The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, in one of his writings, points to the paradox of love: « Two beings become one and yet remain two. »

However this does not always occur. Indeed, a common relationship problem, which seems to affect both new and old couples, is the loss of one’s individuality.  This can happen for several reasons. One is the desire, particularly at the beginning of the relationship, to please the new partner by conforming to what he/she likes or always « going along » with whatever he/she wants to do. This is perceived as « compromising » and « being nice. »  As the relationship develops, the behavior (accommodating a partner to the detriment of one’s own desires or opinions) can continue in order to avoid conflict.  And, as time passes, the pattern can become fully established to the point that one of the two partners completely looses a sense of who he or she is.

This type of situation is potentially damaging for the individuals and can create a real relationship problem.  While there is of course nothing wrong about doing things just for the sake of pleasing your partner, « being nice and compromising » shouldn’t always fall on the same partner. In a healthy relationship both partners try to accommodate one another in turns, so that both get their chance to do the things they enjoy, eat the food they like, see the people they love …  However, if one partner always feels like he/she is « sacrificing, » that partner may become so frustrated that he/she will want to leave the relationship altogether.

Another thing to consider is that we are often attracted to people who are different from us. « Opposites attract, » as the saying goes.  By imposing tastes or desires on one’s partner, and always expecting the partner to compromise, we are in essence stifling the person we first fell in love with.  We still have the person, but his/her individuality is gone. And that alone is sufficient to render that partner unattractive.

Fortunately, this relationship problem can easily be avoided. There are many ways to be nice to a partner and to nurture a relationship while keeping individuality intact. One is to make sure partners take turns compromising so the relationship remains equal. Another is to not do everything together. Doing things alone or with a friend (sports, going to exhibits or the movies, going on little weekend trips, etc.) and then coming back to the arms of your beloved to share your experience is good for everybody. It keeps the relationship fresh and exciting and reminds your partner of why he/she fell in love with you in the first place: because you are you!