Whether you like it or not, the only solution to marital problems is to find a compromise. In a loving relationship, there’s no other way. While most couples make an effort at compromise, failure usually has to do with going about it the wrong way. Negotiation is possible only if the argument was not started harshly or loaded with criticism, and both couples are able to stay calm. Arguments that start softly are void of criticism, and where both parties remain calm, have the greatest chance of being solved through compromise because this approach will get you in a positive mode to be able to compromise.
The other cornerstone in being able to compromise is being able to accept influence from you partner. If this is missing, then compromise becomes more difficult. You don’t have to agree with what your partner says but you have to be able to consider his or her position.
Dr. John Gottman, a renowned researcher of marriages, suggests the following exercise in cultivating the ability to compromise. Decide which solvable problem you want to tackle. Then sit separately and think about the problem. On a piece of paper, draw two circles – a smaller one inside a larger one. In the inner circle make a list of the aspects of the problem you can't give in on. In the outer circle list all of the aspects of the problem you can compromise about. Remember the principle of ‘yielding to win’ – the more able you are to compromise, the better able you’ll be to persuade your spouse. So try hard to make your outer circle as large as possible and your inner circle as small as possible.
The goal of this circle exercise is to try to develop a common way of thinking about the issue so that you work together to construct a real plan that you can both live with. As you share your circles, ask yourselves the following questions:
1. What do we agree about?
2. What are our common feelings or the most important feelings here?
3. What common goals can we have here?
4. How can we understand this satiation, this issue?
5. How do we think these goals should be accomplished?
Most likely if you’re grappling with a solvable problem, following these steps will lead you to find a reasonable compromise. Once you do, try out the solution for an agreed-upon time before revisiting it and deciding if it’s working. If it’s not, begin the process again and wok together to resolve it.