What does "compromise" mean in marriage?


Question: What is the significance of compromising in a marriage? Does it only apply to “non-moral issues”? What is the use of compromising if 5, 10, 15 yrs later that “compromise” doesn’t work?

Dilemma: We have been married for 7 yrs and thankfully haven’t disagreed on many things except the following, another tattoo. Long story short, 5 yrs ago my husband wanted TWO tattoos. I was strongly opposed mainly b/c I consider tattoos “tacky looking”. He explained how important these tattoos were b/c they represented a part of him i.e. family and country. I have to admit the tattoo sketches were tasteful and thought out. After many long and heated arguments we compromised these TWO tattoos would be the only ones. He had them placed on the chest and the shoulder. I still think they are “tacky” but have learned to accept them.

The present situation is he wants another tattoo on his leg. My problem is that I feel strongly against anymore tattoos b/c after looking at tattoos on the leg, back etc. I see them as repulsive. Moreover, just “one more” will lead to many more. He tells me that my argument of “repulsive” is not a moral argument and he has the right to do whatever he wants to HIS body. I can have a strong opinion but in the end he says I don’t have the right to put my foot down on something that doesn’t belong to me, i.e. his body. Also, he says our compromise of just two tattoos five years ago is not an absolute b/c it is not a moral issue.

Is there ever a time where the other spouse has the “right” to limit something? Is it just a matter of opinion?

What am I missing? :confused:

Any and every response is appreciated.

God Bless.


What is the significance of compromising in a marriage? Does it only apply to “non-moral issues”?

Let’s leave the issue of tattoos aside for a bit. (I am not a personal fan of tattoos but I don’t consider them to be a moral issue in and of themselves.)

I don’t know how big and or tasteful these tattoos are so I don’t know if you are being reasonable or not.

But I think you ought to be concerned that your husband wants to actively do something that you have specifically told him you consider repulsive. I don’t know exactly what is going on in his head -it may be something about you; it might not be- but something isn’t quite right.

In fact your husband’s body isn’t just his own. Part of marriage is that your bodies belong to each other. Now I think there are limits here. One spouse cannot require that the other do something that would be harmful to himself or herself. But I do think a spouse has the right to request that the other refrain from actions that are immoral or harmful to the relationship.

I think you need to be aware of how much power you have here. Will your husband do what you ask or will he just go ahead and get the tattoo anyways? If he does do what you say you need to be prepared for him to be angry about it. If he goes ahead and gets the tattoo you have the power to be angry or to accept it.

In any case, I suspect that you should stop fixating on the tattoo because I think it is distracting you from some other problem. I don’t know if it is your husband’s problem or your problem but in either case it is causing a problem in your relationship.


Also seems to me that this is a symptom of a deeper issue.

I have seen marriages where the wife will say “I could never have short hair, my husband would hate it”… and I’m left scratching my head.

Tattoos, they can be art to some and trash to others… they are morally neutral. I have two, DH designed one of them. DH would NEVER get one - for us, it is just a matter of personal taste.

I think using the word “repulsive” in regard to one’s spouse’s appearance is a bit harsh -

To answer the original question - compromise in marriage on little things is he picks the movie and you the restaurant. Or you go to early Mass and keep the little kids and he goes to later Mass. Or you move to Timbuktu so he can have his dream job (or he moves so you can have your dream job). That is my idea of compromise.

Perhaps look into some good Catholic marriage advice?


Just curious, but if he has two already representing family and country, what does the proposed one represent?


Will the tatoo affect your marriage in any negative way? Other than you just don’t want it? That is, will it change your DH in any way? Other than in appearance. I think its like getting a perm done or wearing makeup or changing your hair color, bariatric surgery (i.e., stomach stapling to lose weight), liposuction, implants, nose job, etc… I personally don’t like tatoos, but I really would not be breaking my head over if wether my DH would want one or not. I would frankly give him my opinion and let him decide. After all, I really don’t think that the tatoo will affect your marriage in any negative way. There might be other issues that might be affecting your marriage, however, the tatoo itself…I don’t think its that…


Compromise has two meanings - (1) its a meeting in the middle where both give up something they want for unity. But it also means (2) one side weakening or giving up - more like sacrifice when its for a greater good.

In marraige I think both are essential. The original poster had the first - you get some of what you want and I put up with some of what I don’t want. Apparently worked great until now.

Suppose instead of two tatoos the agreement was two children. Now one spouse wants another and the other says no. I would want the couple to choose on the side of creation.

Similarly (although admittedly its a real stretch) I think its best to offer your spouse opportunity to do what they want; i.e. the person who wants to do nothing should usually defer to the person who wants to do more (all other things being equal - like you can afford the tatoo, it doesn’t compromise your health, etc).

Something like “if you love someone set them free.” In marraige, its compromise definition #2 whenever possible.


My husband has a tattoo. I went with him when he got it about 14 years ago. It was something he always wanted since we dated as teens and probably even before. I don’t think 1 tatoo is repulsive as long as it’s tasteful. But I definately don’t like several (starts looking like lizard skin to me). The problem with tatts is that they are often “addicting”. Hubby wanted more after that but I was very adamant that he not get more. He wasn’t thrilled but he didn’t go against my wishes. He is glad now because some of his ideas were just on a whim and I pretty sure he would have regretted it later.

My opinion is that you have already compromised and now it’s time for your husband to do so. This idea that it’s my body and I can do what I want with it really has no place in a sacramental marriage. Is it really worth it to him to upset you so much in order to get what he wants? An agreement is a moral issue. He agreed and you trusted in that agreement now he wants to break your agreement. Marriage is built on trust not I don’t care what you think it’s my body and I can do what I want. If you had completely refused him to get any tattoos I would more than likely side with with hubby on this one. But you did compromise and now as a man he needs to honor that compromise. Not act like a adolecent.

  1. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and in the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 1 Cor 7:4
  1. “For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother
    and be joined to his wife,
    and the two shall become one flesh.” Eph 5:31


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