When To Compromise In A Relationship (And When Not To)

Discover when compromise is healthy and when it's not.

couple sitting together talking about a compromise ViDI Studio / Shutterstock

What does the word "compromise" conjure up for you? Is it a positive or negative word for you? Does it bring up a sense of loving resolution or losing yourself and your integrity?

When you think about compromising, what are you compromising?

Are you compromising with a partner you love out of caring for yourself and your partner, or are you compromising to control how your partner feels about you or reacts?


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Knowing when you should or should not compromise in a relationship is about understanding your and your partner's intent.

When To Compromise In A Relationship And When Not To

It's helpful to compromise when the compromise is loving.

When you intend to love yourself and your partner, you will find a resolution that feels right to both of you.

When you and your partner truly intend to learn about yourselves and each other, you can explore why what you want is important to you and why your partner wants is important to him or her.

As you open up to yourselves and each other, the learning process will likely change you. What you come up with may differ greatly from what you started out with.


Resolution occurs when you develop a joint resolution, and neither of you feels you are compromising yourself or your integrity. Neither of you is giving yourselves up to control the other. Both of you are happy with the resolution. In fact, when you explore with the intent to learn, neither of you may feel that the resolution is a compromise.

Instead, it may be a new way of looking at and resolving an issue.

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It is not helpful to compromise when the compromise is self-abandoning.

When you give yourself up and go along with something that doesn't feel right to you inside, you are abandoning yourself. You are trying to please the other person so that he or she will approve of you, not reject you or not get angry. This kind of compromise is an intent to control rather than the intent to love yourself and your partner.

While you might feel some relief for the moment, when you give yourself up and compromise your integrity, you will feel anxious, depressed, and/or angry about it in the long run. We cannot compromise our personal integrity without suffering these consequences.

You might think you're anxious, depressed, or angry because of your partner's demands, but the truth is you are causing these feelings by trying to control your partner with your caretaking.

To know when you are compromising for loving reasons and when you are abandoning yourself by compromising, tune into your feelings.


If the compromise feels good inside, then you love yourself. But, if you feel bad inside — anxious, depressed, angry, ashamed, less-than — you are abandoning yourself.

Your feelings accurately guide whether your choice is loving or unloving to yourself.

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There are certainly times in any relationship when one person really wants something or wants to do something, and the other person goes along with it out of love and caring — even if it's not what they really want.

When you love someone, you may feel good inside going along with what they want — provided it doesn't go against your personal integrity. We can do things for others or with others without losing ourselves when our motivation comes from love rather than from fear.


If it's coming from fear, then it's not loving yourself or the other person.

When you come from fear and a desire to control, the resulting compromise will be unloving to yourself and to your partner. When you come from love and a desire to learn, the result will be an appropriate compromise.

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Dr. Margaret Paul is a relationship expert, noted public speaker, and educator.