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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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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas


Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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