Relationships are wonderful... until they're not. While most relationships require work, the difference between sacrifice and compromise can sometimes be hard to tell. Are you actually making healthy compromises in your relationship or are you starting to sacrifice yourself? Are you happy or are you getting resentful? Will your relationship last or is it destined to fall apart? These are all questions you can be wondering about if you're not sure whether you are making the appropriate compromises for your relationship or whether you're sacrificing too much.
The truth is, there is a clear line between compromise and sacrifice, but sometimes, it's a really thin line, and when you're in the thick of a relationship, you can't really see it. Unfortunately, if you're already starting to feel a bit uncomfortable with your relationship and where it's going, it's even more necessary to make sure you are staying in healthy territory. One partner getting upset and feeling unheard is a surefire way for things to end quickly.
So, how can you know? Well, there are actually three main differences between compromise and sacrifice. By examining this list, you'll better be able to discern whether your relationship is the right, healthy one for you.
1. Compromise Is Mutual; Sacrifice Is Disproportionate
The very word "compromise" inspires a visual image of two people, coming from two different perspectives, and finding a mutual solution to a problem. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary defines compromise as "an agreement or settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions." Each side.
In a relationship, compromise usually means that the two of you have come to some sort of impasse that you're not sure how to cross, and the best way to resolve it is by the two of you making some shifts in your behavior or desires to make your relationship flow again. In contrast, sacrifice is often one-sided. Sacrifice mostly means that one person is doing the heavy lifting, giving up things that are important to them or adjusting their values time and time again.
With a compromise, two people will be trying to figure something out. With a sacrifice, one person will be asked to give something up. A relationship based on one person's sacrifice won't continue to work over time. A relationship based on healthy compromises, however, will.
2. Compromise Has A Specific Goal; Sacrifice Often Doesn't
A compromise often happens because two people need a way to get to the other side of a problem. In this way, compromise usually has a specific goal in mind. It doesn't have to be one particular thing. A couple can make a compromise if they keep having the same problem over and over again. But usually, a compromise arises because there is an individual problem to be solved. This is one of the reasons compromises are healthy in a relationship. They keep the parties focused on problem-solving in an effective, healthy way, rather than screaming, yelling, stonewalling, belittling, and other poor relationship behaviors.
A sacrifice may have an individual goal, but more often, sacrifices are made with some idea that they'll be good for the health of the relationship as a whole. And usually, this is only true to a certain extent. When one person continues to make sacrifices for the relationship, without the other person doing much, it's a recipe for the end of a relationship, no matter what else is going on.
So if you feel like you are continually being asked to give things up "for the sake of the relationship," this is a clue that you're making one-sided, unhealthy sacrifices instead of coming to a resolution with your partner on actual issues.
3. Compromise Is Never Resentful; Sacrifice Can Be
Although compromise may not be the most fun thing in the world, it usually isn't the cause of a lot of resentment between parties. It may be a little difficult at first, but normally, compromise is the best thing for a couple to do to work on their issues.
In contrast, though, people who are asked to make sacrifice after sacrifice can get resentful — and with good reason! As already discussed, sacrifices are generally disproportionate, and usually, it's just one person being asked to sacrifice something that means something to them.
When a relationship is built on multiple sacrifices, it can quickly lead to one person feeling like they aren't being heard, like their needs aren't getting met, and like they are just a placeholder for the other party. This is another reason why a relationship where one party is asked to sacrifice a lot won't work, but a relationship where both parties compromise will.
If you are starting to feel really resentful about all the things you are being asked to give up, you're probably experiencing the resentment that comes from repeatedly sacrificing something for your relationship. Although total sacrifice is sometimes necessary for a relationship to work, these situations are rare. More often, you and your partner should be having healthy discussions and figuring out how the two of you can tackle problems together, instead of one person unfairly shouldering all of the burden.
If you are in a relationship where you feel like you are sacrifcing all the time or sacrificing too much, the best thing to do is talk to your partner about how you can get back to a healthy place. If that doesn't work, unfortunately, you just may not be in the right relationship for you.
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