By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
It’s been said that communication is key to your marriage. But what if the point being communicated doesn’t go over well with one of you? It’s also been said that love is what holds a marriage together. But what happens when one or both of you have lost that loving feeling?
While I firmly believe grace is the glue that holds the two of you together, the concept of compromise comes in a close second. After all, if neither one of you is willing to budge on an issue, a wall goes up between the two of you. If an inability to communicate or an unwillingness to budge builds a wall, then compromise is what chisels that wall to the ground.
Compromise works best when both of you are willing to do it. And in situations when neither of you are willing, pray about it, take the initiative to compromise or yield altogether, and then trust God with the results. God knows your heart and the heart of your spouse. More than that, He truly knows what is best when it comes to the situation or decision that lies ahead of you. And His Spirit can give you the sensitivity and the strength to be the one who compromises.
Here are five reasons compromise is the secret to a better marriage.
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1. Compromise Means You Care Enough to Work through an Issue
If you are a person who is all about principle and – for the sake of the principle – you don’t feel you can budge on an issue, being willing to compromise communicates that your spouse – and unity between the two of you – is more important to you than the principle itself. According to the Bible, people ARE more important than principles. 1 Corinthians 13:7 tells us that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (NASB). Compromise is a sign you are bearing with your partner, believing their way is best this time, hoping for the best in your compromise, and enduring with your spouse, regardless of what happens after your compromise.
Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways [including your compromises] acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight” (NASB).
2. Compromise Says I'll Meet You Halfway
I’m sure you’ve heard that marriage is not a 50-50 commitment; It’s a 100-100 commitment. Yet, it takes two to make up the whole. And in reality, one of you may make an 80 percent effort to compromise one day while the other makes just a 20 percent effort. On another day it might be 30 percent you and 70 percent your spouse. On the days you get 100-100, or even 50-50, God just showed up.
Yet, most of the time, life takes a toll, selfish desires rise up, preferences take over, and hunger, weariness, stress, or a myriad of other factors interfere and your compromise effort is less than half. On those days, you need the grace of your spouse to meet you at least halfway and the grace of God to help you be the person who will go the extra distance for your spouse on the days he or she will need it. 1 John 3:18-19 in the Message says, “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.”
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3. Compromise Can Turn the Tense to Tender
In our book, When Couples Walk Together: 31 Days to a Closer Connection, my husband and I shared a story about a spat we experienced shortly after entering a restaurant together. Hugh wanted it to be an evening in which he told the seating host how many were in our party, escorted his wife to the table, and ordered for us. However, according to Hugh, I was in “take charge” mode. I stepped ahead of him, told the host where we wanted to sit, asked for my ice water with lemon, and told the server to come back in another five minutes to take our order. Hugh was ticked because he wanted to take the lead that evening by treating me like a lady, but I never gave him a chance. I was hurt that he interpreted my actions as controlling, and then he clammed up over it. Yet, as we sat there quietly, each feeling we’d done nothing wrong and each wanting to protect our pride, Hugh extended his pinky finger slowly across the table to grab onto mine. One simple little gesture made the situation go from tense to tender. In that moment, he stepped on his pride, extended in love, and made the compromise. By reaching for me physically, he crossed the divide our misunderstanding had created and redeemed the evening.
Reaching out across the table to grab your spouse’s hand – or at least their little pinky finger – during a tense moment is another way to compromise and show grace. It’s a way of saying, “I don’t have to insist upon my way” or “I don’t have to be right this time.” By making the first move, you are being the bigger person. When tensions arise, giving the other person the benefit of the doubt might help pull the two of you closer together. Try offering a tender touch on the hand or shoulder, or just flat out admitting you were wrong. As 1 Peter 4:8 tells us, “love covers over a multitude of sins” (NIV).
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4. Compromise Leaves Self on the Shelf
There is no more direct way to draw your spouse’s heart toward yours than to put yourself on the shelf and say, “Not my will, but yours.” In your marriage, this phrase is the ultimate compromise and service to your spouse and often sounds like:
- “Not my choice of a restaurant tonight, but yours.”
- “Not my night to have uninterrupted sleep, but yours.”
- “Not my story to dominate the conversation, but yours.”
- “Not my feelings to protect today, but yours.”
- “Not my dream to pursue right now, but yours.”
It’s tough to compromise that way and leave self on the shelf. Self wants to rule. Self wants its own way. Self suffocates. And self ultimately destroys. The Bible shows us what the opposite of self looks like when it describes love, which is selfless and full of compromise:
“Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick-tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, CEV). Compromise is love in action because it denies self.
5. Compromise Helps You Become a Tosser, Not a Keeper
Because we each grew up around keepers (collectors or hoarders of stuff), Hugh and I were determined once we got married to be tossers. We would collect only adventures, experiences, and memories that added to the value of our lives, not material stuff that would take up space. And we vowed to toss the unnecessary, the junk, the things that many couples let amass over the years that are worth very little. Yet, the real conversation we should have had before we married was whether we were tossers or keepers when it came to our hurts and offenses.
Someone who can forgive is a tosser. One who can’t let it go is a keeper. Scripture tells us we can keep our hearts softened and able to compromise, forgive, and let go of offenses when we guard our hearts so they don’t harden. Proverbs 4:23 instructs, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” In the NASB, that verse reads: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” You can keep your heart from becoming hardened by offenses and accusations when you let them go, toss them out, and practice compromise without resentment. It’s when we believe we must compromise over and over and then hold onto that resentment and let it fester that we become unforgiving, unteachable, and unable to compromise again. Guard your heart. Meet your spouse in the middle and do it as an act of love and service.
For more on improving your communication (and ability to compromise) with your spouse, see Cindi’s books, When Couples Walk Together, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, and 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband.
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