Complement or Compromise: Does Your Partner Really Complete You?

Are you complementing each other, or just compromising?
By Sarah Rae for

You say tomato, he says tomahto. It's something you love about him right now, but if the relationship doesn't last, it ends up on the list of things he did that drove you nuts. How can you tell in the beginning if you're falling for your complement or if you're just making compromises?

Your complement should not only have strengths in place of your weaknesses, it's a partner who also inspires you to be a better person. Your complement won't just get along with people you might not be crazy about, they'll also make the effort to understand why you're not crazy about them. A partner who is a complement to you makes the two of you as a unit an unstoppable force, a bionic couple.

Related: Love Yourself Before Loving Another

A complement becomes a compromise when you see your needs fall by the wayside. Your partner is always getting what they want. Food, movies, furniture, even friends are all things they love but you could do without. One day you find yourself wondering how you could have sacrificed so much, when it didn't initially feel like you were losing anything. Sometimes when we ride the wave of a new relationship everything is so exciting and novel that we just automatically make room for that person in our lives and some things get pushed to the margin. No one would ever get together otherwise.

Related: Is Staying in a Relationship for Sex OK?

What are the warning signs that, rather than being made complete, you're actually being stifled?

• Remember your original plans. If there was something you planned on doing before your partner showed up, follow through. This isn't just for your benefit, it's for theirs. Even if you're together for a lifetime you don't want to be blaming them for the things you didn't get to do. Go back to school, backpack through Europe, buy a new French bulldog. Get it done.

• Know your own history. Have you been walked all over before? How much does this new partner resemble your last? Whether your partner seems like the type of not, if you have that familiar feeling that you're about to become a doormat, you need to take some more time for yourself.

• Keep the balance. Surely there are a handful of things you love to do on a regular basis. Make sure they stay on the table, even if they are things you can't do with your partner. You don't have to follow some rigid routine, but don't let months go by without doing the things you love.

Related: Are you Living Your Life for Other People?

• Quirky or jerky? Some of the things that seem charming when you meet a person are the ways that set them apart from other people: the way they take their coffee, throw salt over their shoulder, have a method for tying their shoe laces, or sleep with precisely 2.5 pillows. But there is a line this can cross from quirk to jerk. Is your partner genuinely quirky or is that another word for selfish?

• Don't be overly sensitive to differences. The things you really end up loving about them may be what you least expected. My boyfriend swore he'd never want a dog and now he and my pup are inseparable.

• Listen to your friends. Your friends are the ones to notice how you change in a relationship. Are you adopting all your partner's favorite activities? Do you suddenly now love paintball and want to drive a Mustang? If you're saying completely opposite things from what you used to say: for instance, I don't mind the smell of cigar smoke at all, your friends have noticed. Let them tell you before you go any further down this road.

Related: Opposites Attract: But Should They?

Some compromise is perfectly healthy. Relationships couldn't get off the ground without them. But some things are simply non-negotiable. Try to project yourself in time: In the future could you resent this compromise? Or are the things that my partner wants a complement to my own goals and desires?

Sarah Rae is a writer and editor from New Orleans. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. More information can be found at helps people find happiness in the right relationship. If you've been through a breakup, divorce, or just haven't been able to find happiness in your love life, BounceBack is a place to tell your story, get community support and advice from experts, and find the confidence and strength you need to move forward. Check out our Facebook page.

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