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Healthy and Unhealthy Compromise in Relationships

Do you and your partner repeatedly argue about the same issue without any resolutions? Do you fear having to give in or be the one to concede? Without resolutions, these issues begin to compile onto other conflicts and affect the relationship.

Everyone is uniquely different, so it makes sense that when two people come together, they would experience some disagreements at some point in the relationship. And being in a relationship with someone means you are accepting the difference in viewpoints or perspectives. Furthermore, having disagreements or not always seeing eye-to-eye is a normal part of healthy relationships. Though, for relationships to function, compromise is a necessity.

Now, are you actually making healthy compromises in your relationship or are you starting to sacrifice yourself? Is compromising only to please your partner a good thing? Are you happy or are you beginning to feel resentful?

There is a clear line between healthy and unhealthy compromise, but when you are in the thick of a relationship, it can be difficult to recognize the difference. So, how can you tell? Here is how healthy compromise and unhealthy compromise look like.

What is compromise?

In order to recognize healthy and unhealthy compromise, it is important to define what compromise actually means. According to, a compromise is defined as, “A settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands.” Let’s put an emphasis on a settlement of differences—it does not mean changing your opinion or letting go of your own views.

Understanding unhealthy compromises

There is still unhealthy compromise that can also affect the relationship, so it is necessary to know the difference. Compromise does not mean that you need to go against your values, core beliefs, boundaries, or discount or invalidate your own feelings. Just remember that it is still okay and important to know when to say no.

I have found that some clients experience a pendulum swing in which they did not speak their mind or gave into what their partner wanted to avoid conflict. Then, at some point, there is a shift into the other extreme, possibly due to resentment, and they voice their opinion more often than not in an effort to finally be heard and understood.

An individual, or even both partners, are more likely to experience this swing when there have been unhealthy compromises throughout the relationship. Examples of compromise may range from where you are your partner decide to move, whether you have children, to how you manage the household, roles, or responsibilities.

The following is 4 ways to make sure you are creating healthy compromise while avoiding unhealthy compromise:

1. Healthy compromise is mutual while unhealthy compromise is disproportionate

This means both of you need to give up something, not just one of you. Healthy compromise is about two people, coming from two different perspectives, finding a mutual solution to a problem. Healthy compromise means when you reach an impasse and you are not sure how to get out of it, the both of you make adjustments to your behavior to resolve the impasse with mutual desires to make your relationship flow again.

In contrast, unhealthy compromise is often one-sided. Unhealthy compromise mostly means that one person is doing the heavy lifting, giving up things that are important to them or adjusting their values over and over again.

With a healthy compromise, two people will be trying to figure something out. With an unhealthy compromise, one partner will be asked to give something while the other won’t. A relationship based on one person's sacrifice won't continue to work in the long run. However, a relationship based on healthy compromises will.

Next time you ask for your partner to give up something, be prepared to offer something to the table yourself. That shows balance, a sense of fairness and a willingness to compromise yourself—not just ask your partner for compromise. There can be a win-win for both parties.

2. Healthy compromise has a specific goal

A healthy compromise often happens because two people need a way to get to the other side of a problem. In this way, compromise usually has a specific goal in mind.

Typically, a compromise arises because there is an individual problem to be solved. Healthy compromises keep the couple focused on problem-solving in an effective, healthy way. And the mutual goal is accomplished through teamwork.

An unhealthy compromise may have an individual goal, but more often, they are made with some idea that they'll be good for the health of the relationship as a whole. When one person keeps making sacrifices for the relationship without a specific mutual goal, without the other person doing much, it's a formula for the end of a relationship. So, if you feel like you are continually being asked to give things up "for the sake of the relationship," you are making one-sided sacrifices instead of reaching a resolution with your partner on actual issues.

3. Healthy compromise is not resentful

Unhealthy compromise feels a lot like a subtraction, as if you are the only one giving up things and getting nothing or not much back. If this one-sided relationship continues, the lack of balance breeds resentment and anger and in the end, the relationship may not survive.

In contrast, people who are asked to make a sacrifice one after another can get resentful, with good reason. It can quickly lead to one partner feeling like they aren't being heard and also like their needs aren't getting met. If you are starting to feel really resentful about all the things you are being asked to give up, sooner or later, you will start resenting the person who continues to ask you to do those things. Total sacrifice is rarely necessary for a relationship to work.

Even when it’s a healthy compromise, making a compromise may not be the most fun or the easiest thing to do. However, it seldom creates resentment between parties.

If you are in a relationship in which you feel like you are sacrificing all the time or sacrificing too much, you and your partner need healthy discussions and figuring out how the two of you can tackle problems together and how you can get back to a healthy place.

4. Healthy compromise helps you become your more authentic self

A healthy compromise is when change helps you to become more of your authentic self for both yourself and your partner. Both of you choose to experience the short-lived discomfort of change in return for the greater future gain of personal growth for each other, leading to a happier relationship and individual happiness.

Healthy compromises benefit both parties; they enhance each other’s authenticity and bring the partners closer. In a healthy, balanced relationship, the connection and identity of who you are should be enhanced, not diminished.

When making unhealthy compromises, you are changing in a way that moves away from being your authentic self. You are making changes to your habits or lifestyle that reduces your spirit or keeps you from reaching your full potential as a human being. You lose your aura of happiness and luster in life.

It should be acknowledged that healthy compromises can be hard, too. Even in a healthy compromise, you may perceive these changes as a setback, but it is only temporarily in order to mature and catapult you forward as a person. And yet, if they are good and healthy compromises, they help you and your partner grow together as a team. A healthy compromise shows that you have a common goal in mind: a healthy partnership, rather than just prioritizing your own desires.

When trying to figure out if the compromise is a healthy one, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will this compromise make me feel less than my authentic self?

  • Does this compromise only benefit my partner adding to his/her authority in the relationship?

If this is an unhealthy compromise or your partner makes requests that you feel are unhealthy, speak up and have a discussion with them about it and explain why this change does not help bring out your authentic self. Before you start a discussion with your partner, keep the following in mind:

Learning to compromise takes practice.

Take a minute to reflect on your compromises, intentions, and determine whether you think you have experienced healthy or unhealthy compromises.

Healthy compromise is about finding a healthy balance and bridging the gap so both partners feel heard, understood, and can agree to an effective solution. In the long run, this balance will lead to a healthier relationship and positive growth.

If you're having difficulty communicating what you need or struggling to find balance in your relationship, reach out to a mental health professional. Once you understand and can implement compromise in your relationship, you may begin to notice some significant changes. Over time, the word “compromise” won't feel negative or scary at all, but rather a vital ingredient to your happy union.


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About Sam Nabil

Sam Nabil is the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Life Coach in Seattle and a Relationship Coach in Seattle

Sam offers Executive life coaching for high achieving adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today,


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