All long-term relationships involve compromise. Merging two lives together, resolving big problems, and dealing with smaller ones, such as what to do on your vacation, which toothpaste to buy, and whether the dishwasher should be loaded this way or that, requires negotiations and concessions.
For some of us, the question of whether we’re "settling" or compromising too much is there from the very beginning. For others, it might come later on, after the blissful rush of new love begins to fade, and our partner’s faults or shortcomings become more apparent.
Being able to negotiate and find compromise is often a sign of a healthy relationship. However, some compromises are so significant that they should not be made lightly. The following three issues are often associated with relationship problems and dissatisfaction. They by no means spell doom for a relationship, but they do indicate that there could be rough waters ahead. Here’s what you can do about them:
1. Hiding key aspects of who we are.
We worry that our partner will feel threatened, turned off, or annoyed by significant aspects of our personality, aspirations, beliefs, activities, or friends, so we hide or minimize them. However, by doing so we are in essence cutting off parts of our "self." While we might be able to manage doing so in the short term, over time we are likely to pay a price in our psychological health, our relationship satisfaction, or both.
What you can do: Gradually introduce these aspects of yourself through an ongoing dialogue with your partner about why they are valuable to you and how best the relationship can absorb them.
2. Tolerating disrespect. One of the biggest predictors of relationship dissatisfaction and longevity is if your partner regards you with contempt (or you them) during arguments or disagreements. The disrespect, hostility, and lack of empathy such moments embody represent a crucial weakness that will impair any couple’s ability to manage stress and conflict productively.
What you can do: Talk together about setting ground rules for conflict, improving your conflict-resolution skills and making efforts to understand each other’s perspective to increase empathy.
3. Significant sexual incompatibility. When we hide important and established aspects of our sexuality, such as sex drive, specific turn-ons, fetishes, preferences, or beliefs and practices regarding monogamy, we are setting ourselves up to potentially become frustrated and dissatisfied in a relationship. To be clear, plenty of relationships survive and even thrive with an unsatisfactory sex life; the concern this issue presents depends on the importance we place on having good sex with our partner.
What you can do: Since maintaining a good sex life requires work over the long term in almost any relationship, consider having a frank discussion and coming clean about the things that have been satisfying or exciting for you in the past. The likelihood is that your partner has not told you everything about their own preferences, either, even if their history is less "colorful."