When you’re arguing with your partner about something, it can sometimes feel impossible to reach common ground. But compromising in a relationship can be much easier if you use a few key tips, according to relationship experts. Making sure to stay calm and to listen carefully can go a long way in reaching a solution that works for both you and your partner.
Although compromise is a crucial component of a lasting relationship, you don’t have to be willing to abandon every one of your stances. “It is important to know when you can work towards finding a middle ground and when to stand firm in your views,” Dr. Rachel Needle, a licensed psychologist and co-director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes, tells Bustle. Some boundaries should never be compromised. “Someone should not compromise themselves and their boundaries with a partner,” she says. “If there is something you are not comfortable with, physically for example, you should not compromise.” Yourself, your values, and your safety should also all be off limits when it comes to compromise. Taking care of yourself should always come before making a partner happy if the two are in conflict with each other.
Here are some tips for compromising in a relationship, according to experts.
1. Let Go Of Having To Be “Right”
It can be exhilarating to walk away from an argument with your partner having had the last word. But while this can feel gratifying, considering fights in terms of who’s right or wrong can be a harmful approach. “The goal in a relationship should always be to understand one another,” Channa Bromley, a matchmaker and certified dating coach, tells Bustle. “Listen actively to your partner and aim to understand why their point of view is important to them,” she says.
Instead of loudly trying to convince them of your opinion, try to consider whether there are multiple “right” or “good” outcomes to be reached.
2. Find Some Common Ground
In the midst of an effort to reach a compromise, it might suddenly feel like you and your partner have no common ground. But do your best to find something you can both agree with, even if it’s not the main point you’re discussing. “For the most part, when couples argue they listen for what is wrong in what their partners are saying,” Bromley says. “They then want to correct, clarify, or debate what is being said.” This kind of mindset rarely ends in anyone getting what they want, so instead, listen with the express purpose of finding something that you do agree with.
For example, if you’re arguing about who should be responsible for doing the dishes, take a moment to acknowledge how great it is that both of you agree that it’s important to have a clean home.
3. Negotiate A Trade
By its very nature, a compromise does not mean all or nothing. But that also doesn’t mean that you should never let your partner get their way completely. If you aren’t having much luck finding a middle ground on one specific issue, try negotiating a trade so that you each get something you want. If your partner wants to go see the newest comedy movie, for example, ask them if you could then choose where the two of you get dinner.
“Be open to their side of the trade off,” Bromley says. “In order for a compromise to be successful, both people need to feel good about it.”
4. Make Sure You Remain Calm
“Always compromise from a calm state of mind,” Bromley says. It’s easy to get heated when you and your partner are disagreeing about something, but that kind of emotional state can make it harder to reach common ground. “When we are emotionally activated, we lose perspective,” she says. “Take the time you need before beginning the conversation to meditate, go for a walk, take a shower, etc.” Once you have both centered yourselves and feel that you’re ready to work together toward finding a solution that’s mutually beneficial, you can go ahead and start to work things out.
5. Listen Intently
When you’re trying to compromise with your partner, your main concern might be getting your point across in a rational and compelling way so that they’re willing to consider yielding. But to reach a truly effective middle ground, listening is key. “Hear your partner’s views on the topic and really hear them,” Needle says. “It’s possible once you see things from their world and understand how they feel about it, you might actually feel differently.” Instead of mentally preparing your counter-argument while your partner is speaking, do your best to really consider what they’re saying so that you can understand each other better.
6. Choose Your Battles
“You cannot be in a relationship on your own terms,” Needle says. While having everything go according to your own preferences might sound ideal, that’s not very realistic, so it’s important to choose your battles. “In a relationship, not everything can always go your way,” she says. “Choose the things that are most important to you to focus on to find that middle ground.” For example, if letting your partner pick the paint color for your living room isn’t a huge deal to you, try conceding to them on that. Then, when something is very important to you, you might have more leverage.
7. Try Both Ways
If you and your partner are trying to reach a compromise, you might not always be able to try both of your suggestions. For example, if you have differing opinions on which dog to adopt, you can’t really bring home both and then return one later. But this tip can be effective for other situations. If you’re arguing about the best park to picnic in, plan two different picnic days, so that you can compare which is the most fun. “Try it both ways for a period of time,” Needle says. While this won’t necessarily win one of you over, it can be helpful to have a trial run to see what truly works best for you both.
8. Map Out Your Priorities
If trying to reach a compromise through discussion is getting you nowhere, take things to paper, using John Gottman’s “art of compromise” tool, Ashley Chambrello, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. “You will both draw a large circle on a piece of paper, with a smaller circle in the middle of the larger one,” she says. “In the smaller circle, you will identify your ‘core needs,’ which are things that are inflexible or you won’t budge on.” Then, in the larger circle, write down areas where you’re willing to be flexible. This exercise can help you both better understand your partner’s point of view, understand one another’s boundaries, and can visually show you ways to compromise, Chambrello says.
Whatever the issue is that’s causing tension between you and your partner, it’s important to show them love throughout the compromise process. Arguments can get nasty, but keeping the discussion kind and respectful can go a long way for your relationship.