Compromising may be killing your relationship - here are 5 ways to reach healthy compromises, according to relationship expert

Compromising isn't always the best way to keep the peace in a relationship

Couple arguing
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A relationship expert has revealed the top three ways compromising in a relationship can lead to you having 'periodic explosions' - and revealed what you should try to do instead. 

Relationships can be both the most fulfilling and most stress-inducing aspects of our lives - and are often both at the same time! Everyone knows the ups and downs that can punctuate a partnership and, whether you're in a long-term relationship with your partner, or you're still in that sweet honeymoon faze of marriage, or you're navigating a relationship after having kids, there's one seemingly innocent thing we're all guilty of doing that a relationship expert has just revealed could be causing a lot of trouble; compromising. 

We think that going along with what a partner says, wants or does for the sake of keeping the peace, giving in so we can avoid an argument, is a good thing. But relationship expert Robert Taibbi has now shared that compromising in a relationship can lead to problems like 'periodic explosions' and even eventually to divorce

That's because, he writes in Psychology Today, when one person is consistently compromising, overtime an imbalance forms where one person is always getting what they want, while the other is in danger of forming a resentment as their needs are consistently ignored. 

This is what happens when partners rely on unhealthy compromises for the sake of keeping the peace. The expert explains, "Many have learned to manage relationships and conflict by being passive and going along. The problem is that less anxiety comes with a cost—you’re living others' lives and not [your] own, and at some point, you look back and realise that you never lived the life you truly wanted."

This passivity can also manifest in 'pre-compromising.' So you may think of something you want to do, or somewhere you want to go, but you know that your partner probably won't agree to it. So, instead of voicing your desires, you go for a second or third option you think they may agree with. This, the expert says, may help you to avoid conflict but it also leads many people to live a 'watered down' version of the life they truly want. 

In some cases, as well as 'going along' with what a partner wants or pre-compromising to accommodate them, someone may also expect 'a payoff' for their compromise. According to Taibbi, as a reward for giving in over one thing, a partner may expect 'appreciation, more affection, and sex' as well as the future promise that the partner 'will give in to' their desires at some point in the future. The problem with this way of thinking, he explains, is that the other partner often does not know they are thinking this at all as it's an unvoiced thought. "It would be more balanced if [they] said, 'I’m willing to go along with this, but I need you to support me on that'," he explains. "The key is speaking up."

But while there are unhealthy ways of compromising, there are also healthier ways of reaching a compromise that you can both feel happy with. 

1. Decide on what you want rather than what you should do. Taibbi says, "Think about what you ideally want; rather than going on autopilot and thinking about how to avoid conflict, take the risk of deciding what is important to you." It may lead to an argument but if it's something you really want, it should be worth fighting for.  

2. Meet, be clear, and say what you want. If you're making a decision as a couple and know that it may take time for you both to get on the same page, the expert recommends marking out a specific time to sit down together. "Pick a time that allows you both to be your best selves," he says, "Not 11pm or after you’ve had three beers." This should let you both lay out your wants in an organised manner and open up the room for discussion, not 'explosive' arguments. 

3. Avoid pre-compromising. "Be bold, get [what you want] on the table, and avoid the temptation to water it down," Taibbi says. Be clear about what you really want to do, not what you think you should do to keep the peace.

4. Don’t be a bully. When standing up for what you want, "you might be tempted to overdo it and be bullish," the expert says. But while it's good to make a stand, you don't want to get angry at your partner and begin an argument. Instead, "Step it down a few steps without slipping into giving in or passivity."

5. Aim for a win-win compromise. "Win-win means that you both feel heard and are willing to adjust your ideas—not out of anxiety or habit or scoring points and being a martyr—but out of caring for others and still feeling that you’re being heard," the expert says. 

If you're struggling to settle on a compromise that keeps you both happy, he recommends to think outside the box. Using the example of planning a holiday, he says to try something completely different than what you'd originally thought. "A staycation, a new destination that neither would consider, wrapping both ideals somehow into one trip," he lists. "Or, [you can] split the time [to do what you both want]—a couple of days at the beach and a couple in the city, and then go camping." There's always an option to keep you all happy. 

In other relationship news, is your relationship stuck in a rut? One psychologist has revealed how to stop your relationship becoming ‘predictable and boring’ while another has shared how 'soulmate thinking' could be standing in the way of a lasting marriage. Plus, this daily habit all couples do could be killing your relationship, says expert - but the advice has proved to be controversial. 

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.