There are two words that are incredibly important to building and maintaining a healthy marriage.
Compromise and Consensus.
In our culture, the concept of compromise has taken a shot. For many, compromise is what people without conviction do. Compromise is seen as the abandoning of a goal…and taking the easy way out. To compromise is to fall short.
On the other hand, good relationships…good marriages…are built on a steady foundation of compromise. Compromise is when one person willingly lets go of something important…an idea, a goal, a plan, a desire, a belonging, a job, a hobby, an interest, a priority, a relationship, a value, a possession, a dream, an expectation, pretty much anything…out of love and commitment to the other.
It is done with the best interests of the other person in mind. Compromise is sacrifice. Compromise is generosity. Compromise is done with the belief that God will take care of what is lost in the compromising. Compromise is based on trust…not in the other person, but in God.
For compromise to work, though, it must be done in the right way. Once you have made the compromise, you can’t go back. Whatever you let go of is gone. You don’t ever bring it up. There are no regrets. It is never held over the other person’s head. It’s never used for extortion. You can’t ever expect repayment. You don’t compromise and then make the assumption that the favor will be returned. Otherwise it’s not compromise. It’s simply manipulation.
In a healthy marriage, there are (or should be) big compromises…as well as the little, daily ones that show love in practical and tangible ways.
If you really love your spouse the way you are loved by God, then you will constantly look for compromises you can make…willingly, completely, and with no strings attached.
The other tool of a great marriage is consensus.
Consensus is different. Consensus is what is done when compromise can’t, or shouldn’t, be done.
Consensus means working towards an alternative decision that both of you will own completely. Consensus says that our two positions are too important to let go of. Consensus says there is a better decision to be found…one that affirms both sides of the discussion.
Consensus requires waiting. Consensus is slow and doesn’t work well under a deadline. That’s why you always have to start to move towards consensus early in the process. Moving to consensus means you take the time to wait, pray, talk, wait, pray, seek counsel, wait, pray, talk…and then decide. And when there is not consensus, you start the process again. Consensus always values the person over the decision…and the process more than the outcome.
Consensus can only be done between equals. Consensus cannot be done when one has more power than the other in the relationship.
Compromise is often about making a decision. Consensus is always about making a relationship. Work towards consensus whenever and wherever you can.
Even though compromise is an act of love, real love would never demand a compromise. Real love, however, will always work for consensus. Think about it.