C – Why Cooperation is Better Than Compromise in Marriage (& add your links to Marriage Moments Mondays)

If you’re just now joining this series – The ABCs of Marriage – please check out A – Acknowledge He Isn’t Perfect and You Aren’t Either, and B – Bashing Your Husband is Off Limits.

This week is C – the inescapable C of marriage is… Cooperation! Not compromise, you might ask? Here’s why:



an act or instance of working or acting together for a common purpose or benefit… willingly and agreeably.” *


a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc by reciprocal modification of demands.” *

How many times have you felt frustrated and dissatisfied by compromise in your marriage? Too often, I’ve compromised (giving in, giving up) in order to avoid an argument or disappointing my husband. While avoiding conflict is important, it should not be done at all costs. Let me let you in on a little secret:

Peace in your marriage isn’t worth compromising your beliefs, discounting your tastes and preferences, and ignoring your emotions.

When you compromise, one or both parties must give something up in order to preserve peace, unity, and harmony. While sacrifices in marriage are essential, compromise implies differences are wrong and must be fixed or molded to a certain standard. But who sets this standard? How do you define who will compromise or who won’t? If you both compromise, do you feel a sense of unfairness after?

When I got married, yes, I expected to become one with my husband, but that doesn’t mean that I lost all sense of my individual self, or that my individual thoughts, opinions, emotions, desires, and preferences are unimportant. My husband often talks about how much he appreciates my ability to think for myself.

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “Obedience may have its uses, but it is no substitution for willing, un-coerced cooperation.

Adam loves me. He doesn’t want to force me to give in because he wants me to do something. He wants me to genuinely be willing to do something. Yes, we, as wives, are called to love, honor, and obey our husbands, but submission works both ways. Ephesians 5:11 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This mutual submission calls for unified cooperation in order to wholeheartedly choose what is best for the both of you together, not separately.

2 Reasons Why Compromise Is So Detrimental

1. Division

In an article in Psychology Today, Michael J. Formica writes, “Compromise, within the context of relationships, is troublesome because it implies that someone is giving something up. Cooperation, on the other hand, strengthens the underlying fabric of relationship through balanced interchange, open communication and mutual understanding.” Read full article here.

Compromise causes division by forcing the other person into direct competition with your own self – with what you want – and forgetting all about what the other person wants and ultimately needs. 

You were forced to give up something for the sake of your spouse, and they were forced to give up something for your sake.

Cooperation is about conscious, mutually beneficial choices. You choose to love and honor your spouse by walking side-by-side, working through decisions and problems together, without forcing the other to give in and give up. 

2. Deception 

Corey Allen, blogger over at Simple Marriage, even goes as far to say in Want a Great Marriage? Don’t Compromise, compromise “sounds great… on paper. But when you get right down to it, in most every marriage, people don’t compromise, they cave.” He asks,


…a great life and marriage are the result of a person living from the best in themselves and by defending what’s true and right. This is never about compromise. So if you’re better off not compromising yourself to yourself, you certainly aren’t better off compromising with your spouse.

After all, isn’t your spouse the one person with whom you’re supposed to share what’s true and right? And how can doing what’s truly best for you personally also not be what’s truly best for your marriage?

When you compromise, you deceive yourself into thinking you’ve done what’s best for your marriage. But as Corey Allen says, “Compromise means doing something other than what you know is best.”

Today Adam and I were playing Civilization 5 on our computers. The basic idea of the game is to build up your chosen civilization and be the best at something – science, culture, domination, or diplomacy – while working against other human players or AI civilizations. While Adam was succeeding on his end of the game, I was fighting invading AI countries and barbarians while my economy was in the gutter and I was unable to build up any more defensive military units of my own. The computer was competing against me and winning, and I was at the mercy of whatever the computer decided after each of my turns.

Compromise is like a turn-based game. Compromise makes it all about “your turn” vs. “his turn.” You are both forced to defend yourself and sometimes it can feel like a lost or hopeless cause, and you cave instead of compromising or cooperating. Someone always has the upper hand. Someone always comes away unhappy. Someone always loses.

So What Does Biblical Cooperation Look Like?

Ephesians 4:1-3 says, “…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (ESV).

This brings us to 2 other C’s – Calling and Choice.

What is our calling? To no longer walk in the ways of the world, according to our own human flesh, as we’ve been reconciled to God, but to imitate Christ, and walk by faith through grace, and to actively live the life God has prepared for us. [Ephesians 2].   

How are we to walk?

  • Choose humility – This means not thinking any better of yourself or less of yourself because you’re identity is defined by Christ, not by any person or working of your own. This means remembering that self-deprecation – feeling like your opinions, beliefs, thoughts, or ideas are worthless – is also a form of pride, leading you to compromise not doing what you should and can do because you’re afraid of failure or conflict.
  • Choose gentleness – Stephen Kendrick, author of The Love Dare, writes, “It’s an attitude and spirit of cooperation that should permeate our conversations. It’s like a palm tree by the ocean that endures the greatest winds because it knows how to gracefully bend. ” Compromise leaves a person feeling a loss, like being knocked off your feet by the wind. Loss can stir in a person frustration, anger, bitterness, regret, hopelessness, and a whole host of other negative emotions, especially when you or your spouse is feeling forced into a situation Cooperation teaches a person to kindly evaluate together and gently let things go once a decision is made. Max Lucado, Christian author, writes, “I choose gentleness…nothing is won by force… I choose to be gentle.”
  • Choose patience – Immediate compromise doesn’t solve a dilemma. It merely patches over the problem. Compromise doesn’t take any real thought or effort. It’s easy to point out what you think your spouse should give up and it’s easy to quickly defend why you shouldn’t give something of your own up. Patience requires you to slow down and to recognize and celebrate each other’s differences and choose the best possible path for you both in the long term – not what’s good for only one of you now.
  • Choose to bear in love – Compromise is about seeking fairness and justice. Cooperation is serving one another in love. Was it fair that Christ had to bear the burden of our sins? Absolutely not. But He did it anyway out of love for us. Love isn’t about being fair. Love is about Christlike living. God could’ve chosen to save us in a different way, but instead He sent His Son to live among us and to build relationships with us. When a husband and wife choose to love one another as Christ loved the Church, they seek relationship. Competition and compromise doesn’t require a relationship in order to succeed. Cooperation does. Cooperation thrives on mutual respect, edification, encouragement, forgiveness, patience, and reconciliation.
  • Choose unity – When married couples talk about compromising it’s really about two individuals deciding to give up or give in, essentially caving. This doesn’t foster unity. This doesn’t build relationship. In fact, it tears the relationship down and kicks the real problem under the rug.  Marriage is about working toward what is true, right, and good for you both together, measured up against the yardstick of Scripture. It’s not about keeping the peace. Because compromise divides you, you both stand alone. Cooperation binds you and you can stand together unified in Christ. Ecclesiastes 4:12 attests to this: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, but a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Let me put it to you another way: Compromise = you vs. your spouse. Cooperation = you + your spouse + Christ.

*Both definitions are taken from Dictionary.com

Your Turn? What are your thoughts on cooperation vs. compromise? What methods do you choose to employ in your marriage? 

Linking Up With: The Alabaster Jar

Share posts from your blog on the topics of Christian faith and spirituality [becoming "His" Eve], the single life & serving God, staying pure before marriage, preparing for marriage, the joys & struggles of married life, date night ideas (for married couples and dating/engaged couples), and marital intimacy [becoming "his" Eve]. Links are open from Monday  until 11:55PM the following Sunday.

Share posts from your blog on the topics of Christian faith and spirituality [becoming “His” Eve], the single life & serving God, staying pure before marriage, preparing for marriage, the joys & struggles of married life, date night ideas (for married couples and dating/engaged couples), and marital intimacy [becoming “his” Eve]. Links are open from Monday until 11:55PM the following Sunday.



  1. Diane

    My husband and I got married in our 30’s after becoming pregnant. I love my husband and our daughter and I wouldn’t change a thing. We’ve been married for about a year and a half now. I find myself giving in a lot. I feel like I do a lot and I’ve given up so much since we’ve been married and had our child. I know things change when starting a new life. I’m very blessed and greatful for soooo many things. But I don’t speak up when I’m unhappy for fear that I should just be happy with what I have and be content that I have a loving husband who works hard to provide for us. I don’t know why I can’t seem to value my happiness as much as I do my husband and daughter’s. I loved reading this post as it really hit home. How can I get up the courage to convey my feelings and frustrations to my husband? I know he would do his best to understand.

    • Diane, Your desire to please and make your husband happy is beautiful. Many couples don’t get this, and their marriages suffer for it. Your desire for peace is also honorable. Blessings to you for understanding this so shortly into your marriage.

      It is completely understandable you want to avoid conflict. It’s fairly common to avoid speaking up in marriage for fear of arguing. But keeping the peace isn’t real peace. Issues, tension, and hurt feelings have a tendency to build, and can easily turn into anger or resentment if not careful.

      Set aside a time to talk when you aren’t going to be distracted to bring up issues. Perhaps you want to find a time when you’re doing something together like walking or driving leisurely, as men often find this less threatening and are less likely to be on the defensive. Avoid times like right before bed, church, when you’re on the way to work, etc as you don’t want to leave things tense.

      Reiterate your gratitude for what he is doing right and love him while you’re telling him about your concerns. You can do this verbally and non verbally (I.e. holding his hand, a reassuring pat on the shoulder or the thigh, calm, gentle tone of voice.) Be honest. He wants you to be, trust me. He can much easier avoid bothering you or hurting you if he knows what is bothering/hurting you. Guys aren’t mind readers (and oh, do I forget that sometimes!)

      I would recommend praying and spending time with God first so you can make sure your own heart is in the right place, to ask the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and words, and to get you in the right frame of mind to speak to your husband. Ask God to clarify to you the difference between contentment and a concern. God didn’t put you in this marriage to be happy, but to make you holy. That being said, God does want your marriage to succeed, and He does want His children to have joy and peace. He also values truth, so speak the truth in love to your husband. Allow the love and truth of God to penetrate your conversation. Ask God for the courage to be honest in a manner that is honoring to Him and your husband.

      I have a couple posts on this subject for further reading:
      Not All Sunshine and Rainbows

      Acknowledge He’s Not Perfect, and You Aren’t Either

      Do You Have a Conflict Prevention Policy?

      Blessings to you in your marriage and this new journey of your life!

  2. Dee

    I compromised my emotional needs all of our marriage. My husband travels a lot for work and said things would get better. They didnt but I stayed with him. Now our boys are grown and Im alone. I moved into a spare bedroom as I feel no connection to my husband and have respectfully and sadly told him so. I wish I never compromised my needs all these years. My husband misses our relationship and has become depressed. He wants to find a new job so we can be together and he can have the time to meet my needs for companionship so he can have his wife back. I wish I did this years ago but thought I wasnt being respectful of his need to provide for us. I have learned my needs are important too and he agrees. Thankfully. Now were just good friends but no longer lovers. We are praying that God brings new job opportunities his way so that we can be together in a way that is healthy and satisfying for BOTH of us.

    • First of all, my heart goes out to you, Dee, and your situation. I think many couples find themselves here, or at least I know of many. It’s a sad reality when one person feels the need to compromise and the other never does. I pray that you and your husband will be able to get your priorities straight, that God would be at the center of your marriage, for your husband’s job situation, and for your intimacy – physical, emotional, and spiritual. Yes, your needs are important. Acknowledging the problem is the first step. Pray with one another daily. Seek God together daily. I like to journal so I can better express my feelings/thoughts/needs and keep track of progress so I’d highly recommend this. Make small steps back in the direction of love and intimacy. You don’t need to jump in overnight, and it won’t happen overnight but it’s well worth the journey to get there. God can redeem your marriage and your sexual & emotional intimacy, and when He does, it’s a beautiful thing! Cling to that promise, Dee, and hang in there! I’m so glad you’re both willing to fight for your marriage! You can do this – with God’s help!

  3. Christine

    My husband and I have only been married for a little over a year, and we are struggling bad to agree on any conversation we have. We usually wind up upset and just not talking. Really wish we could figure out a way to communicate without the other one thinking they are right and the other person is wrong. Like their opinion doesn’t matter.

    • I wanted to carefully think through my response to you, Christine. I’m praying that God gives you both peace and a willing spirit to communicate respectfully with one another. You are not alone. In my first six months, and really most of the first year of marriage, I struggled to communicate effectively with my husband. We argued A LOT. I can tell you this – not talking though is worse than arguing, not that I’m advocating arguing (but see my fighting fairly link below).

      1. Bathe, bathe, bathe your marriage in prayer.

      1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing.” I encourage you to pray for and over your marriage (specifically your communication) daily individually and with your husband, if he is willing.

      Jesus reminds us in Matthew 26:14 to “watch and pray that you may not enter temptation (arguing angrily with each other, refusing to humble self & apologize and/or forgive, etc)… for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Are you aware of what makes you both so upset? Consider making an actual list of these triggers (being too tired, forgetting to do a household chore, unable to agree on financial budget, etc) and pray and ask God to show you to be on the lookout for these triggers, and to give you ways to avoid these triggers and/or mitigate them.

      Romans 8:26-27 assures us that the Spirit intercedes for us when we are weak, and when we don’t know what to ask for. Pour out your heart before God daily. I also highly recommend keeping a prayer journal to jot down your worries, fears, concerns, joys, thanksgivings, struggles, requests, and praises or at the very least writing a list of what you prayed about daily & then seeing how God answers those prayers later.

      James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins to one another (in this context, a spouse should be the go-to person for this, but if you & your spouse are unable to discuss things rationally and respectfully, uplift and encourage one another, and motivate each other to change, then find an older trusted godly woman to talk with) and to pray for one another. I highly recommend praying regularly, daily, with your husband. My husband & I try to pray together in the morning quickly for the days needs and thanksgivings, and then spend more deeper time in prayer in the evenings before bed. Why do we pray together? This verse answers it: “…so you may be healed.” In order for your communication to work well in your marriage, you both need to be in the Word daily, confessing your sins to God regularly & confessing to one another, including each other on your individual spiritual walks as well as working toward a joint spiritual walk, and praying for one another daily.

      2. Get into the Word daily. I’d actually recommend reading Proverbs as a good Bible study on wisdom, treating others respectfully, and watching our words, among other things.

      3. I wrote a couple articles that I hope will be helpful for you.
      > Do You Have a Conflict Prevention Policy?
      On how to work through conflict regularly, and prevent conflict from happening through regular weekly communication
      > Don’t Rock the Boat
      On learning to fight fairly
      > What Gets Your Goat
      On responding Biblically to anger
      >Recognizing the Log in Your Eye
      On letting go of pride & learning how to overlook the speck in his eye

      4. I’d highly recommend Cracking the Communication Code: The Secret to Speaking Your Mate’s Language by Emerson Eggerichs. I am not affiliated with the author or Amazon.com and receive no special perks by recommending this – I just think it’s a fantastic book on understanding your spouse’s communication style.
      This is the Amazon link to his book: http://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Communication-Code-Speaking-Language/dp/1591455057/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376410005&sr=8-1&keywords=cracking+the+communication+code

      5. Finally, remember ALL couples will have SOME form of conflict during the marriage. This itself is healthy. Now I didn’t say arguing or anger is healthy, but conflict provides an opportunity to grow and understand your spouse and yourself better. You can have disagreements without arguing and yelling at one another. Don’t avoid conflict simply because you don’t want an argument or you’re afraid to speak up about something that is bothering you. But don’t go out of your way to have an argument simply because your feelings are hurt or you have to be right. Remember why you married your husband. Remember all the reasons why you love him. Remind yourself (and him) of those reasons regularly. As a wife, it can be incredibly hard to agree on everything with your husband, and you don’t have to – BUT you do have to respect him.

      Fellow CMBA-er Sheila Gregoire has 3 excellent articles on her blog: To Love, Honor, and Vacuum about conflict & peace.
      > Submission Doesn’t Mean You Never Have Conflict http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2013/01/submission-doesnt-mean-you-never-have-conflict/
      > Seeking Peace Not the Absence of Conflict http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2013/01/wifey-wednesday-seeking-peace-not-the-absence-of-conflict/
      > Being a Peace-MAKER Rather Than a Peace-KEEPER http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2013/01/being-a-peace-maker-rather-than-a-peace-keeper-conflict-in-marriage/

      I hope and pray that my response has been encouraging and helpful and you’ll take advantage of the resources I mentioned. Please feel free to keep me updated as I’d love to continue praying for you & your husband. Also please feel free to send me any additional questions or concerns. Thank you for visiting, Christine.

  4. I’ve heard it said “a good compromise” is an agreement with which both parties are equally dissatisfied. Never sounded like a good plan for a marriage to me!

    • Yep, doesn’t sound like a recipe for a good marriage. Thanks for visiting today, Paul!


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