Is it good to be so low maintenance?
My mother taught me only a little about love and romance, and most of it was woefully outdated. Next to her big admonishments regarding sex was her advice to never cramp a man’s style.
According to my mom, men have fragile egos and the worst thing you can do is to do or say anything that might possibly hurt that fragility. Not only that, but as a woman, I was supposed to stroke a man’s ego. Tell him what he wants to hear. Shower him in praise.
On the side of things you should never do, my mother explained that men don’t want drama or any hassle. That they want to chase you without it being too easy or too hard.
And once you were dating, it was of the utmost importance that you be a low-maintenance girlfriend.
People repeated this advice over the years, often in church. Pastors and teachers told me that women were there to be “helpmates.” To make life easier and better for her man. You never wanted to expect too much or forget how hard he has it in this world.
Sigh. If all of this sounds a bit like The Transformed Wife on Facebook, you’re not wrong. I was raised in the 80s and 90s purity culture, in an evangelical bubble. Men and women had their places. And a woman’s place was to never rock the boat.
Personally, I have never liked this gamification of romance. If I am going to be married or dating, I want an actual relationship. Not rules of engagement.
There’s no real relationship, and certainly no equity when a woman is expected to be so “perfect” that she never disagrees or distresses her partner.
Relationships by nature carry stress which we all have to learn how to manage. Simply agreeing to “obey” a partner or never cramp their style is one surefire way to never really connect. Not as human beings, anyway.
But perhaps as robots and masters.
Of course, you don’t have to be religious to fall into this mentality. I have met many a secular woman who has prided herself on being a super chill girlfriend.
I’ve even been that woman myself.
Sometimes, we’ll brag about it. “Oh, I’m not like those other girls.” As if it’s a competition. Like we think being “low maintenance” makes us better.
Well, guess what?
Low maintenance isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.
There are plenty of myths within dating and some of them conflict with each other. But the myth that men want low maintenance women is one of my least favorite ones out there because it reduces people down to problems.
And it prevents us from actually connecting.
I spent an awful lot of my dating years trying to be so chill and low maintenance that I believed I had to shrink down and express zero needs. Sadly, I’ve seen other women do this too.
They aren’t honest with boyfriends or spouses, because they fear that makes them much too needy. And that fear makes them see their legitimate needs as problems to be avoided.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s good to be even-tempered, kind, and self-reliant. Nobody who’s looking for constant affirmation and validation is going to happen into a healthy relationship.
Healthy takes work. Real love is boring.
But the notion that women must be super chill and ulta low-maintenance is wrong. Every person has needs in a relationship and every worthwhile relationship takes some amount of work.
We fool ourselves when we think that good love is lazy or that it should ask nothing of ourselves. There are times when love will ask everything and be highly inconvenient. That’s just life.
Ihavel earned the hard way that being super chill and laid back all of the time isn't especially honest. And there’s a price you pay for dishonesty in your relationships.
Nobody could really know me, and nobody could really be there for me either. I held people at a distance and taught them to treat me poorly. After a while, guys expected me to never have any needs at all, and if I dared to speak up eventually, I found out that my needs weren’t even on their radar.
Or, they were met with anger.
It turns out that fully expressing your healthy and honest needs is related to drawing up healthy boundaries. You teach your loved ones from the start that they can’t walk all over you or use you however it suits them.
Voicing your needs respectfully and responsibly will also help you avoid falling for abusive partners who cannot handle the demands of life and love. Because the reality is that love and relationships are demanding, even when we are not.
And all parties need to be able to handle that.
There’s no such thing as the super chill girlfriend who requests nothing of her partner. Not if she’s being honest. But to be fair, there’s no such thing as the super chill boyfriend, either.
All people are complicated in some way. We’re these messy, walking contradictions, with conflicting needs and interests. It’s never so evident as when we try to love or simply connect with each other.
So, do yourself a favor and quit trying to be the mythical, supposedly perfect partner. Instead, focus on expressing your full and honest self in a positive way. Quality relationships aren’t built upon legends.
They’re built on love and understanding.