Chapter 3 - Situations Subchapter: Relationships

Conflict and compromise

Conflict over decisions is sometimes unavoidable – both individual and shared decisions. Some conflicts may be easily resolved but others might place a real strain on the relationship.

When we enter into a relationship our inner worlds don’t just disappear. They may evolve and our priorities might change, but even when committed to what might be the most important relationship of our lives, we are still individuals with independent thoughts and needs.

No two people will agree about everything all of the time. All healthy and respectful relationships will inevitably experience conflict at some point when managing shared decisions.

Minor conflicts might be:

  • I prefer lowfat milk and you like full-cream.
  • I like horror movies and you prefer romcoms.
  • I love reading in bed but the light keeps you awake.

More significant conflicts might include:

  • I want the leather couch and you want suede.
  • I want to save for 12 months to go overseas, not for a house deposit.
  • I want to start a family now and you want to wait.


Yes No I Don’t Know?

YNIDK helps us with the tactical elements of shared decisions by giving both people a shared set of rules and expectations and a way to work out what’s reasonable, respectful and appropriate. 

It also gives us a way to look back at the conflicts in our relationships and figure out what went wrong, and what either person should or could have done differently. 

In any relationship, we try to influence each other all the time. This is a normal and healthy form of interaction if it is done respectfully and recognises the other person’s inner world, their rights and freedoms.



The Field Model diagram with two characters on Yes - the Action Zone lights up green.


In the Field Model, if you both say YES, then you can move to the Action Zone and start acting on the decision. Both people need to agree YES to move to the Action Zone.



The Field Model diagram with one character on Yes and another on No - the End Zone lights up red.


One person is YES and one NO. If either person decides NO, then both people enter the End Zone and the decision is not actioned.

The desire to jointly save for 12 months travel overseas is clearly important to one person. The preference to jointly save for a house deposit is clearly important to the other person. Each of these decisions require a commitment from both people to achieve the goal.

This seems a big conflict - how can it be resolved?



In any relationship there’ll be times when you want something, and your partner wants something different.

Maybe you decide to say yes to a decision because you see the value in making your partner happy rather than getting your own way. This is completely fine if you choose to make the decision freely without any pressure or coercion.

With big decisions, saying yes to keep the other person happy could be ignoring your inner world and individual goals. For the relationship to continue, compromise is required.

Compromise involves communication. It means talking to each other about individual and shared goals in a way that respects and acknowledges each other’s priorities. For a big conflict like trip versus house deposit you could:

  • Agree to save for both but accept each goal will take longer to achieve.
  • Agree to reduce the trip from 12 to 6 months and then get stuck into saving for a house deposit.
  • Agree to save for the house and then save for a trip down the track when you’ve settled into the house.


It also might turn out that by trying to reach a compromise a bigger issue emerges. You may have to work out if your individual goals are actually compatible in the longer term.

No-one has the right to tell you how to feel and that you’re wrong for thinking one thing is important and not the other. What’s important to you is key to who you are.