Friday is the day when I usually share my personal experiences with our strategy for the week, which this week is all about being a low maintenance partner, but instead I’m going to take today to address a few misunderstandings that I noticed when looking for resources to share in Tuesday’s blog about being a low maintenance partner.
Casual Does Not Equal Low Maintenance
Let’s start with a little misunderstanding, and then move up to the biggie. Here’s the little one: if you are a low maintenance woman, that means you wear sweatpants every day, burp a lot, and have no idea how makeup works. When we are talking about being low maintenance in relationships, at least, none of those things are necessarily true. I can think of friends who are quite low maintenance in terms of relationships, but are fashionable and have excellent manners. I can also think of friends who might seem low maintenance when you look at their clothing and casual behavior, but who are actually quite high maintenance in relationships. Being low maintenance in relationships is not about external factors, but about how secure and mature you are.
Low Maintenance Does Not Equal Low Standards
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on to the bigger misunderstanding: being a low maintenance person means that you have low standards for your relationships (and by extension, being a high maintenance person means that you have high standards for your relationships. This one is really dangerous, I think. It discourages people (and particularly women) from learning to be more low maintenance because they fear that doing so will make them a doormat or cause them to accept behaviors that no one should accept. It also encourages the illusions of high maintenance people that if they are high maintenance, that just means that they have high standards and that their relationships are failing not because of their drama but because they need a better man. High standards are good. High maintenance? Not so much.
So let me be clear here: Being low maintenance does not mean you have low standards, and being high maintenance does not mean you have high standards.
Let’s use my husband as an example here. As you might guess if you’ve read some of my earlier posts, my husband is one of the lowest maintenance people I’ve ever met. He demands very little, and he is extraordinarily difficult to upset. That doesn’t mean, however, that he has low standards for his relationships. Before he met me, he observed the relationships of his friends closely, but he didn’t get into any romantic relationships of his own. There were a number of reasons for this, but one of the reasons was that he had very high standards for his romantic relationships, and he didn’t think it made sense to date until he found a relationship with the potential of reaching those standards. His standards were so high that it took him a very long time to get into a relationship, but when he did, he was still an extremely low maintenance partner.
Although I’m not as low maintenance as my husband (and probably never will be), I fall toward the middle to low maintenance end of the scale, but I have generally had high standards for my relationships as well. I have expected my relationships to be built on trust, honesty, faithfulness, gentleness, and thoughtfulness, and any relationship that didn’t meet those standards either never started or ended fairly quickly. That’s one reason why I can honestly say that all the guys I dated were good people at heart, and I have respect for all of them to this day.
On the other hand, I suspect we can all think of at least one friend who is extremely demanding in relationships, but jumps into unhealthy relationship after unhealthy relationship, putting up with behavior that no one should have to deal with, like cheating, lying, addiction, or abuse. Despite being high maintenance, they hold very low standards for their relationships.
You Can Be Low Maintenance and Have High Standards
That’s not to say that low maintenance and low standards can’t go together, or that high maintenance and high standards can’t go together. They can. It’s just that your maintenance level and your standards are separate. So don’t avoid becoming lower maintenance for fear that it will cause you to lower your standards, and don’t excuse high maintenance behavior (we all have at least a little) by pretending that you are just holding onto high standards. Choose the standards that you believe are important and cling to them: that’s having high standards. Then let go of the petty, insecure expectations that cause stress in your relationship: that’s being low maintenance. You can be both at once.