How to Compromise With Your Spouse
Always feeling like the doormat when it comes to making decisions with your spouse? Or perhaps it's you who always calls the shots and your spouse meekly obliges, to the point where you feel they no longer contribute enthusiastically to the relationship. Either way, compromise between spouses is a key skill essential to a lifetime of cooperation, ever-growing love and continued respect for one another.
1. Don't assume anything
It doesn't matter how long you have been together, there will always be things you don't know about one another. More than this, all of us grow and change over time. What may have been your spouse's favourite way of doing something 5 years ago may now have become a repetitive chore. Don't assume that things are static and always ideal. Always leave room to grow and change and the same will be done for you.
2. Ask questions and listen actively
If you have gotten into the habit of telling your spouse what to do, it is time to stop in your tracks and start asking instead. And do not be put off by initial responses such as "Oh I don't know, whatever you suggest is fine by me." That is the sign of someone long resigned to just agreeing for the sake of peace or getting things done. Keep probing gently and asking what your spouse really wants. When they tell you, listen. It might be all too easy to think you already know the answer but in 99% of the time, you won't. So listen and respond to what you hear, not what you want to hear.
3. Speak up
On the other hand, if you have become the doormat in your marriage, it is time to start saying how you feel, offering your opinions and giving your take on how you would like to do certain things. You might have to take time to develop the courage to do this but do it in baby steps and bit by bit, you will start to change your approach to just accepting things as they have always seemed to be.
Whether you have been the chief organizer or the chief follower, learning compromise is the key to a happy relationship from here on. Learn how to make suggestions that take into account both parties. Consider such possibilities as:
- Agreeing to do an activity that your spouse wants to do this time provided your spouse does an activity of yours next time and set a date!
- Agreeing to do some of the activity that your spouse wants to do but adding in your ideas as well, so that the whole activity is a true combination of both your perspectives and wants.
- Sharing tasks that neither enjoys doing by creating task charts that can be flexibly juggled around where needed. For example, vacuuming might be a chore taken on by one spouse most of the time except when they are unwell, away, or really busy. The other spouse can pick up on these occasions on the understanding that the spouse will return to the task when the situation is resolved rather than the new arrangement turning into the norm. Chore creep after agreement can make the spouse who is lumped with an unfair level of chores very frustrated.
- Agreeing to give each other time out from household and parenting duties on a regular basis. This will give both spouses an expectation of free time rather than it being assumed that "someday down the track the other spouse will notice how overworked I am...". Unless such arrangements are made explicitly and clearly, they will not simply magic themselves into being.
5. Move on to collaborating
Compromise is still a situation in which some things are lost and some are won. It is a balancing exercise of competing interests and it is a good tool to grow cooperation. Ultimately, however, both of you might like to aim for a collaborative relationship. Meaning that the activities, pursuits, shared living arrangements etc. that both of you perform together become a result of collaboration where both of your input is equal, considerate of the other, builds on all the positive aspects of your contributions and creates an environment in which both of you thrive as distinct, important individuals who are totally supportive of one another. It carries no sense of either partner having to give up anything for or feel subsumed or outshone by the other person. Instead, choices are made by each individual with love, respect and care for the other uppermost in their decisions. This can take years to perfect and it's a wonderful journey.
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