The Sweet Spot: Finding The Middle Ground Between Empathetic and Standards

By: Vyky Saiz        Illustration: Marylou Faure

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When it comes to finding a partner we often bounce between two extremes, forgetting that middle grounds do exist. I don’t mean a cacophonous gray area that is complicated, contradictory, and hard to maneuver–also known as tolerance. I’m talking about compromise, real compromise, but a compromise that lies within. If we cannot compromise with ourselves about what we actually need then I don’t know how we ever expect to compromise with someone else.

I tend to be on the left side of this extreme- meaning that I will put up with almost anything. I completely let go of self-respect or personal boundaries if I can convince myself, which I almost always do, that the traits of my partner can and should be dealt with. This tends to leave me emotionally drained as I lie in bed wondering when the paradigm will shift and when I will get a chance to become completely unhinged. By the time I attempt to speak up about my needs, my voice has lost all power. The end result is an uncontrolled emotional spillage or I continue to resign because I’m too scared of what I might lose. This extreme causes me to exist for my partner as opposed to complimenting her.

Then there’s the other side of this dichotomy where the standards are so high finding a long-lasting partner is equally unrealistic. People on this side tend to have lists of necessary qualities that extend past ten bullet points. Deal breakers are seen too immediately and too frequently making most relationships die during courtship. Unlike low standards, possibly stemming from emotional dependency- unrealistic standards can be rooted in a fear of intimacy or disappointment. Perfection is acquirable if in our mind a perfect person means that they are able to make mistakes, but only some.

Finding a middle ground can be hard because you want to have standards but you don’t want to let the lack of delivery of those standards lead to disappointment and resentment. When approaching a new relationship or re-evaluating your current relationship, it’s important to keep these things in mind no matter which extreme you stand on:

  1. Never put being in the relationship above the quality of one. We all know that heartbreak sucks and we get over it, but we are also present beings so it can be difficult to not feel torn. Fear of abandonment or of being alone is never a reason to stay within a toxic environment.
  2. Keep in mind that your happiness doesn’t come before or after someone else’s, but hand-in-hand. Don’t sacrifice your self-esteem for anyone who doesn’t cherish it equally. Expecting respect is not a bad thing, but knowing the difference between what is respectful and disrespect is where it can get blurry.
  3. It’s important to have standards for your partner that you should expect for yourself. If you know that honest, direct communication of feelings is the key to a happy relationship and want your partner to fulfill that, then don’t be indirect, sarcastic, and passive-aggressive.

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