How the Gottman Method Teaches Couples the Art of Compromise
Many couples believe that compromise means giving up on their own needs and desires to accommodate their partner’s wishes. However, this does not need to be the case. The Gottman Method teaches couples how to compromise effectively without sacrificing their core needs. It helps couples to identify their inflexible and flexible areas of need and communicate them to one another in a clear and constructive way. Through active listening and validation, couples learn to work together to find temporary compromises that satisfy both of them.
Let me explain it a bit more.
Compromise, at its core, is about finding a middle ground that works for both partners. In contrast, sacrifice means giving up on your needs to accommodate your partner’s. Compromise is not about winning or losing but finding a way to meet both partners’ needs.
It is also about willingness to be flexible. This means partners are open to trying new things and willing to make changes to find a solution that works for both of them. It also means being willing to revisit the compromise later if it doesn’t work out as well as expected.
How Does Gottman Method Teach Compromise?
The first step in learning to compromise is identifying your core needs and values. These are also known as your inflexible areas, which you do not wish to sacrifice or give up. These are the things that are most important to you in a relationship. Once you’ve determined what your fundamental needs are, you may express them to your partner in a clear way. Your partner will be able to make sense of what is significant to you and why.
In a couple therapy session, I get each partner to write down their inflexible and flexible areas. Then I facilitate a dialogue between them so they both get to communicate their needs to one another.
The next step is to listen to your partner in order to truly understand their needs and values. This means being open to hearing their perspective and understanding why certain things are important to them.
In a session with a couple, I help them communicate and understand one another’s inflexible and flexible areas of need without criticism or defensiveness.
When both partners feel heard and understood, finding a compromise that works for both of them becomes easier. Together, they can think about a compromise, or a temporary one, that uses their flexible areas of need without giving up on their core, or inflexible, needs.
Let’s walk through a real-life example.
Erica and David have been married for five years and have recently struggled with household chores. Erica works full-time and is also responsible for some of the household chores, which has been causing her a lot of stress. David works part-time and has been taking on more household chores but feels he is doing more than his fair share. They agree that something needs to change in their relationship, but they have different ideas about handling the situation. Erica and David can use the Gottman Method to find a compromise that works for them both.
They could start by identifying and communicating their core needs and values. Erica’s needs are reduced stress and more relaxation, and David’s need is for a sense of fairness regarding household chores.
Next, they could listen to each other’s needs and validate their perspectives. Erica could say, “I understand you’re doing more than me around the house and how that feels unfair to you. I am feeling stressed out and need your support in reducing my stress levels.” David could say, “I understand you need to relax after working all day, and I want to help you. I do not have any problems doing more around the house. But, I need us to find a way to share chores in a way that feels fair.”
Erica and David came up with three temporary compromises. The first option is to make a chore schedule together so they both know who is responsible for what. In this schedule, they can think together so the chore division is fair and also allows Erica to have time for relaxation. The second option is for Erica to do chores mainly in the mornings and David more in the evening, so it feels fair, and Erica can relax more in the evenings. The third compromise was for them to choose specific days to do more of their chores; so Erica could relax on other days, but the chore division still feels fair to David.
By using the example of Erica and David, we can see how the Gottman Method can help couples come up with temporary compromises that work for them. The key is to be flexible, open, and willing to work together to find a solution that works for both partners.
Learning to compromise takes time and effort, but it is well worth it in the end.
I wish you all the best.