Want a great marriage? Don't compromise—try this instead

We need to find another way of being in a relationship that does not involve abandoning our needs.

Want a great marriage? Don't compromise—try this instead

"Don't compromise yourself. You're all you've got." – Janis Joplin

Janis's fierce dedication to herself is potent advice. And I can't think of anyone in need of such fierce dedication more than parents.

Speaking from my own personal experience and from the work I do with couples in my couple therapy practice, I can say that the struggle is real. It is so easy to compromise ourselves for our kids or our partners and convince ourselves we're sacrificing for a greater good.

Yet repeatedly doing this can create serious problems down the line.

We need to find another way of being in a relationship that does not involve abandoning our needs, wants or desires. Janis' wisdom points the way, but doesn't tell the full story. We need to find a way to do both: Tend to our needs, wants and desires and also tend to our partners.

So instead of agreeing to things that compromise yourself, I invite you and your partner to consider the idea of finding win-wins.

Simply put, win-wins are solutions where both people walk away happy.

It sounds so simple, but the act of negotiating a win-win is actually fairly complex. Each person is responsible for defining what they want in a particular situation or problem and then communicating that to their partner, while staying open to what their partner needs from the situation/problem.

It's a practice of caring for self and other at the same time. This requires flexibility, creativity, healthy entitlement and empathy.

Personally, I can relate to how hard it is to find win-wins. When my partner and I first became parents, we found ourselves in a lose-lose rut. I—like many moms—was operating with the idea that I needed to do it all. Those beliefs and behaviors were really hard on my husband and me. Luckily, we were able to identify what was happening and do something about it.

The trouble with repeatedly making compromises in relationships is that we remember those experiences as unjust, which can affect how we feel overall about a person or a relationship. It can lead to underlying feelings of unappreciation and defensiveness.

For parents, it is especially important to be able to act as a team and support each other through the slings, arrows, and tantrums of parenthood, but when one person or both people feel compromised and resentful, the ability to be team players is compromised.

Here's a quick way assess if you need to practice more win-wins in your relationship.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you find yourself complaining about things you and your partner have agreed on to your friends, family or kids?
  2. Do you walk away from a fight feeling dissatisfied, disappointed or angry about how the conflict ended or what you two agreed to or upset that no agreements were made?
  3. Do you have a really hard time identifying your needs/wants/desires and/or asking for them?

If you or your partner answered "yes, more often than not" to any of these questions, then you two may benefit from practicing win-wins.

Here are the win-win fundamentals:

Accept that having needs, wants and desires is natural.

Many people, whether they are conscious about it or not, have discomfort about having needs, wants and desires. For these people—and that's most of us—it's going to be hard to identify needs and wants, ask for them, and claim them.

On the flipside, accept that your partner having needs, wants, and desires is natural as well. When we have a hard time accepting our own needs (i.e., our preferences and limitations as human beings), we will struggle to accept our partner's as well. When this is the case, partners will often see each other's needs as not important to the health of the relationship or as a roadblock to their own satisfaction. Both of your needs being met is incredibly important to the well-being of your partnership.

There are never only two options

When couples are engaged in finding a win-win but are only able to see two solutions, they are not actually engaged in a win-win yet. It's time to go back to the drawing table and for each partner to redefine what's important to him or her in this situation and what can be let go of or renegotiated.

Win-wins leave both partners feeling a sense of personal pride and also feeling closer to each other. This is a complex journey, but landing in a place where both people are satisfied can build confidence in self and the relationship.

Never underestimate the power of humor

Feelings can get tense during a negotiation with each other, so never miss an opportunity to laugh. Laughter, when it's used appropriately for tension relief and not to denigrate anyone, is such good medicine and can be a reminder that you both are on the same team.

Find a relaxing time to talk with each other about ways you can be friendly, laugh, and support each other during win-win discussions. That way you have another tool to use to reach a win-win.

When these win-win fundamentals are applied successfully, couples can end up feeling, paradoxically, closer and more separate. That is the beauty of win-wins: Couples become more confident as individuals and also feel more trust and a stronger sense of security together.

Like Janis's wisdom, it's a powerful practice to advocate for ourselves and our partners and to tackle this nonstop, wild journey of parenting as true partners.

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A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.


I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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