Jump to content

maintaining identity vs. pleasing your significant other

Recommended Posts

I have often struggled with this issue in my relationships. I am so afraid that someone will try to mold me into what they want and I will lose myself in the process. I don't want to be a door mat

My boyfriend is a neat freak and I am not. I am not a slob by any means just don't hold myself to the standards of cleanliness/order he holds himself to. Furthermore, I have no desire to adopt his neat freak tendencies. (Ex: never leaves dishes in sink over night, must wash immediately) I know the pressure he puts on himself to be orderly/neat makes him very stressed out. I have no problem w/him being the way he is I just do not want to be him.

My best friend and her husband have a very happy/solid marriage. She is a slob and he is neat but not what I consider to extremely neat. She told me that when they were first married one of her tasks was to hang his shirts in the closet for him. Well he was showing her how he wanted her to hang his shirts in the closet and how he wanted them all to go the same way and she basically said No. She told him she will hang his shirts in the closet but if he needs them to be held to a higher standard than that, then he can do it himself. He also tried to change the way she loads the dishwasher to which she said nope, i'm loading it and if u don't like it, feel free to change it, so that is what they do and it seems to work. She does her task and if he doesn’t like it, he tweaks it.

So is she a jerk or a hero for this? Is she strong for not sacrificing who she is or is she being selfish? I mean my best friend is the most giving, loving person I know but cleanliness, being anal is not her thing and never will be and why should it have to be?

I told my boyfriend the story about my best friend and her husband because I agreed w/my best friend's stance and thought it sounded healthy but he disagreed. He wanted to know why she wouldn't do that courtesy for him (the shirt thing) if she knows it would make him happy in return. He added that if I wanted him to do something a certain way that he would def. extend me that courtesy. I said she is still doing the tasks, helping him out, just not to the standard that he wants. Why does she need to change who she is or adopt his standards in order to make him happy? In response to the dishwasher scenario he said if he has a more effective way of doing something why wouldn't she/I want to do it that way? For instance fitting more dishes in the dishwasher at one time? I told him that his way is not necessarily the better way just because it is his way.

I mean at what point do we sacrifice our own views and/or identity to please another? Where do we draw the line? Could it possibly be dependent on the amount of "courtesies" that we do for the other person ? I mean maybe I've seen too many movies but I can't help but think of that scene in Sleeping with the Enemy with the cans or the towels not being perfect. Obviously that is the extreme, I know.

It is true that we teach people how to treat us so if we give in to a courtesy here or there, is putting our foot down at some point necessary to show the other person what is acceptable or is it selfish and bratty? And when should we put our foot down? Early on or much later when it has started to get out of hand?

I really love my boyfriend and I want to help him out, be there for him, make him happy but I also want to stay me. Any ideas on how I can make that happen?

Would appreciate feedback on this.

Link to comment

Well, if shirt hanging and diswasher filling were the main sources of stress in my relationship I would count my lucky stars! I understand it can be trying, but remembering what's most important and not sweating the small stuff goes a long way. To preserve my identity I could probably give on most surface preferences, but not the deeper ones like how we treat each other and if we are kind.

Link to comment

I sometimes feel that I have to reconcile my own identity with the person my husband needs me to be. But what's ironic is that he is attracted to me when I am independent and stubborn. I guess it has to do with choosing your battles carefully. If I fought tooth and nail over every little issue, surely he would get fed up with my attitude and no longer find it sexy.


I say don't overthink it. Make sure both of you are compromising in order to find a sustainable solution, and not simply engaging in a power struggle. Make the changes you can feel good about, and when something comes up that is so essential to who you are as a person that you cannot give it up, then don't.

Link to comment

Household chores would be an acceptable form of molding (no different than my father insisting that I wipe the kitchen sink down after washing dishes). My ex, however, literally tried to change me as a human being to better align with him through passive aggressive and abusive tendencies. I never caved in and it infuriated him. So to that degree, I say no, if you have to change the essence of who you are as a person, you're incompatible. If you just need to compromise on a process for doing something, no big deal, that's part of a relationship.

Link to comment

A very interesting thread indeed and also a subject upon which I have mulled over quite a lot myself, having had the same issues about losing oneself/identity.


I have been extremely defensive with my boyfriend over things like this and still can be. It is all in order that we don't feel that we are losing ourselves in the relationship. We had a huge significant row about taking the fat off of bacon a while back, lol. You may think no big deal but it was a huge thing, which held a lot of significance for me, especially.


Basically, every time he cooked the bacon sarnies (which was mostly), he would cut the fat off of my bacon (just as he does for his own). I was enraged because I saw it as some sort of controlling tactic and also I never did this with my bacon. After much discussion (and arguing), I accepted that he was just doing it because he always did it that way and since he was preparing the food for me, it made sense. Also, it was kinda caring in a way, so now I "let" him cut the fat off. I even found myself cutting some fat off my bacon at home when I prepared it the other day! (eek, lol)


I think that I would probably be the same as your friend to a certain extent, but it would depend on how my SO asked me and how much of a fuss he was making of it. I don't believe in women doing everything in the house anyway, why can't he hang up his own shirts? I don't like this word "duties". If he needed his shirts hung up and he asked nicely and didn't EXPECT me to, then I would happily hang them up for him and I would even hang them up the way he likes them aswell.


But if I felt like he was ordering me to, then I wouldn't hang them up at all probably!

Link to comment

It's a general rule in our house,


"If you don't like the way I do it, then do it yourself"


But that doesn't mean we don't consider each other. Part of that consideration is a consistent effort to not be irritated when the other does something "wrong" or "'not good enough", part of it is realizing it's not a judgment on ourselves when our partner "fixes" what we already did, and part of it is actually thinking about whether or not our partners 'standards' make sense, and if our home would look/run a little better if we adopted that standard...If it makes sense, we try.


How you fold towels, do dishes, hang shirts, etc...are all 'small' things. But they can quickly add up to a stressful, or harmonious home. It's the toothpaste in the sink that drives some people positively mad after 20 years...Because everyone gets hung up on their 'way' being the 'right' way, and perceive the others failure to 'conform' as lack of consideration. It's not, they just have a different way.


I have to admit, even though DH is more efficient at housework than I am, he is less thorough, and his priorities are decidedly different. So I had to keep telling myself "let it go" when he was home with the kids this last year. It takes practice to 'let it go', but if you can do it, I highly recommend it.


If you WANT to hang his shirts the way he likes it done, then so much the better. You are not going to 'lose yourself' by giving him this little 'gift'.


If you don't want to hang his shirts the way he likes it, then put them on a hanger and say "Here, I know I won't do it the way you like it, and I don't want to frustrate you, so you'd better do it"


Either way, is considerate of his needs...Neither will fundamentally change who you are....

Link to comment

Yes, I know my boyfriend is attracted to my independence/stubbornness also but he's also put off by the fact that I am so defensive much of the time in this struggle I am feeling to maintain my identity. I am VERY VERY MUCH working on choosing my battles so to speak. I know that getting upset about too many things makes the other person tune you out and it's just not effective. They will assume you are just trying to fight with them all the time and really have no point. Or what about that saying "it's better to be happy than right"


I also agree w/the person who said that when I feel like I HAVE to do something I absolutely don't want to do it. I have talked to him about that too and he hates that I feel that way. He has conveyed to me that that thought process is selfish and bratty. Is it? Or is it human nature? Who wants to do something that they feel FORCED TO DO? I absolutely bend over backwards for him when I feel it's not a requirement.

Link to comment
I absolutely bend over backwards for him when I feel it's not a requirement.




It seems to me that the your tendency to fight for your identity over so many issues may be a signal of insecurity or not being quite sure who you are.

Link to comment

I will also say that sometimes I do feel like a brat because my boyfriend does ALOT for me. He has gone out of his way many many times for me. That is the reason I think sometimes I should just suck it up and do whatever he wants to his preference. If he weren't that way, so giving then it would be different. I think that also has a lot to do with it. It has to be a two way street.


This is somewhat off the topic a little but anyone ever read that book "The five languages of love?" It's so true... people get upset because they give love/caring to their significant other the way THEY would feel loved if someone were doing it to them but that is not always the language the other person needs to be loved in. For instance, it probably makes my boyfriend feel loved/cared for if I keep things neat because that is very important to him. For me, I try to dole out love in the way of affection and caring words, helping him with things, but he would prob be happier w/the neatness/order.


One day he was over my apartment and he started going nuts cleaning everything. The negative thoughts in my head were thinking, he's just doing this because he can't stand being in my apartment and having it dirty and my apartment is not good enough and he's doing this for himself not me. He explained that he was trying to show his love for me by doing this so I would have a nice clean place but meanwhile I felt insulted and I really just wanted to BE with him, do something fun together.

Link to comment

I believe my tendency to fight for my identity stems mainly from fear but also insecurity. I saw my grandmother do everything in her power to try to please my grandfather (we lived w/them) and he was never satisfied. he verbally abused her all day every day. They were married 60 years. I was also abused in the same way by an overly critical mother. It all trickles down. I just want to be smart and not fall into either of those roles, criticizer or criticized.

Link to comment

This is a very sore point with me, mostly because I lived with a neat freak who argued IDENTICAL points that you have listed. Happiness is far more important than being right. It may be more logical, it might be quicker, it might be tidier, it might save you those two hours you'll spend doing it at the weekend. None of this is the point.


It doesn't reflect how you live, and he should respect that - I understand from your post that you don't live together? Then he should respect that as your space and not treat it as your little problem he has to sort out. Essentially, while he doesn't live there and it is not causing him health problems it's none of his business. (I'm presuming here that you don't use a particular corner of the front room as a compost spot for instance and have generally normal standards)


When you live together, yes it's a different issue but the problem I encountered was that this 'logical' argument was given higher priority because it made more sense, and had nothing to do with any element of happiness. And, quel surprise, it ended up being me who implemented the ludicrously high standards he set and he became strangely allergic to any cleaning implement. Be careful that you are not being groomed for preferable future behaviours in housewifely chores!!


Personally, I found it absolutely insufferable as it made me feel suffocated, like I was being treated like a child and after a while it extended into aspects of 'me' that he didn't like. For me, it was the tip of the iceberg.


Saying all of the above, he could just be fussy and you guys might be fine if you fold the towels correctly and he allows you to pile your dirty socks up in the corner for a couple of days every now and then!!

Link to comment

Your partner needs to be understanding of your background. Given what you have experienced, your feelings are normal. He should find other ways of accepting your love than by demanding that you cater to his quirky standards, given your experiences. I think he is being insensitive.

Link to comment

Compromise is a necessary part of a relationship, you just have to find that balance so you don't lose yourself. I think the attitude of "oh well this is just who I am and if you don't like how I do something then do it yourself" all the time is stubborn and inconsiderate. My roomates are a couple and the guy always does this when it comes to cleaning. To me him pulling the this is the person I am card is just excuse to be lazy. Is it really going to change the kind of person he is if he vacuums the apartment once a week and not just once a month? Also what's wrong with trying to improve yourself? If you're a slob then what's wrong with trying to be a little less of a slob? I'm not saying that you should become a neat freak, but improving a little bit on your flaws is not such a bad thing. We can always make improvements on ourselves without changing the essence of who we are.

Link to comment

You need to discuss with him everything you have posted on here basically, talk to him and see what he says. If he is unreasonable and doesnt make you feel comfortable, then you know he is probably a little bit controlling.


But do remember that not everyone who has fussy little ways is actually controlling. My boyfriend is fussy, but he's not controlling.

Link to comment
  • 3 weeks later...


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...