It seems to have become popular for people — especially guys dating women — to complain about their partners being "high-maintenance." But what does that really mean, anyway? And is it usually deserved, or is it just a subtle form of misogyny that puts women down for having reasonable needs?
"It’s healthy to advocate for ourselves," practicing psychologist and Harvard lecturer Holly Parker, PhD, author of If We're Together, Why Do I Feel So Alone?, tells Bustle. "It allows us to set boundaries with others and fulfill essential needs." Asking people for things allows us to, for example, correct stores or restaurants that overcharge us, stand up for ourselves when someone hurts us, and get support when we're feeling down. And in a relationship, someone who doesn't ask for any "maintenance" at all just ends up doing whatever their partner wants all the time.
Still, says Parker, "there’s a difference between setting healthy limits and meeting vital needs, and crossing over into someone else’s boundaries and placing excessive expectations on that person." It may actually be high-maintenance, for example, to demand a partner spend all their savings on you. "It’s not so much what we expect, but how much or how often we expect it," Parker explains.
Rest assured, though, that none of the following behaviors make you high-maintenance. They just make you a normal human being with needs that your partner should respect.
1Talking About Your Feelings
Be skeptical of anyone who rolls their eyes when you want to have a serious conversation or dismisses you when you criticize their behavior. Emotional discussions are important ways to maintain a healthy relationship, not burdens you're unfairly dragging your partner into. If your partner turns around a complaint you make against them so that you end up apologizing just for complaining, that's actually a sign of emotional abuse.
2Expecting They Put In Effort
Your partner doesn't have to sweep you off your feet with romantic gestures every day, but they should occasionally go out of their way to make you feel cared for and appreciated, from answering your texts on time to celebrating your birthday.
3Expressing Specific Sexual Preferences
You deserve to be satisfied with your sex life and get as much out of it as your partner, and while it's not OK to get that by exerting pressure, it is OK to ask for what you want. Don't feel guilty if that requires your partner's time, energy, or attention.
4Asking For Favors
As long as your partner's welcome to ask the same of you, it's perfectly fine to ask them to pick up something from the store for you if you're having trouble finding time, ask around their office for information you need, or cover a bill when you're short on cash. It only becomes a problem when one person is doing this habitually and exclusively.
5Wanting As Much As You Give
Someone usually ends up feeling taken advantage of if they're putting more into the relationship than they're getting back. So, it's not unreasonable to ask your partner to pitch in with chores, initiate discussions, and express their love as much as you are. It's also their right to tell you if they can't give you that. Then, you have to decide if you're OK with either contributing more than your partner or decreasing your contributions.
"Sure, it’s possible to ask for something that, in and of itself, isn’t fair or justifiable," says Parker. "But in general, we’re really talking about a matter of degrees." As long as you and your partner are both happy with your dynamic, don't feel like you need to change anything. And if they're unhappy with you for wanting something on this list, they may be the one who needs to adjust their expectations.