Most of us learn fairly early on in our dating lives that romantic relationships in real life are not like in the movies. But knowing that fact intellectually and actually getting rid off all of the expectations that we learn from fictional romances are two very different things, and it can be incredibly difficult to find the right balance of being realistic about real relationships and striving for a connection that is worthwhile and exceptional. Many of us already know that we have to work hard to break ourselves of the belief that if it’s True Love, then our partners will be able to anticipate all of our needs, fulfill all of our desires, and generally be perfect for us all of the time. After all, we have to let them be real people, right? But it can also be hard to remember not to inflict impossible standards on ourselves in our relationships — because in many of our romantic fantasies, it’s not only our partners who are impossibly flawless; we are also transformed by the Power Of Love into the perfect counterparts, always loving, always patient, always supportive, and never irritable or insecure or careless.
However, just as your S.O. — wonderful though he or she may be — isn’t going to magically turn into Prince or Princess Charming, you are not going to suddenly become Cinderella, perpetually sweet, always understanding, and able to talk to animals (I’m bitter about that last one). Even in the best relationship, you’ll still have all of the same insecurities and faults that you had before your relationship started. Sure, you’ll hopefully also have a kind and loving partner who likes or at least puts up with your less glittering qualities, but you won’t be “perfect” (What would that even mean, anyway?). AND THAT’S TOTALLY OK. It’s OK for you to be flawed and human, and it’s OK (and necessary, really) to acknowledge that your partner can’t fulfill all of your needs all of the time. Obviously, we should try to do our best to be as loving as compassionate as possible, but we’ve also got to cut ourselves some goddamn slack. Read on for 8 things that don’t make you a bad partner (even if you feel like one sometimes).
1. Needing alone time.
Even with the best, most wonderful partner in the world, you’ll still need space and time on your own. We all do. When you commit to a relationship for the long haul, you’re promising to knit your life together with someone else’s, but you’re not promising to give up your own life or sacrifice your needs to your partner’s. If you want to be a good partner, you need to take care of your mental health so that you can bring the best version of yourself to the partnership. And for a lot of people, that means having solitude to think and recharge.
2. Needing to hang out with other people.
Your romantic partnership may become the primary relationship in your life (well, until you have kids, I suppose), but that doesn’t mean that your partner will magically be able to fulfill all of your social and emotional needs. You still need your friends and family, and you need time away from your partner to connect with others in a different way. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to hang out with other people without your partner in tow — doing so will take some of the pressure off of your romantic relationship, which is good for both of you.
3. Thinking that other people are attractive.
The rules of romance novels dictate that once we find True Love, we will never find another human being attractive ever again. But that’s about as realistic as me vowing to give up cheese for the rest of my life (that is to say, not all realistic). The part of your brain that finds people attractive (including your partner) wasn’t magically cauterized when you met your current S.O. Of course you’ll still think others are attractive, and of course you’ll wonder about what it would be like to be with other people.
I’m not saying that it’s OK to flaunt your desires for other people in front of your S.O., or to act on them (assuming, that is, that you’ve agreed to be monogamous); part of being a loving partner is being considerate of your S.O.’s feelings and honoring the commitments you’ve made. But it’s natural and normal for you to have an internal fantasy life.
4. Not being 100 percent happy with your S.O. 100 percent of the time.
Relationships can’t be hearts and flowers and unicorns all the time. There will be moments when your partner is not your favorite person, and that’s OK. Obviously, if you’re unhappy all or most of the time in your relationship, then you should think seriously about whether this is the right relationship for you, but the occasional low period is bound to happen.
5. Not always being your best self.
If you love your partner, then of course you want to be as supportive, kind, and patient as possible toward him or her. But you are a human being, and therefore there will be times — guaranteed — that you act in a way you’re less than proud of. There will be moments when you are tired, or stressed, or just in a bad mood, and you will say something rude and then feel bad about it later. And that’s OK. If you were not very nice, then you should feel a little bad about it, and you should apologize and try to do better. But you shouldn’t beat yourself up endlessly; after all, you put up with your partner’s less than stellar moments because you love him or her, and you know that sometimes you need to cut them some slack. Let your partner extend you the same courtesy.
6. Not wanting to have sex every time your partner wants to have sex.
Even couples with great sexual chemistry will be out of sync once in a while. Of course, if you and your partner are constantly struggling with an imbalance in your respective sex drives, then you need to think hard about whether you two are actually sexually compatible. But having an off night here and there — because you’re tired or stressed or you just don’t want to have sex — isn’t something to feel bad about.
7. Having other commitments.
You may have a wonderful partner, but he or she won’t be able to fulfill every desire and need that you have, nor should you expect him or her to. Naturally, you will have commitments outside of your romantic relationship — to work, to family, to friends. It takes time and work to maintain a romantic relationship, but you shouldn’t feel bad about putting effort into the other parts of your life.
Over the course of your life, you will change a lot, and so will your partner. The ways that you change may be tough on your relationship, and — if you and your partner become really out of sync — change may even lead to the end of your relationship. But trying to keep yourself from changing is like trying to figure out what’s happening on top of Donald Trump’s head: that is, impossible.