We’ve all heard it before: You have to compromise to make a relationship work. However, how much are you compromising in order to maintain or create a bond? You may be compromising more of yourself than you think and it begins from your first date with your partner.
We often look for similarities with a potential partner as a gauge to how well you would mesh together. In fact, first dates will almost always focus on the things you have in common. Matchmaking through shared traits and hobbies is certainly the technique that online dating services use to fix you with your ideal mate. The idea is if you want the same things, surely you’re heading in the same direction and the chances of succeeding in a happy relationship become higher.
A recent study revealed that 80 per cent of women fake moaning noises during sex for the sake of their partner and to create a closer bond. Spouses who have been together for awhile also report they often hold back from talking about things that are “off limits” because it may upset their partner even though it’s important for one of them.
I had a male friend who told me this week that he’s sick of a girl telling him what she thinks he wants to hear. “I want to hear about them and what they like to do and who they are and not just talk about what I like,” said my slightly frustrated friend. I reassured him that she was probably doing that because she liked him and just wanted him to like her back.
It appears that we sometimes abstain from developing interests or aspects of our lives that aren’t similar to our partners’ or for the sake of the relationship. My research has shown that high levels of interpersonal closeness where spouses are not enmeshed yielded higher levels of relationship satisfaction and longevity. One reason is because similarity breeds liking and lowers conflict. Spouses may also be able to better predict the kind of support their partner needs.
So it is all about faking it to make it? If we simply try to align our similarities with our partners, it will surely help ensure relationship longevity. This way of thinking often has less to do with happiness and more to do with the fear of ending a relationship.
When we give too much to a partner in a relationship, the expectations of gratitude expressed by our partner also go up. We neglect to grow our sense of self and have a voice. There is an optimal degree of similarity and disparity that brings people together. An extreme level of similarity breed boredom while high disparity breeds high conflict where couples reach an impasse on how to cooperate.
Novelty and differences in relationships opens us up to experiences we may not have discovered. Conflict can also help us learn how to be there for our partner and effectively solve issues that arise. I always try to remind people to just be themselves. Amongst all the people-pleasing we do, we can sometimes lose ourselves in all the roles we juggle as parent, worker, student or friend. If you compromise a large part of yourself away, you will surely sacrifice the most important relationship you will ever make in your life: the relationship with yourself.
Amy Yew is a researcher and therapist. Tell us what you think and submit any questions you have to email@example.com. You can also tweet your thoughts on Twitter @AmyYew.