Three essential skills for finding compromise in your marriage
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word compromise in noun form as agreement, or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by two parties by making concessions. As a verb, compromise means, “…to settle a dispute by mutual concession”. As it pertains to this post, I will focus on compromise as a verb. Much of my work with couples focuses on compromise, or more specifically helping couples develop the skills that help them to find their way to it. The following post will highlight several skills that help with facilitating compromise among couples.
Skill One: Transition from I to We
Throughout young adulthood, we are focused on accomplishing our individual goals such as learning how to drive, earning a degree, or securing that first full-time job with benefits. During this time, we are consumed with our own hopes, dreams, and plans. Then we meet that person that we love so much, that we cannot imagine going forward in life without them. And for the first time, we feel the need to seriously consider how our plans and actions impact someone else.
As a couple transitions from dating to engagement, and onto life as a married couple, there should be a transition from I to We. Moving from an I to We means that your default perspective, or how you interpret your space in the world, no longer includes just you. But it also includes actively considering the thoughts, desires, and needs of your spouse. Actively taking into consideration your spouse’s thoughts, desires, and needs is a key indicator for an I to We transition.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of assuming that the I to We transition, is going to happen without much action or awareness by the two individuals involved. Couples who struggle with this transition may have just assumed that the act of getting married alone, would bring about a We perspective. Please do not make either of these assumptions in your relationship. People have spent so much of their lives in I mode, that I habits are often hard to recognize and even harder to put to bed. Even couples that have longevity are not always aware that they still have I habits, despite displaying I behaviors that indicate that they are acting and behaving as individuals and not as a couple. If you are a reader that has been married for a while, please do not make the mistake that this skill is only for new couples. Ironically, the longer you are married, the more desensitized you become to your own I habits, or complacent to such behaviors from your spouse, despite being hurt by those same behaviors.
Skill Two: Effective Communication
When working with couples, I spend a lot of time on effective communication skills. By the time most couples agree to come to couples counseling, communication between them is often ineffective. Therefore, it is a must to establish strategies to allow for both spouses to be heard and listened to so their concerns can be addressed and processed in a neutral and objective way. Even though my role as a therapist is to help couples develop such skills, it is worth noting that learning effective communication skills, is one of the most important skills a couple can learn. Because of its importance, I suggest that new couples learn effective communication skills at the beginning of their relationship and recommend participation in premarital counseling that includes effective communication skills as a major area to cover. This provides a great opportunity for both partners to learn about and develop effective communication skills before they get married. Although poor communication skills, and I habits contribute to a lack of compromise among couples, there are other unhealthy behaviors that negatively impact compromise among couples.
Skill Three: Development of Self-Awareness
As infants we start out with a self-absorbed, egocentric, and selfish perspective. If you are a parent, I am sure you can remember, “It’s mine”, “I want it”, or the big one, “I don’t want to!”. Hopefully, as we are exposed to good parenting and positive environments, we replace those self-centered values with ones that are more empathetic, altruistic, and self-reflective.
Ironically though for some adults, the older and more successful they get, the more they revert to the egocentric and selfish habits of their youth. And if I can just be frank, some people never fully matured in this area. If you are a husband or a wife that struggles with recognizing these tendencies, you are going to wreak havoc on your relationship with your spouse. Think about this way, if you think that your perspective is the only one that matters in the relationship, does that sound like the type of perspective that is going to lead to compromise? Absolutely not. On the other hand, someone who is self-aware, or working on becoming more self-aware of their selfish tendencies, can be honest with themselves and address their egocentric and selfish habits. And double down on their efforts to truly hear, listen, and validate their partners perspective. All of which help with finding compromise. But to start addressing such habits you need to become sensitized to having them.
Developing our self-awareness takes time and practice. Becoming self-aware of negative thinking, inappropriate behaviors, and false assumptions takes even more time. Nevertheless, if you are in a committed relationship and you want it to be a healthy one, each partner needs to become sensitive or “aware” of how they feel, why they feel, and cognizant of the attitudes and behaviors that accompany those feelings. Developing such clarity regarding our emotions helps us to recognize when we are behaving selfishly, holding on to past hurts, or holding our partner to impossible standards of perfection. All of which makes finding compromise nearly impossible. To read more about self-awareness you can access Tchiki Davis, Ph.D. blog post on Psychology Today here.
If you are a couple that is interested in premarital counseling or you are in an established marriage, and your efforts to find compromise have come to an impasse, True Impact Counseling Services, PLLC is here for you. We specialize in couples and premarital counseling. True Impact Counseling Services, PLLC provides confidential professional counseling services in a private, no judgment space. Our counseling services take place in office and virtual settings, evening and weekend appointment times are available.
Travis E. Williams M.A., M.Ed., LPC, CRC
Travis E. Williams M.A., M.Ed., LPC, CRC is Lead Counselor and Owner of True Impact Counseling Services, PLLC. Travis is a licensed professional counselor and a nationally certified rehabilitation counselor. Travis specializes in men's issues and couples therapy. In his spare time Travis enjoys walking in local parks, greenway bike rides in Wake and Johnston Counties and spending quality time with his wife of twenty years and their son.