The Differences Between Compromise & Sacrifice In A Relationship

Every healthy relationship requires compromise...but how do you know when you're sacrificing too much?


OK, so here's my confession for the day. While I don't get to check either of these out on a consistent basis (probably because my mind is trying to retain brain cells), two guilty pleasures of mine are 90 Day Fiancé (the one that comes on Sundays; they've got too many now to keep up with which is which) and Love After Lockup. There really is no justification or excuse; I just think that, as someone who works in the field of relationships so much, sometimes the dynamics on there fascinate me.

Take Angela (the older white woman from Georgia) and Michael (the younger African from Nigeria) on 90 Day, for example. First, I really need there to be more deep dives done on the topic of fetishizing; yes, it is very possible for a person to be with someone of another ethnicity and still be disrespectful AF to that person's culture, if not flat-out racist. Second point—there are a lot of women out here who claim to be Bible followers, will push back on submitting to their husband (umm, even though it's in the Bible—Ephesians 5 and Colossians 2) yet will turn around and emasculate their husband to the point where they basically want him to submit to them (check out "Are You His Partner Or His Second Mama?"). That's Angela in a nutshell. SMDH.


Over on WE tv, there's a particular couple on this season of Love After Lockup that, in many ways, inspired this piece. Their names are Quaylon and Shavel. If you know anything about the show, it's about people who fall for folks who've been in prison who then try and make the relationship work, once their partner gets out. My first love was in and out of the system for years so, I get how it can happen. Anyway, when I watched an episode when Shavel spent $5,000 of her hard-earned money to get Quaylon a truck as her play-brother looked at her like "WTF?!", and I then reflected on the times when I spent a lot of my own money in relationships, along with the clients I've counseled who've done the same, I figured that now was as good a time as any to address the difference between compromising in a relationship (necessary) and sacrificing (oftentimes unhealthy). Because, unfortunately, not getting that there is a difference between the two is an epidemic that's transpiring, both on and off of the tube. (Again, SMDH.)

All Successful Relationships Require Compromise


An author by the name of Donna Martini once said something about the art of compromise (in a relationship) that I really like. She said:

"Compromise is not about losing. It's about deciding that the other person has just as much right to be happy with the end result as you do."

Shoot, this alone is one of the reasons why some people aren't mature enough to be in a relationship; they are so consumed with what they want to get and who needs to make them happy, that they don't factor in if their partner is feeling fulfilled in the process. Hell, sometimes I wonder if they even care.

So, what are some clear indications that you're good at compromising in a relationship?

Compromisers are good listeners. It's not about them always needing to get the last word in or speaking over their partner. They genuinely want to know where their partner is coming from so that communication is effective.

Compromisers are compassionate. A compassionate individual is someone who notices the suffering (or even just distress) of another individual and strives to do what they can to alleviate it. They aren't apathetic; they are sympathetic and even try to be empathetic to their partner's needs where possible.

Compromisers are humble. Humility in a relationship is a true superpower because it means that you're not interested in being right all of the time, you can admit when you're wrong, you will be quick to apologize when you've offended your partner or you made a mistake, and you're open to seeing another perspective, even if it couldn't be further from your own.

Compromisers are flexible. I was recently talking to my nine-year-old goddaughter about how she wants her future husband, wedding and marriage to be. I must say that, for her age, she was extremely eloquent. However as she was going down the list, when I asked her, "What about your husband's opinions?", she said what a lot of grown single women have said to me as well—"His opinion doesn't matter." Lord. Compromisers aren't so bossy, so rigid and/or so determined for everything to go their way all of the time, that they aren't able to bend if it results in both people being happy and both parties coming to a peaceful resolve.

Compromisers are solutions-oriented. At the end of the day, a compromiser is all about finding solutions and cultivating peace. It's not about conceding all of the time, but it is about not being so bull-headed and opinionated that mountains come out of molehills and then those mountains are the very ones that they are willing to die on…even if that means dying alone.

Bottom line, compromisers live by the motto that they would rather that they and their partner be happy together than they be right (at least in their own mind) all by themselves. Compromisers are the kind of people who tend to have lasting relationships because they know that healthy dynamics require give and take on both sides.

Sometimes BOTH PEOPLE Need to Make Sacrifices


OK, so now that we've broken down a little bit of what it means to be a relational compromiser, let's spend a little bit of time exploring what it means to go to, what some would consider to be, the extreme side of compromising—making sacrifices in a relationship.

To be honest with you, sacrifice is not a dirty word. In the context of what we're talking about today, it simply means that you are willing to give up something good for something even better.

A good example of a relational sacrifice is perhaps turning down a job in one city because your partner just proposed, you accepted, and you both have really good jobs where you currently are. However, peep that I said that the man proposed marriage (and you accepted). I know that, because I've made big sacrifices for boyfriends or even situationships and also, because I'm now a marriage life coach, I don't really jump up and down about those types of situations. Why? Because if you're willing to give up something awesome, it doesn't need to be for the hope that something better might happen. There needs to be some sort of guarantees (at least, as much as there can be a guarantee).

Sacrificing for a man who pledged to marry you is different than sacrificing for a guy you've been kicking it with for a while.

That's why Shavel (from Love After Lockup) stands out to me. After dating a man in prison (which really isn't dating and, believe you me, there is nothing like getting a "jail letter" because when folks are incarcerated, they don't have much to do other than think…a lot) for a few years, the first thing she does is buy him a vehicle and prepare a place for him to stay? Meanwhile, what has he done? Hell, what is he even capable of doing? It's not about him having a prison record (we know how a lot of our Black men end up with those); it's about him needing time to readjust to society and figure out how to take care of himself before even entertaining getting married or helping Shavel raise her daughter.

See, what Shavel is doing? It's not so much sacrificing as it is taking a gamble on her relationship. She's not merely giving up something wonderful for something that can top it; it's more like she's giving all that she has, in hopes that it will pay off. And when we get to this kind of point and place in our relationship with someone, especially when they are not reciprocating with these same types of gamble/sacrifices, that's when we know that we're entering into some very risky and, to be honest, unhealthy behaviors.

Too Much One-Sided Sacrificing Is Unhealthy


When I look back on, more than half of my relationships/situationships, if there's a main thing that I regret, it's that I acted like a wife in most of them—at least to some degree—while many of them weren't even really boyfriends. What I mean by that is, when I give of myself, I typically give my all. Whatever a man needs, I am going to figure out how to make it happen and/or support him in ways that can oftentimes cause me to neglect my own needs or wants. Then, when things don't work out, many times, I don't have much to show for it. Hmph. That's why, I actually have a shirt that says, "I don't need closure. I just need my ex to give me my money back." That's not a cute graphic tee. That's for real, for real.

And when your own needs end up going by the wayside, continually so? That's how you can know when you're sacrificing, far more than you ever should. It's when the good thing that you're giving up is actually huge chunks of yourself. It can be chunks of your checking account, chunks of your self-worth, chunks of your heart—anything that, if the relationship ended right now, not only would you be devastated, you'd also be severely in lack.

Not hurt or inconvenienced; I mean that, on some level, you would be close to destitute. When you've entered into this portion of the program, you are not merely "bending" in order to meet your partner halfway. No, what you are doing is giving up so much of yourself that it can actually break you…or break you into pieces.

So, if you're currently in a relationship and you think that what you're doing is compromising, but there is something in the back of your mind that's saying something along the lines of, "Bay-bay, you are giving up the best parts of you and nothing better is gonna take their place"—please take some steps back. You're not compromising, sis. What you are doing is sacrificing to the ultimate extreme. And again, the thing about a "good sacrifice" is it's worth it. You don't have to gamble or guess…you already know. Your partner has made sure that you do. How can you know? Because he's out here making sacrifices too.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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