals and a couple. Remember, in the end, you have to think about the decision as though you are part of a pair and not just for yourself. If you were single and wanted to live in the city, of course, you could just do that. But you’re married and there’s another person involved in this decision.

4. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes.

Truly understanding your spouse is difficult, especially when your own wants and needs cloud your judgment. That’s why it is all the more important for you to step out of your own mind for a moment, and consider your spouse’s opinions and feelings. How would your husband or wife be affected if he or she just gave in to you? What would be the positives and negatives for him or her? Why do you think he or she holds a different opinion? What kind of sacrifices would your husband or wife be making if he or she went along with your ideas? Let your spouse know what responses you come up with to these questions. Show them some empathy.

5. Consider fairness.

For compromise in a marriage to work, one person cannot always be the doormat. In other words, you can’t always get your way, and your spouse can’t always give into you and your needs. Also, you have to consider the fairness of each decision. If you move to the city, you might have an easier commute and be happier in the fast-paced lifestyle. But will your spouse’s commute double? Will he or she be put out by the frenetic life? Is that fair to him or her?

6. Make a decision – and stick with it.

After you have weighed your options and considered your spouse’s feelings and the fairness of the situation, you must make a decision together and stick with it. If you have been completely honest while undertaking all the other steps, you should come to a resolution that works for both of you. And there should be no wishy washiness about the decision for either party.

7. Check in with each other.

When there’s give and take in a relationship, one or both of you is likely making a sacrifice or giving up something he or she wanted or needed. If this happens often, you or your spouse could start to feel taken for granted or ignored. This can cause resentment to build, which can break down a marriage. Check in with one another to make sure there is no resentment or hurt feelings. Make sure when you agree to a compromise that you will not hold this sacrifice over your spouse’s head, doubt your decision, or stew about it. You have to make the decision, stick with it, and move forward in a positive light.

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