Have you ever caught yourself in middle of a heated discussion thinking, “last time I gave in... last time I compromised... now, it’s your turn to give in and compromise for me”?
Maybe it's about making a significant purchase, or who will give the kids a bath tonight, or perhaps it's about something you want to do, and he just isn't interested.
When the disagreement ensues, you have a flashback of all the times you have compromised in your marriage, and you're starting to feel like its lopsided. Why do you always compromise, why never him? Everyone told you the secret to marriage was a compromise, but apparently, your spouse didn't get the memo.
These moments leave you frustrated and confused. How can you be expected to continue compromising when you never get anything in return, isn’t compromise supposed to be a two-way street?
1. It’s a Trap
Oh, sister, I've fallen into this trap many times. The number one advice we were given when we got engaged was to compromise in marriage, and it would all work out. But all compromising did was leave me frustrated and a little resentful. My stubborn husband rarely compromised, what was I supposed to do?
I couldn’t bring it up to David. I tried talking to him about not compromising.... that floated like a lead brick. I even tried to give up compromising so he would see what it felt like... didn’t work either. If anything both of those options had the opposite effect on our marriage.
That’s when I came to realize what the problem was---the very act of compromising was the issue!
How often does a couple leave a compromise with both parties feeling happy at giving up what they wanted? Typically, someone leaves unhappy and with the unspoken expectation of reciprocity (aka he will compromise next time).
But (and this is a big BUT) when he doesn’t compromise the next time, you end up in the same situation I have found myself time and time again. Some might think we aren’t doing it right, but I promise you, learning to compromise isn’t the issue. The issue is our hearts.
2. It Places Value on Asserting your Own Preferences Rather Than your Marriage
Truly consider why you are adamant on having something done your way rather than his? Why are you so set on your own way when marriage is less about you and more about you both together?
Marriage is about two flesh becoming one. It’s about dying to our own selfish gains and living for something greater. Why didn’t anyone give me that advice when David and I got engaged? There is more to marriage than just making each other happy. As Gary Thomas put it, “What if God designed marriage to make us Holy more than to make us happy?”
Let me ask you another question—do you value your marriage more than you do asserting your own rights, preferences or wishes?This is what it comes down to.
For many, our hearts and desires naturally lean towards ways to serve ourselves rather than our spouses. When we get into situations where compromise seems like the only way, we end up bitter or resentful because compromise does not fulfill that personal want or desire. There is a heart issue behind compromise and that heart issue goes against what God has called for us.
In his book "Sacred Marriage," Gary Thomas also points out that the essence of Christianity is having a servant's heart. Consider the following verse:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4
3. We are Called to Have a Servant’s Heart
We are called to have a servant's heart, and marriage is that opportunity for us to build upon it. This takes sacrifice. This means sacrificing our desires and our wants, for the sake of others (note that I did not say needs). And put bluntly, sacrifice isn’t sacrifice unless it costs us something. This is where compromise can get it wrong! We compromise with the hopes and intentions of getting something in return. We sacrifice for the sake of our marriage, for our spouse and because we ultimately love our God more than we love our personal wants, preferences or wished.
This reminds me of a sermon I sat through when I lived in Illinois from a guest pastor. I don't remember most of the sermon, but I remember one fundamental story he shared with us about him and his wife. This older gentleman shared how every morning, he and his wife would wake up, and they would make it their goal to out serve each other. Now, this wasn't done to gain power over the other but in a way to model Jesus’ servant heart. So he would try to wake up earlier than her every morning, so he could make her coffee. It was little things like that that flourished into a marriage built upon servant hood. This story left me inspired; I just didn’t realize how difficult that could really be.
4. Sacrifice Serves More Than Compromise Ever Could
Having a servant's heart in marriage looks different for every couple. For David and I, it looks like making the bed every morning because I know David likes when the bed is made (even though I think its useless most of the time). It looks like folding his clothes the way he prefers because his pants need to be folded in thirds, and his socks need to be balled up, regardless of how I prefer to fold my clothes. Service to David looks like making sure the kitchen is tidy after dinner because David won't go to sleep until the sink is clean.
These items are not expectations that David has set upon me. These aren't necessarily chores that we've discussed either. Honestly, I am lucky in that if I don't do any of those things, I know David will, and he won't say anything to me about it. I do those things because I want to serve David. If I do those things, then I have given him back time to do something else. These actions are one small way that I show how I value my marriage and my relationship with David over my own preferences, desires, and wishes.
The key is to do these things not out of selfish ambition, but out of the desire to serve, regardless of whether or not David will serve me back. We must do these things without expecting anything in return.
But What if you are in a Lopsided Marriage?
A lopsided marriage is when all the sacrifice comes from one side of the marriage. Chances are, it would be coming from the woman’s side, not the man’s side. What do you do?
This is a hard one without truly knowing specifics. All I know is that God has called each of us to have a servant’s heart, even our husbands. Our husbands have been called to love us like Christ loved the church, and in a lopsided marriage, that call is not being fulfilled. The problem is, we can’t change our spouses! As much as we want to, there is nothing we can do to change our spouse.
Tips For a Lopsided Marriage
1) Take it to prayer – only the Holy Spirit can convict and incite change in a person. Pray for your husband’s spirituality. Pray that his love is a depiction of God’s Love.
2) Talk it out — Communication is crucial in marriage, but the conversation needs to be had in a way that doesn’t point fingers or degrade a spouse. It’s not about pulling out your long list of righteousness and pointing out his flaws. Instead, its about discussing where your NEEDS are not being met.
3) Seek counseling — If your husband agrees, seek couples counseling. Allow someone else to be a mediator. If he isn’t interested, seek personal counseling to help you process through your thoughts and feelings.
4) Give grace — ultimately, sacrifice and service looks different for every person. Just because he isn’t doing it the way you wanted him to doesn’t mean he isn’t sacrificing for you already. Sometimes it takes a little grace and a perspective shift.