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The Art of Compromise (aka 2 Oval Exercise)

Introduced by the Gottman Institute, this exercise is meant to allow people to create compromises together. We often use this exercise after identifying the conflict we’re discussing and the values we’re in conflict about. Here are some common intentional relationship topics that can be used in this exercise.


  • Draw a donut.

  • Each person fills their own ovals out first, before showing each other.
  • Fill in the smaller oval with the needs / values you cannot live without. These are your inflexible needs / values. Try to keep this area as small as possible.
  • Next, in the bigger oval, list aspects of your position that are negotiable. These are your flexible areas. This doesn’t mean compromising on the need itself. It means being open to shifting some of the specifics about the need, such as timing, location, or methods to achieve your goal. Try to make this area as large as possible.
  • Share your circles and see where they are similar and different.
  • Ask questions from a place of curiosity, why they have different values in different parts of the circles, etc.

Once you feel you accurately understand the other person’s internal world work to create a temporary compromise that you know will be worked on again in the future.

  • Make sure it’s an agreement that feels authentic.
  • To practice, consider trying this exercise considering what you want in the next car you buy.

Have any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or comments on this article? Broken link? Wondering how to this can be applied, modified, or adapted to your polyamorous, swinging, kink/ BDSM, or otherwise interesting relationship? Feel free to reach out to us here.