Reaching Compromise for Unity in Marriage

Marriage and family have definitely been put to the test these past few months of quarantine. In my coaching business, I have noticed an increase in couples of all ages that are reevaluating their circumstances and considering major life changes. As a result, cooperation is needed now more than ever before. Many couples are rethinking their careers, considering moving to a new location, worried about what to do with childcare and even quarrelling about whether or not to retire. Disagreement is bound to happen, but when each spouse believes “my” way is the best way and neither is willing to budge it becomes about pride, ego getting your own way. As a result, not only is no resolution reached but fights erupt and walls of resentment and blame go up. Too much lack of compromise and distrust and disharmony build. The worst part of this is that the opportunity to grow the intimacy in your relationship is completely missed. This lack of intimacy seeps into your relationship and over time it becomes easy to believe that you were not made to be together or that you will never work things out. This is a marriage mindset that you are not in control of the direction of your relationship as if you have no choice and no say in the matter at all. For many, the message becomes “we just fell out of love” or “things just didn’t work out”. Are we to believe that the lifelong institution of marriage is dependent on the vulnerability and inconsistency of our feelings? If that were true, no marriage would last. How then could we change this mindset and see this from a different perspective?

Let’s look more closely at the definition of compromise which actually means an exchange. This means that husband and wife should both be happy with the outcome. Ideally, each is giving something up in exchange for something else. This may not take place in a single transaction (for lack of a better word). It may mean that you temporarily postpone your “win” for next time or maybe you even sacrifice your “gain” this time out of love. In this case, your “win” is in the investment you are making into your relationship. Dr. Gary Chapman calls this a deposit into your love tank in his book, The Five Love Languages. In other words, it is delayed gratification, as opposed to instant gratification, for the sake of your relationship. It was also said beautifully in the lyrics of the song, “All of Me” when John Legend sings the end of the verse, “Even when I lose, I’m winning”. Sometimes the “payoff” is making the other person happy for the sake of your relationship because if your spouse “wins”, you win too. Having this mindset is a game changer and transforms our relationship from selfishness to self-gift. That brings the kind of unity every marriage needs.

Now you might be thinking, I am the one who always compromises in my relationship. When I encounter this situation as a marriage coach, we look into the relationship dynamics of a couple to evaluate this imbalance through a Catholic Couple Checkup Assessment. Sometimes the circumstance calls for one of the spouses to learn to speak up and ask for what they want while the other learns how to practice active listening. Especially in relationships where one person almost always gets their way and the other becomes accustomed to never asking for what they want. In a healthy relationship, this exchange is somewhat equal, even if it means over the long term. Otherwise, one person becomes the taker and the other becomes the giver. That is not the right spirit to have in marriage. It should be two spouses giving 100% as often as they are able. This builds trust, intimacy and communication.

Another important change in mindset to consider is if you believe that disagreements or arguments in your marriage equal failure because they don’t. Spouses in healthy marriages argue and disagree regularly. The only failure is a failure to surrender to the good of the relationship by realizing that we all can be perfected by our spouse’s life experience. In other words, place value in your spouse’s opinion because they matter to you. When you discount them and do not affirm their opinion, you degrade their value and dignity as a person.  Consider the wonderful differences that a male and female perspective brings to a sacramental marriage. This complementarity is part of the gift that comes from your union together. The old adage that says, “two heads are better than one” has merit. This concept of collaboration is one of the reasons our military is so strong. They actually consider individual differences to be the strength of the whole team, a kind of bigger brain. How cool is that!

Finally, from a faith perspective, when in doubt of what decision to make that is in the best interest of your family, turn to God for discernment. Reading scripture and praying together are the most effective ways to come to a peaceful solution. Even if you’re just deciding on what paint color to choose in your kitchen, when you are both in a good place spiritually, you will become more open, loving and generous in your decision making and in your disagreement. There is no relationship greater than in the sacrament of marriage, where God perfects and prunes us and our ability to love by laying down our lives daily and in so doing, prepares us for eternity with Him.  

To sign up for our “Catholic Couple Checkup” coaching assessment and session click here

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