top of page

Compromise or Coercion - The Fine Line That Can Ruin A Relationship

A relationship, by definition, is the coming together of two distinct individuals.

As such, each person brings their own ideals, values, habits, and idiosyncrasies.

It is impossible and unrealistic to think or expect two people to agree on everything.

If that were the case, there would never be another Hallmark movie, heartbreak song, or counseling hotlines and therapy sessions.

The truth is, we have to learn the art of compromise.

But did you know that compromise in the wrong hands or with the wrong intentions can quickly turn into coercion?

Let's look at the difference.

The quick difference is that compromise involves both parties working together, while coercion finds one person with the power and the other feeling helpless.

Coercion Can Be Masked To Look Like Compromise

Let me start by saying that not everyone who resorts to coercion has devious or harmful intentions. Many times it is an act of desperation. Someone who feels the relationship is slipping through their fingers will oftentimes try anything to keep from losing their partner. Even if their very acts almost guarantee that result.

Co-dependents commonly use coercion to gain control and convince their partners to meet their very plentiful and exhaustive needs.

Narcissists are the most obvious examples of purposeful coercion.

The conversation centers on what THEY need, how THEY feel, and what YOU must do to prove your love, commitment, and loyalty.

They introduce the topic as an act of compromise, when in fact its sole purpose is to convince you to come over to their way of thinking.

This closely mimics control and manipulation. "If you love me, your will....., you won't.....etc"

If someone is asking you to constantly prove your love by doing something that goes against your nature, personality, or values, then it is not compromise. It is coercion. And you are most likely being bullied.

True Compromise Benefits Both Parties

The key to whether a conversation is rooted in compromise is the ability to truly listen to the other person. To set aside pre-conceived ideas about what's fair or what you want, and really hear what they need, want, or can offer.

If both sides truly want what's best for their partners, and not just seeking to win a competition or get their way, then true progress can be made.

It is win-win for both parties when each feels valued, understood, and knows the other person is willing to sacrifice on occasion for their benefit. That softens the times for when the sacrifice is then required of them.

Appreciation for the concession is a vital component of continued successful compromise.

What Are Some Examples Of Compromise vs Coercion

Family Get-Togethers

When it comes to the holidays and family celebrations, it can be tricky to navigate who goes where and when. There are a million variations of family dynamics, but family is one thing that can truly cause a rift in a relationship.

A compromise fairly negotiates how holidays and celebrations are handled. Whether it is every other year, or your turn to host, or separate visits. There really isn't a wrong way as long as the decision is mutual and reasonable.

Coercion comes into play when one person uses manipulation or guilt to always get their way. "My family is closer than yours." "You don't even like your brother." "Your mom hates me." These are statements made to convince one partner that their wishes are not as important.

Another subtle form of coercion is to change plans suddenly when it's their turn to compromise. They suddenly don't feel like going or forgot and made other plans. It's not an outright refusal, but a last minute plea to get off the hook 'this time'.

Introvert vs Extrovert Date Night

They say opposites attract, and few things are more opposite than dating an introvert if you are an extrovert. Almost everything about how you two view life is from opposing vantage points.

That doesn't mean the relationship is doomed, but it does mean that one person will most likely be either uncomfortable or dissatisfied on date night. So it is important to honor their sacrifice and then graciously offer yours.

The obvious compromise is one date night is planned by the extrovert and the other by the introvert. There should be some ground rules in place beforehand so no one is thrown into a completely awkward situation. Then each partner makes the most of each date.

Coercion rears its ugly head when someone agrees to this arrangement but then doesn't follow through on their end. They make excuses. Or worse, they complain or refuse to fully engage in the plan. They say "I tried, but you know I hate to ......"

If you don't truly believe you can follow through with a specific plan, then re-negiotate BEFORE the date. Don't wait until you are in the middle of it, or just before it starts, and back out.

Sexual Differences

This is a touchy subject and not one I dive into often. It is also a subject where coercion is highly masked as a compromise.

Sexual wishes, desires, and needs are varied and highly individual. It is always a good idea to have an honest and open conversation about this when the relationship has progressed to this point.

It is unfair to you and your partner to hide or disguise things that will eventually become important or a potential issue.

And here is where it becomes tricky - compromise takes the form of when, how often, etc. Each person has the absolute right to decide 'now' does not work for them. Now, in a loving relationship, they also understand the needs and desires of their partner and will work to make the 'rejection' less stinging and then make it up to them as soon as they can.

Coercion is heart-breaking and even dangerous in this arena. It seeks to shape the conversation based only on what one person wants. They try to convince their partner to engage in activities without respect for their comfort level or boundaries.

They use phrases like, "Just try it for me." "Don't be a prude." "If you want me to stay happy, then do...." "You did it before, what's the problem now?"

It is perfectly fine if you want to try something new. It is equally fine, once you try it, if you don't want to do it again. Exploration MUST be mutual. Your love is not proven by how many shades of gray you like.

What If There IS No Compromise

The hard truth is that certain issues can't be resolved by compromise. There are some principles and values that do not have wiggle room or bargaining power. They are just that important.

If you are attempting to be in a relationship with someone who has opposing views on those matters, you need to face the fact that the relationship is not meant to be.

That doesn't mean the other person is bad, misguided, or doesn't love you. It means you are not both on the same page, and trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole will never truly make either one happy in the long term.

My Hopefuls, I only touched on a few drops in the massive ocean that encompasses compromise in a relationship. And it isn't only romantic relationships that require compromise. Every relationship - friendship, family, work - all require give and take to become successful.

The key is balance and fairness. If you are always the one giving in and sacrificing, then it isn't compromise, you are being coerced. And it is unhealthy and damaging. You need to learn to stand up for yourself and right the ship before it is too late.

Never let someone take your good nature for granted and always stay true to your principles.

And always....

Hope With Abandon

Hope Out


bottom of page