When Compromise in Your Marriage Isn’t an Option


date published

2nd July 2016

written by

Emma Heptonstall

Emmaheptonstall.com Image

date published

2nd July 2016

When Compromise in your Marriage Isn’t An Option

When compromise in your Marriage isn’t an option, what do you do? Firstly, stay calm. It doesn’t mean you’re headed for the Divorce Court. Marriage is all about compromise isn’t it? But what happens when compromise just is not an option for you?

I’m not talking about when you can’t decide what to watch on the telly or was it to have Indian or Chinese, or am I? You see there are different levels of comprise in any relationship, and sometimes it’s the little things that can break the camels back.

Your Values

One of the first things to always be mindful of are your values. Your values of those things that you’re important to you. Sometimes when I ask people what their values, they feel confused and panic because we don’t often think about them. Rest assured however, your values are with you every day of your life.

What’s your opinion on smoking in public?

You might find that a bizarre question. But you know the answer don’t you? It’s likely that if you have a strong emotional reaction, either way, that if forms part of your value base. Some people feel that they should be allowed to smoke in public, others don’t. 

So in  your relationship, what’s important to you? Are your values being honoured? Sometimes it’s easy just to let things go because they are not that important. Others are. How much you’re willing to fight for what you want, will likely be determined by how important it is to you.

I read an article this week about the rise of divorce amongst older ladies who want a baby. Is this an area which you feel that you could compromise on? It’s difficult to compromise on having a child because you’re either have one or you don’t. Whether you can accept your husband not wanting a child will depend upon how important it is for you.

If having a child is of a high value to you it’s unlikely that you will compromise and you may feel that divorce. is the only option. Sometimes the desire to have a child is so strong that couples divorce because one person isn’t able to have a child. It has nothing to do with How much they love each other.


Communication is key to compromise as is knowing yourself. Understanding yourself and coming to terms with just who you are and what you want, enables you to have a more free-flowing conversation because it doesn’t need to be about anger and blame. If you want to child for example, and your husband does not, you’re both right in your own point of view. If you want to stay together one person, is going to be potentially unhappy. That’s why communicating and being comfortable what ever you decide is key. I wrote recently about relationship counselling on divorce. Relationship Counselling In Your Divorce. I’d recommend relationship counselling when you have an issue where you feel that compromise is not possible. It doesn’t make you weak, but the support of an independent third-party may help you to be open, honest and also to  reflect on the situation and consider new ways of thinking about the situation. That may mean, that one of you changes your point of view, and it may also mean that the two of you reach the amicable conclusion that the relationship needs to end.

What happens when there is no one big individual issue in your marriage, but you never feel that you ever get what you want or need in your relationship?

This is a different issue from the one outlined above, but if this affects you, you already know that don’t you?

Unconscious Controlling Behaviour

Some people find comprise very difficult. It might be because they always had their own way as a child, and it could be because they need to be in control. Now it’s important to remember, that needing to be in control isn’t always driven by the intention to be abusive (and sometimes it is). It’s important that you recognise the difference. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes the need to control is a personality trait of an individual who is actually very insecure. They may appear to be very confident and certain but the certainty comes from controlling those around them. This behaviour is totally unconscious. It can be challenging to assert yourself in the situations because sometimes this controlling behaviour has gone on so long that you actually begin to lose your self-esteem or you get tired of asserting yourself and you just give up. You don’t have to accept this behaviour though.

You may find that journaling will help you get clear with yourself about who you are, and what you want. The more certainty that you have with yourself, the easier it is to speak out and ask for what you want. Telling the unconscious controller that they are controlling is unlikely to change anything because they don’t know they’re doing it. (if they really want to look at this, its likely that they will need the support of a counsellor or coach).

So what can you do to support you? The way to deal with this issue, is to validate your husband’s opinion (because he needs this to feel safe, even though he may appear to be very confident) and go on to say, and I would like to do _____ because I want to do  ________ and it’s really important to me. This can be challenging if you haven’t done it for a while. Your husband might be quite shocked. But it’s for you to decide how important the thing that you want to do is. It’s all about the compromise!

Remember that by asserting yourself in this way you’re actually supporting your husband to support you and also to allow him to see and feel that the world will not end if he doesn’t get his own way. Perhaps you are the type of person who is used to compromising because you find it easy, and you recognise that compromising is a way of building rapport between you and other people. It’s a way of experiencing new things and growing. For your husband compromise may feel scary because it involves doing something unknown or having to build a closer relationship with other people. Are you willing to support him to do it?

Abusive Controlling Behaviour

Abusive controlling behaviour often has many of the same causes listed above, but it has a different feel. Low self-esteem, repressed anger and insecurity can cause people to develop abusive behaviours. Sometimes this can be blatant such as violence, financial control, physical control and not letting you make decisions for yourself. It can be more subtle. It could be that you end up in this type of relationship without even realising it. Often the abuser will tell you how much they love you, and that they do this to keep you safe and protect you. You might tell them that you don’t need this but they don’t listen to you and tell you that they know better.

There are plenty of organisations that can help you if you are in an abusive controlling situation. You can find support from organisations like Women’s Aid. Compromise is nigh-on impossible with an abuser. Always keep yourself safe. Rationalising and asking for what you want will fall on deaf ears. Continually.


One of your biggest challenges, is accepting that it’s ok to not want to be the compromiser all the time. Healthy relationships are, after all, about balance. Most of us learn as children that ‘life isn’t fair’ and that you can’t always have what you want. But you also heard didn’t you, that ‘if you dont ask, you dont get’. Asking for what you want and being firm will support you to change the dynamic of your marriage on the one hand, or, support you to realise that compromise isn’t possible and you need to leave. It takes practice. Practice now and reap the rewards later, either in the improvement in your current relationship, or in your next one.

I’m Emma The Divorce Alchemist. I support Ladies who Leave to make smart emotional and financial decisions on divorce. If you don’t have your copy yet, you can download The Smart Woman’s Divorce Guide by completing the box below. Please note, by signing up, you will receive a series of 7 emails over 28 days to accompany the Guide. You will also receive an email from me each Wednesday morning UK time with hints, tips and advice. I sometimes promote my coaching packages too – I’m sure you understand that this is my business :). You may unsubscribe at anytime.

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  1. Callie Carling

    An excellent article, Emma: this really spoke to me: “ok to not want to be the compromiser all the time”, with a pertinent reminder that communication really is key. Every relationship has its troubled times, and sometimes we do have to stand up for ourselves, speak up and say “No, I will not compromise this time” … thank you.

    • emma Heptonstall

      You’re welcome Callie, I’m glad you found it a useful reminder. Sometimes communication can be tricky, even when we have the best intentions!


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