Compromise in Relationships

Do you have a companionate marriage?

No, I didn’t mean to write “compassionate”.

This is a term that means both partners share all tasks within the marriage equally. No one’s career is more important, and nothing is the sole responsibility of either person.

Sounds nice, huh? This is the modern couple at it’s best, you might say.

However, no matter how hard people try to maintain such a relationship, grievances still occur. After all, we are only human, right?

There is no right or wrong way to run your marriage. (Yes, I said “run” it. Because that’s what we do.) But compromise in relationships can only happen if both partners know exactly what to expect from each other.

If you are a woman who wants a companionate marriage, then you have to ask yourself if it’s in your contract. Not sure what I mean? Then read on…..

What Kind of Contract Do You Have With Your Partner?

“We don’t have a contract,” you say.

Well, I have to disagree with that. All marriages and/or relationships have an unwritten, often unspoken contract that you mutually agree to on a certain level.

Don’t believe me?

Let me give you an example. In the book When Smart People Fail
by Carole Hyatt and Linda Gottlieb, the authors explore the “contracts” people make when they are in love.

 According to them each contract has two components: economic and emotional.

This is their sample of a traditional contract:

Man:” I will earn a good living for us [economic contract] and be strong at all times for you [emotional contract].”

Woman: “I will not work outside the home [economic contract], and I will be the mother to your children and supportive of your needs [emotional contract].”


That one doesn’t work for you? How about this one?


Man: “I am an artist and cannot be looked to for money [economic contract]; I agree to be volatile and exciting [emotional contract].”

Woman: “I will earn the income in this family [economic contract], and I will be emotionally steady so that you can be volatile [emotional contract].”


There are as many types of relationship contracts as there are people, but some are based on an equal partnerships while others emphasis one partner as being dominant in either economic or emotional parts (or sometimes both).

However, this does not imply that both parties are necessarily happy with the arrangement. In fact, people often “agree” to situations that later feel quite unhappy for them.

Compromise In Relationships

According to the book, relationships can usually survive if one part of the contract is broken. However, if both parts are broken, then severe troubles usually erupt. In many cases this leads to divorce.

Therefore, it sometimes become necessary for a couple to renegotiate their contract. Time passes by, situations change and people change.

So let’s say that a couple has the traditional relationship contract. The man is the rock. He is the financial and emotional provider for his wife. Then suddenly he loses his job, and worse, can’t find a new one.

His wife will most likely support him and help him through this struggle. But let’s say the man goes a very long time without finding new employment and then his emotional state starts to crumble.

His wife is left looking at this shell of a man wondering, “Where is the rock I married? Where has my security gone?”

Once these feelings start to seep into a relationship, it can really undermine the way both people feel about their roles in the relationship.

His sense of failure in compounded when he feels like he is failing his wife and family. She, in turn, feels like lots of responsibilities are piling up on her that she didn’t sign up for.

The loss of a job is not the only thing that can send a relationship reeling. Anything stressful life event can bring on a situation that threatens your comfortable roles.

So it is important to sit down with your partner and discuss your implied contract BEFORE hardships come your way (and they ALWAYS come, sooner or later).

Compromise in relationships often comes from one or both partners deciding to be honest about being unhappy. If you partner comes to you with this information, don’t see it as a failure but rather an opportunity for growth.

Dig deep and really be honest about what is going on between the two of you. There is no wrong kind of contract. Whatever you both agree to is perfectly fine. The point is to know what to expect from each other and to make sure that both individuals are happy with their role.

The more prepared you are, the better you can weather any storm.

Companionate Marriage Versus Traditional Marriage

So which one is better? Neither. If you both like the more traditional model of marriage, then by all means go for it. In fact, traditional marriages where the wife stays home are becoming the latest thing these days. It is “hip” again.

There are also lots of variations of the “traditional” marriage. For example, my husband works and I stay home to take care of the kids and our home. However, I also happen to work online. With this arrangement I am able to always put our home life first, and my work comes second. We are able to do this because he sees our financial security as mainly his concern [economic contract]. And I see the needs of our family as mainly my concern [emotional contract].

It works for anyone in our family, and we are all happy. Your arrangement should make you happy, too. If your current situation is not what you want it to be, sit down and talk to your partner. Don’t know where to start?

There is a great resource called 1000 Questions For Couples. This inexpensive book digs really deep and touches all the areas that couples need to discuss. Here’s the best part. It’s more comprehensive than any other resource you will find on the internet (or in most book stores).

Find out what your partner truly values in you and in your relationship. And finally get your thoughts heard too. This is a crucial step to working out the best contract for you and your partner. If you sat down and discussed only one topic each day it would last you almost three years! (That’s cheap marriage counseling!)

I would really like to hear some feedback from couples who have put this resource to good use.

It’s time to fix lunch for my little one.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

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by Angela Christian Pope @