Relationship Expectations - What does a couple need to have in common?
April 12, 2021 7:54 AM   Subscribe

What should reasonably be expected in a relationship?

Person-A and Person-B are in a relationship. They golf together, ride bikes together, have dinner together, hike together, etc. Person-A complains that they want Person-B to golf 18 rounds instead of 9; they want Person-B to rock climb in addition to hiking; they want Person-B to get a lighter, speedier bike so they can do long tours; they want Person-B to do more of a variety of things in bed; Person-A has a cat and Person-B is fine with that but Person-A wants Person-B to pay attention to the cat vs ignoring it; etc.

Person-B thinks the status quo is a pretty darned good deal for Person-A; that they have much more in common than Person-A would be able to find with other people.

Are Person-A and Person-B too mismatched?
posted by SageTrail to Human Relations (55 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Not too mismatched in terms of interests; probably too mismatched in terms of what they think is reasonable for one partner to ask of another. Liking different levels of the same activity isn't a problem. (Liking different activities isn't a problem!) One person having a long list of unilateral demands and the other person feeling like things are fine as they are, though—that's more of an issue. How you relate to that issue may vary but personally I would not continue dating a person with this many requests for how I could better match my favorite pastimes to theirs. Pay attention to your own cat and get another friend!
posted by babelfish at 8:03 AM on April 12 [38 favorites]

Does person A also feel like they got a good deal?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:05 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]

Compatibility in a relationship doesn't have to do 1:1 with activities or even activities themselves in my experience. There are much larger buckets and things than whether to golf 9 or 18 holes.

The mismatch would come in if they can't talk about their wants, needs, life experiences that brought them to where they are, their goals (internal and external) for the future in a kind, non-judgmental way to build a life together. Even if there were just ONE thing on that list above, if it were allowed to fester and mutate, things would probably eventually go bad so how many are on the list isn't really important.

There is an interesting dynamic where one partner, say Person-A, wants the other Person B to conform perfectly to their expectations, but the sort of person they are looking for isn't a passive/do whatever type of person. So they literally can't have it both ways unless Person-B were to subsume their previous personality into the new. It happens. It isn't really sustainable.

I really want you to focus on having an open dialogue with this person. The best book I always recommend that changed my life I did with my fiance soon after we met called 8 Dates and it opened up so much communication and understanding of how our life experiences shaped how we saw trust, conflict, sex, money, family, etc. You might both find some really surprising and empathetic things about WHY that partner wants to do the things they want to do. Or you might find out they're an asshole! I can't say.

My partner and I are constantly discovering new things about each other, if they did everything I said and liked everything I liked... it would be less to me. This is a lesson that I think takes a long time to learn. We seem to have a societal notion that our "soul-mate" #1 exists #2 will be just like us. Instead, I find that a yin/yang with aligned morals, ethics, energy level works for me at least.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:07 AM on April 12 [13 favorites]

Person A sounds like a demanding asshole. Whether this is OK to Person B is up to them, but it would be a red flag for me.
posted by pipeski at 8:08 AM on April 12 [52 favorites]

I think “do we have enough in common or not” is a red herring. It sounds like person A has no interest in B’s preferences or desires and is just trying to fit B into their life as a bonus accessory. Obviously we’re only getting part of the story here but it sounds like A needs to be told how extremely unchill it is to try and dictate another adult’s free time.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:08 AM on April 12 [37 favorites]

I mean honestly neither having a long list of demands NOR feeling like the other person should be more grateful for the relationship is tremendously healthy. They should probably split up because regardless of how much they have in common, they don't seem happy.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:13 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]

They have so much in common! They just need to respect each other's preferences a little bit.

I mean, spend enough time with people, and your standards will quickly change. If Person A loved biking, and person B was a couch potato, person A would wish "oh, I wish you would bike with me". After a year or two "Oh, I wish we could go on tours together!" After a year or two "Oh, I wish we could race together!" "oh I wish you bought MY SPECIFIC BRAND OF BIKE" "WHY AREN"T YOU EXACTLY AT MY PACE YOU ARE TOO FAST OR TWO SLOW".

It's an easy pitfall to fall into! It's just important that both people have a lot of respect for the other's preferences, but are also willing to try new things. Like, my wife and I play video games every day and get along GREAT. But, she just won't play factorio with me! She tried it once, said "oh, I actually liked it more than I expected", and doesn't want to play more. It's INFURIATING! But, like, some people don't even play video games! I can't imagine!

So, it's a lot of having perspective, being thankful for what we are, not trying to change partners, breaking up and realizing how much you don't care about little things, along with your partner being willing to try new things now and then, or do things just to be nice now and then.

But, the partner being willing to entertain/try new things is an important thing too! It's a pretty easy way to give to a partner and it's usually not THAT impossible.

One warning I'd give, is getting someone to try new things is a lot different than trying to change someone. I know my wife will never love factorio. I just want her to go through the motions with me. She won't, and that's okay. I don't need to somehow change her into someone who really loves factorio. She really loves sports games, and won't for one second try to make me play them. I can't imagine suffering through a sports game. I've attended sports in real life, and it's terrible, but I try my best to be a good partner.

In conclusion, the preferences and desires shown in the question are normal/inevitable in a long relationship, but both parties shouldn't let themselves let those things overtake the rest of the happy relationship and respect for each other.
posted by bbqturtle at 8:13 AM on April 12 [3 favorites]

Way too little information to be able to answer. Requires too much speculation and assumptions about compatibility. Compatibility has nothing to do with common interests.
posted by AugustWest at 8:14 AM on April 12 [18 favorites]

I don't think it's reasonable for someone to expect their partner to share all of all their interests, especially to that level of specificity (like, Person B has showed up for 9 rounds of activity that person A is into.... that seems more than good enough imo). You don't go into detail on the sex but as a general rule I also don't think it's reasonable to expect people to be perfectly matched on all their sexual activity preferences, especially if some of those preferences are unusual or things that the majority of persons wouldn't be into. Hard to say from what you've provided though; some level of compatibility on sex is very important. Incompatibility on smaller details is not such a big thing, as long as you can talk through the big stuff (e.g., kids, money, fights, future plans, health). In my mind, Incompatibility isn't so much "we like different activities" but more so "our values are different, our ways of being are Incompatible, we cannot argue fairly, we cannot talk through things to come to reasonable compromises".

In my opinion, Person A needs to consider that they should not rely on a partner to meet all of their desires re activities. They can do some of the things they want to do independently, or with friends. But insistence that person B wholly conform to their lifestyle is just.... not cool. Independence in a relationship is a good thing. If they want someone who is basically their clone and are not approaching the relationship with an understanding that B is a separate person with their own set of values and interests that need to be nurtured, that's a big red flag.
posted by DTMFA at 8:16 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]

Follow up:

"After being with you, having things in common is OVERRATED. We have the most important things in common... The most important thing is that we aren't assholes."

My partner on my reading this question to them, haha.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:16 AM on April 12 [27 favorites]

If they haven't already, Person B needs to make their boundaries clear--as in "I enjoy going on short rides but don't have an interest in bike tours," "I would like one day of each weekend to pursue my own interests," "I would like you to stop pushing for more of X because I do not want to do it and I feel bad when you keep pestering about it"--because there is some chance that Person A is a bit self-centered and clueless but would respond well to clearly-stated preferences and boundaries.

I suspect that Person A will respond poorly, though, as they sound like they are looking for a malleable accessory to their life rather than a fully human partner. In which case, DTMFA.
posted by xylothek at 8:17 AM on April 12 [13 favorites]

You can dump him for anytime any reason. He's an at-will boyfriend.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 8:20 AM on April 12 [23 favorites]

Person A is a demanding asshole who is disrespecting Person B to the point of dehumanizing them. They're not asking Person B to "share common interests" (i.e. doing mutually pleasurable activities together for fun), they're expecting Person B to dance, monkey, dance for Person A's entertainment and edification, even if Person B does not want to. It's gross enough when they make these demands about golfing and buying expensive bikes, but PRESSURING A PARTNER TO PROVIDE THE KIND OF SEX THEY LIKE WHICH THE PARTNER IS NOT INTO? This is sexual abuse.

Person B wanting person A to pay more attention to the cat rather than ignore the cat is a much more reasonable, normal, and unselfish request. Most people consider their pets to be members of their family, and it's hurtful when a significant other ignores your beloved pet without any explanations given (e.g. a cat phobia, an allergy, disliking this cat's temperament, etc.).

I will add: if you are Person B, and Person A is also the person who threatened to summarily break up with you unless you gave up your city apartment with an easy commute and moved in with him in his isolated country house, then I hope for your sake that you will leave this relationship before it becomes even more abusive than it already is.
posted by MiraK at 8:26 AM on April 12 [25 favorites]

It sounds to me like Person A has a really hard time enjoying doing much of anything without their partner. That's probably not super healthy for Person A, Person B, or their relationship, and from where this internet stranger is sitting, all three could benefit from Person A working on cultivating interests separate from the relationship. And doing some internal work on why they need their partner to enjoy things before they can allow themself to enjoy them, too.
posted by solotoro at 8:32 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]

Person A may or may not be a demanding asshole -- it depends on how the "do more" requests are posed -- but they clearly do not accept Person B for who they are.

It's really tiring being pushed harder and faster and longer allllll the time, and it really sucks to always have a niggling feeling that, underneath it all, your partner doesn't actually accept you for who you are.

It's possible that Person A does not understand the cumulative effects of their "encouragements", which are larger than the sum of each nudge. But I'd bet that Person A's version of this mismatch in ambition, which is what it is, would involve some resentment similar to Person B's resentment.
posted by Dashy at 8:33 AM on April 12 [4 favorites]

So...person A is constantly giving person B the feeling that what they do and what they are just isn't enough.
And I bet it's not limited to shared interests. (Is the not enoughness expanding into other areas?)
This is not sustainable.
posted by Omnomnom at 8:34 AM on April 12 [7 favorites]

Answering the question as asked, I'd say you need a shared basic world view and ethics, similar interest in raising children, probably a similar sense of humor. . . and the fact that you truly enjoy spending time with each other. Having not entirely incompatible interests in bed helps, but both sides may need to compromise there. That's about it. My partner spends their career working on things I don't find exciting. I spend most of my time doing things they don't care about. We don't even like the same kinds of films, much less the same exercise routines. It's a great relationship. We enjoy spending time together doing the things we both share.

Expecting your partner to be your companion in *everything* is childish. The person you want to kiss and eat breakfast with doesn't need to be the person you go rock-climbing with. (Or even do kinky things in bed with.) The world is full of people who already like those things. Tell partner-B to get some other friends and an independent life of their own. It's a far less important, but also tell partner-A that it's their cat and it's not actually their partner's responsibility to do anything except not abuse or hurt it, and feed it and change the litter when partner-A is out of town.

(It's also true that nobody needs a reason to break up with someone except, "this isn't making me happier than not doing this." "I really want to spend time with a partner who likes cats" is reason enough. It's okay to dislike cats. It's okay to not want to be with someone who dislikes cats.) Best wishes and good luck!
posted by eotvos at 8:35 AM on April 12 [7 favorites]

Person A needs to be dropped like a (dangerously) hot potato.

The "tell" here is the thing about the cat. A is LITERALLY TRYING TO CRITIQUE AND CONTROL B'S INTERACTION WITH A CAT.

The rest of it, we could say A needs to chill, A needs to learn to bike on their own for a few miles and not be such a baby, etc. But the thing with the cat takes this into neon red DTMFA flag territory.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:36 AM on April 12 [7 favorites]

On the surface, I have next to nothing in common with my husband. He's an exercise fanatic, eats vegetarian, loves heavy metal, loves live music, loves exploring new places, is private and would happily live in a minimalist house and interact closely with other humans once a month. He'd have sex twice a day every day. I like to be home, to entertain friends, watch movies and read, go to some live music but not in a way that overlaps much with him, once a week is good for me.

We've been married 17 years and together more than 20.

We have really interesting conversations and debates. We make each other laugh. I cook him vegetarian food, and he watches movies with me. We read the same books occasionally. I have sex more often than I would ideally. He takes me to musicals for my birthday.

When we were going through a really rough time, the thing that helped us was understanding the concept of love languages. You can take the test of whatever, but what it boils down to is that my husband feels loved when I spend time with him, and when we are in physical proximity. I feel loved when I receive gifts or someone does things for me. So instead of cooking dinner for him or making sure his laundry is done, I sit with him at dinner without devices and talk, or go on walks with him and hold hands. And he has learned that it makes me VERY HAPPY when he gets my oil changed or fills up the tank.

So it's entirely possible that the partner doesn't REALLY care if they play 9 or 18 holes. Maybe they don't feel close after 9 holes because the 9 holes are given begrudgingly. Or because when the partner isn't playing golf with them, the partner is hanging out with other people (I need other people; my husband doesn't - he'd be happy if I was his EVERYTHING. I can't do that, it's suffocating).

It's about communication and setting expectations and respecting each other. That matters more than what you have in common.

*It's also possible A is an asshole.

** The best advice I ever got from a therapist was to eliminate "should" from our vocabularies. It isn't "we should be playing 18 holes" its "I would like if we could play 18 holes together today". This makes a huge difference if one of the partners generally feels judged by the other one. It also makes it easier to vocalize and communicate when something is a *must* instead of a *like*, which takes practice. I would like you to play 18 holes of golf with me is different than "I want you to stay home with me because it's my birthday and if you don't do that I'm going to be very hurt and upset".

posted by dpx.mfx at 8:37 AM on April 12 [12 favorites]

Sorry - my comment above was entirely confused regarding who was who. I though the cat lover and the bike lover were opposite people in the relationship. Please ignore everything I said. (Thanks, fingersandtoes, for saying something that make my error clear.)
posted by eotvos at 8:40 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]

Trying to be as neutral as possible here. It sounds like Person A does not feel like their needs are being met in the relationship; and Person B does not feel like meeting those needs is necessary. Examples and reasons aside, this doesn't sound like a tenable relationship for either party. Whether either party should compromise and to what extent is unknowable from the way the question is phrased.

Shared interests do not a relationship make, but shared priorities do. In this example, it doesn't sound like Person B shares Person A's priorities; and vice versa.
posted by ailouros08 at 8:40 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]

I'm just chiming in to agree that having common values is far more important than having common interests... like valuing the other person's autonomy, interests, needs and wants.

Having been in a relationship with someone very like Person A, I can confirm that the bar keeps moving and it becomes impossible to shape yourself into an appropriately-pliant person-shaped thing that Person A requires. Not to mention that this process is incredibly destructive to your sense of self, among other things.

I have a feeling that there are other things that feel a bit icky or wrong, and that little voice setting off an alarm can be easy to ignore but it is giving you extremely valuable information.
posted by bighappyhairydog at 8:45 AM on April 12 [7 favorites]

I don't think we have enough context about how these conversations sound and feel in the moment to know if they're actually mismatched. (Yelling? Whining? tones?) I think this might be a good case for couples therapy so a professional can help you through this.

This sentiment I want to call out:
Person-B thinks the status quo is a pretty darned good deal for Person-A; that they have much more in common than Person-A would be able to find with other people.

"I'm better than anyone else you will find so I don't need to do more" isn't a great outlook for long term comfort. I heard a rule of thumb that if both participants feel like they're doing 60%, meaning if both feel like they're doing a little more than is fair, then both participants will feel more supported and cared for. I'm not saying that you have to get a certain bike if your partner asks for it or you're not doing a good job, but if your message is "Like it or lump it" then don't be surprised if the answer you get back is they're lumping it.
posted by bleep at 8:46 AM on April 12 [8 favorites]

Person A's expectations appear to be that Person B must become exactly like Person A in order to be truly compatible, and that Person B is the only person who can properly share these activities with Person A. I feel like this bodes poorly if Person B is ever ill or finds a consuming hobby/friends of their own that Person A is uninterested in. (One thing that goes unstated: Does Person B insist that Person A leave the golf game early, stay home instead of going to the climbing gym, or get jealous if A goes for a bike ride with a friend? I'm guessing not, but the framing doesn't mention it one way or the other.) Person A needs more activity friends. It's possible that Person B needs to be cool with that for the relationship to be compatible.

As a point of reference, I've found that there are a lot of activities that on the surface my partner and I share, but we enjoy them differently. Sometimes we bike together to a shared location. Other times I go for one of my long meandering bike rides, and he goes for one of his short sprints. He comes home blissed out and sweaty, takes a shower, and makes lunch. I come home unsweaty and blissed out just as he sets out the food and I tell him about a sign for a hiking trail we haven't tried before and a new bakery and a funny cat I saw laying in the sun. Compatibility doesn't always mean complete sharing of the activity.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:49 AM on April 12 [8 favorites]

When I was young I was a little like Person A, and it was grounded in the sort of inadequacy that solotoro describes. But also in a lack of consideration of my partner as a complete person in themselves. At some point we had a fight about it and got near to breaking up and I realized I didn't have the option, "this exact person, but with these three things changed" - I had the option of this person, or a different whole person.
posted by Lady Li at 8:49 AM on April 12 [10 favorites]

And to clarify, I too got person-A and person-B mixed up. Just switch my you pronouns to they.
posted by bleep at 8:50 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]

Being in a relationship with someone who is coercing their partner into having the kinds of sex they don't really want is a very, very confusing experience, as well as an extremely damaging one.

Very much this.

Coercing a partner into anything, whether that be by violence or threats of violence or by psychological methods down to and including relentless grinding requests that don't stop until they're acceded to, is failing to treat that partner as an equally autonomous being.

Having sex with anybody but an equally autonomous and equally enthusiastic being is totally missing the point of sex. It's elaborate masturbation, not sex, and the person being treated as the fuck doll is always better off not sticking around for more of it.
posted by flabdablet at 8:53 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]

And basically the thing that forced that realization for me was for him to put his foot down about it and say, hey, I've given X a good try for you, I care and I've made an effort, but I'm not interested in more of it, and I want to do other things with my time. You need to respect that if you want to be with me.
posted by Lady Li at 8:53 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]

If you're asking, you already know.
posted by kingdead at 8:54 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]

I clicked on the link to this question, expecting to find a question about differing life goals or financial preferences, or disagreement about families.

Instead I find a question about golf and rockclimbing compatibilities?? These are really trivial matters in the larger question of whether two partners are actually compatible or not.

If you are already arguing about the small stuff, what are you going to do about the big stuff?
posted by moiraine at 9:02 AM on April 12 [9 favorites]

Expecting your partner to be your companion in *everything* is childish.


In our 26 years of marriage my husband and I have both gone through approximately a gazillion activities at greater or lesser degrees of difficulty, time, etc. Those things have changed. They have not always changed together.

One thing I love about us is that we do try each other's things...eventually. I finally got on the back of my husband's motorcycle (until we had kids and being on the same bike wasn't a great idea); I got into camping two years ago and he's gotten enthusiastically on board; he started martial arts but now it's my job and he hasn't been teaching lately; neither one of us expected to start indoor wall rock climbing but our kids love it...and so on.

But at any given point in time we may or may not be into the same things. I love to bike...calmly. On my $200 Skelanimals pink cruiser bike. He loves to zoom ahead on his fancy road bike. We meet at the check points.

I worry that you are having to ask this question, it all sounds very inflexible and controlling. Except maybe the cat but even there I think it's okay for a cat to get its attention from one human and benign companionship from another.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:02 AM on April 12 [3 favorites]

Yeah, person A sounds insufferable, which may or may not be fair.

Some couples do a lot of stuff together, some don't. A well matched couple has respect for each other, and their likes and dislikes. In this regard, it is not a good match.

B's perspective that the relationship is a "good deal" for A, might be true enough, but it doesn't sound like the relationship is as good a deal for B...

The "you are not interacting with my cat the way I want you to" is kind of odd and, in addition to the other stuff, makes me think B is never going to be able to satisfy A.
posted by rhonzo at 9:03 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]

This stuff is small potatoes. Person B can set some boundaries and either Person A will accept them or not (and if not, perhaps it's time to move on). The big questions are "will we have kids?" "how do we handle money" "how meticulous are you about housecleaning?" and that sort of thing. Not "how involved are you in my hobby?"
posted by adamrice at 9:07 AM on April 12 [3 favorites]

not interests, but values.

If you both value the same ratio of alone to together-time, you have shared values. Your expectations around what you "should" be doing together are rooted in your values. Do not compromise on your values - it leads to resentment.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 9:10 AM on April 12 [5 favorites]

In a TV documentary about Paul Simon, Mike Nichols, the film director, offered this view of relationships: Every person is either a flower or a gardener. If a flower and a gardener marry, there is a good chance of it going well. A marriage of two gardeners may work for some couples, but a marriage of two flowers rarely works.

Person A is a flower, needing constant watering and weeding. What kind of flower? Maybe a narcissus.

I don't know about B.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:23 AM on April 12 [10 favorites]

I also would recommend the book 8 Dates. It will lead to important conversations, and if either person is not willing to have those conversations, that would be a red flag here. The way the question is worded it's not clear that B is being pressured into sex that makes them uncomfortable. Asking is not always pressuring. My husband has asked for things sexually that I had not previously thought I would enjoy, and the asking started the conversation and led to some experiementation which then led to some yesses, some hard nos, and some yesses with boundaries. None of it was pressure though.

We also are polar opposites on many things like hobbies and entertainment but are also aligned in things like values and what's important in healthy relationships, and I don't think we'd survive (30 years now) without those aligned values. We've also grown together and refined those values as we got older. We have both begrudgingly done activities simply for the other, but nothing so extreme as to cause distress or discomfort for the other. I could smile through 9 rounds of golf but hey you go enjoy the back 9 while I grab a bourbon in the clubhouse with my book and I'll be there reading when you are done, however long that takes.
posted by archimago at 9:28 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]

As described here, it sounds like a bad deal all around. Person A has something going on that's hard to say from what we know but it raises flags - too demanding? not working hard enough at finding other social/personal outlets for some of their needs? unable to compromise? Unclear, but it raises my hackles and if I were Person B, I'd be leaning pretty hard on Person A to figure out other ways to get some of their social/activity needs met and to back way the fuck off about pressing for any particular sexual activities.

That said, "you'd have a hard time finding anyone else who matches you as well as I do" is a fairly shitty thing to say on the face of it, though a great deal depends on what words were actually said.

I guess mostly I just think that liking the same activities is, for me, one of the least important parts of a relationship. That stuff will change. Liking each other as people, having respect for each other as people, and navigating mismatches in the relationship together is far more important, and it doesn't sound like that stuff is going well on either front. They probably either need to put a ton of work into figuring out what's keeping them together outside of what activities they like, and nurturing that, or to break up and find people more matched to their respective needs.
posted by Stacey at 9:34 AM on April 12 [6 favorites]

I would ask the cat whether it wishes to be paid attention to. It may not care; it's a cat.

(yes, I know that some cats are attention seekers. But often, they are perfectly happy with attention from their one or two special people, and have no interest or need in attention from anyone else, or even dislike it.)
posted by jb at 10:13 AM on April 12 [2 favorites]

I think the thing that really catches me up the most is A's lack of consideration for boundaries, and in most of these examples they are literal physical time + energy boundaries, plus interest on top of that.

I do actually understand the B argument of "we're actually in sync on activities a lot more than you might find with a lot of people" just because that is something I have noticed about people with A-type activity profiles (mostly meaning they spend a lot of their available free time on sports for an adult that isn't in school) - most of them do not have partners who do all their same hobbies with them. (In point of fact, most of them have partners who take care of significantly more domestic management than can be done by the person who's always playing golf, playing and/or coaching league tag football (or some other adult team sport), and training for/riding centuries every weekend.) I think it's fairly unusual for a couple to be able to sustain that amount of together-activities and I think it's a reasonable rebuttal to a partner who insists you need to do more than you're doing or you are failing to be a good partner.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:55 AM on April 12 [7 favorites]

Person-B thinks the status quo is a pretty darned good deal for Person-A

Not Person-B's call.

Person-B would be better off monitoring how darned good a deal the status quo is for Person-B.

No matter how insufferably entitled Person-A might be, judging how good a deal the status quo is for Person-A is nobody's right and responsibility but Person-A's.

Gardeners and flowers be buggered. No intimate relationship can possibly be healthy without being first and foremost a freely chosen association between equals.
posted by flabdablet at 10:59 AM on April 12 [7 favorites]

I’m guessing Persons A and B are relatively young. Of course we all want our partners to meet our every need but anyone who’s been a block or two realizes that even if you start out both wanting to golf 18 holes and dressing the cat in adorable costumes, life is going to change you both, over and over and over again. The point isn’t to be two copies of the same person. Person A sounds like they’re not ready for an adult relationship.
posted by HotToddy at 11:25 AM on April 12 [1 favorite]

Please tell us that you did not give up your neighborhood to live with this guy. The control is NEVER going to stop, and will escalate.
posted by cyndigo at 11:34 AM on April 12 [7 favorites]

To answer the top-line question of "what does a couple need to have in common," I would say it is ultimately an acceptance of the fact that love must always grow in the soil of difference. Yes, it is important to share things (and what those things specifically are will vary depending on the specific couple), but it will be impossible to share or find commonality on every possible thing. There is a certain point at which we must acknowledge that the other is not us, and never will be. A mature adult relationship not only recognizes this radical difference, but works to incorporate it as a further basis for love. If one or neither partner has achieved this kind of recognition and acceptance, then that relationship will generally be more strained and difficult.
posted by obliterati at 12:00 PM on April 12 [4 favorites]

Best answer: This dynamic sounds exhausting. Having an interest in common doesn't mean you must like it with the same intensity, and especially doesn't mean the less invested/passionate person is obligated to increase their participation to match their partner's. I think a key factor here is: what is A's reaction when B sets a firm limit based on their personal preference, such as, "I only enjoy golfing nine holes," or, "I'm not interested in getting a different bike or going on longer tours," or, "I don't want to try XYZ in bed"? The appropriate answers are things like, "OK," or, "Bummer! But ok," or, "I really want to go on longer tours, so I'm going to join a local cycling group," or, "I'm not happy with the kind of sex we're having, can we find some things to try that you would be comfortable with?"

Sometimes people like A try to argue that B's limits aren't valid because they haven't, like, perfectly articulated why they have that preference. This is toxic garbage. "I don't want to," is a fully valid reason not to do something that is supposed to be fun, like rock climbing or a new sexual position.
posted by theotherdurassister at 12:09 PM on April 12 [16 favorites]

wait, is this the guy who was ultimatum-ing you to give up your apartment? was he also the one badgering you incessantly about the tandem bike?! If it is, then put eight exclamation points onto the response I already gave above... do you really want to stick around to find out what ELSE is going to go on the list of stuff you need to perform for him despite not wanting to, and the ways in which he will call you inadequate?
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:53 PM on April 12 [6 favorites]

Is this behavior temporarily inflected by covid concerns? I know when I had to more or less shrink my social bubble to my spouse, he ended up taking on more involvement in my physical hobbies than he probably would have preferred to. We were both pretty clear in the expectation of his participation ending after it was safe to do so, because he doesn't like that stuff at all.

Under normal circumstances, my spouse and I have some different hobbies and some of the same hobbies, and that's fine. I have friends and acquaintances for doing the stuff I like and he doesn't, and quite frankly, I prefer having some disparate circles and interests. The most I generally ask from him is trying some sort of new activity once or twice a year with me, and then if either of us don't want to do the thing again, no big deal. We're in a committed relationship, not conjoined twins.
posted by tautological at 12:54 PM on April 12 [2 favorites]

I don't like to assume based on past posts because it can be a derail, but if this is indeed the same person in your past posts about making you ride a tandem and move to his house by an ultimatum and insisting that dogs licking feet is ok ... this is solidly in DTMFA territory. If this is the pattern, I hate to think of you spending so much of your life trying to uphold simple boundaries.
posted by Dashy at 1:56 PM on April 12 [2 favorites]

I haven't read your other questions, and I am more like Person A in my relationship. My partner is more like Person B in that he is just a chill mellow dude and most things are fine with him. But! This works for both of us. I am the one with the momentum in the relationship "Hey let's try some stuff" and he is the one who is a solid emotionally grounded person who helps me and my weird energy chill. I think the examples you give can be seen through different lenses depending on what happens next, as many people have ably pointed out above. Like, I don't golf but if this were us, we'd probably do 18 holes half the time and nine half the time, why not? And I might say "Hey let's try a thing in bed" and he could say "Nah" and we'd move on and I'd drop it.

However, if I continued to complain about the sex stuff or the golf stuff, or if he kept saying "This, everything, is FINE THE WAY IT IS, stop trying to make it different, you've got it pretty good." we'd have words, because our relationship is about us finding the best us we can be and sometimes this means stretching, and sometimes this means relaxing (each of our specialties) and so while there's some fundamental tensions there, ultimately we're compatible because we believe, in word and deed, in the Team Us approach to the world. Which means you don't harangue your partner to go a direction they don't want to go (unless they have asked and could use some help like "Help me manage this big issue in my life") and you don't spend your life in a relationship that you complain about.

And because we're not a kind of "on paper" compatible couple, we have a few things that we are fundamentally different about, we talk about this specific thing "Just checking in, this still is mostly working for you right?" and we talk. We've been together 13 years, it's the best relationship I've ever been in.
posted by jessamyn at 3:48 PM on April 12 [2 favorites]

‘No’ is a complete sentence. If that’s not good enough for this pushy asshole, show them the door. You are an actual person with your own wants and needs, not a trained dolphin, jumping through his hoops on his whims.
posted by Jubey at 5:39 PM on April 12 [2 favorites]

If this is the same dude from your first need to seriously take a look at your attachment style and associated boundary issues. I'm not saying this to shame you. I, too, have problems setting boundaries within a relationship.

But damn. This guy sounds like he's never going to stop pushing you. I'd advise you to get out of this relationship and do some work on identifying unhealthy patterns so you dont have to go through this again.
posted by ananci at 5:54 PM on April 12 [2 favorites]

Person A needs some actual friends, instead of expecting Person B to be their mini-me.

Does Person B get to have their own interests and activities, and does Person A join in? Or is it all me-me-me from Person A? I’m pretty sure I can guess the answer.
posted by tinkletown at 4:53 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]

Also! What happens when Person A loses interest in golf, and takes up triathlon? Does Person B have to stop golfing too, and start training for an Ironman! Again, pretty clear what the answer is. Person A doesn’t want a partner, they want a sidekick. I would not be up for permanent assistant status to my other half.
posted by tinkletown at 4:58 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]

I’m trying to read the question entirely at face value, which is hard, because my mind instantly imagines discussions and arguments that might be entirely different from what happens. There’s no indication of how big a deal any of these things are for either party or how much damage they cause to the relationship. For example, this:

they want Person-B to do more of a variety of things in bed

Even leaving aside the issue of when and how this request (or suggestion or demand) is raised, it could have several very different outcomes after Person B declines (or refuses, or storms off):

* they both agree not to do those extra things, and it’s fine, and never mentioned again
* Person A keeps asking every day/week/month despite Person B declining
* they end up in a massive row with tantrums and slamming doors and tears
* Person B isn’t wild about doing these things but does them anyway p, sometimes
* Person A forces Person B to do these things against their will

And there are many more variations, each compatible with the statement “they want Person-B to do more of a variety of things in bed”, but each with very different implications for this relationship.

My partner would like me to go on 4 week treks in Nepal with her. I don’t want to go. For some couples maybe that would be a deal breaker - it’s a big difference about how to spend a lot of free time! There might be rows, I might grudgingly go on the trek and hate it and spoil it for her, or she might refuse to go without me and be miserable and hold this grudge against me. Again, very different outcomes from one “incompatibility”.

As it is, she goes on the trek with friends and has a great time, I stay home and am quite happy, we both miss each other, but it’s all fine, year after year.

My point is that wanting to do different things in itself isn’t the issue - it’s how both parties deal with those differences. That is the thing you need to have in common.
posted by fabius at 6:13 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A number of these responses seem overly harsh. A could be an asshole, but also could just love B and want more more more of them -- easy for that to lead to trouble in real life, but flattering if looked at in a different light. And B is allowed to think the couple is a fortunate pairing -- despite some of these other responses, I didn't see anything where B thinks A is lucky to be with them (or if B does feel that way, they might feel it's mutual). What you wrote about B's thoughts, stripped of any inferences by people who've written above, may well be 100% accurate.

Under this more charitable or possibly unduly charitable reading, I'd agree with DTMFA that A seems to be assigning B too big a role here. I don't doubt it'd be great for A if B wanted to get in 18 holes, but A's being disappointed over only playing 9 and B's resenting feeling coerced into playing 18, or whatever, aren't the only two possible outcomes. A could spread their golfing self around some, play 9 with B but reach out to a like-minded friend when they want to play 18. Given the disparity described, it sounds like A is putting too many of their biking/hiking/petting eggs in one Basket -- then compounding the mistake by being vocally disappointed. I don't blame B for feeling like A doesn't know a good thing when they have it.

Obviously, A could also be exhausting and prone to guilt trips and an asshole. But it's not the only possibility.
posted by troywestfield at 12:07 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]

Person B will never be able to do enough for Person A because Person A will never be satisfied. That's the only way Person A can continue to manipulate and control Person B, by always demanding more and making it clear to Person B that they aren't enough. Because the real problem here, I suspect, is that Person A doesn't think Person A is good enough, and they project that onto Person B. Person B is going to start to feel very small after a while, and like the relationship doesn't have much space for their wants and needs. It's always going to be about Person A. Always.

My partner and I are currently starting a hobby that he's ALL GUNG HO INTO and I'm enjoying. This is requiring some compromise from both of us. He would very much like me to do this hobby with him, but he would also like to be able to go all in at lightning speed. He doesn't get both because I don't want to go in at lightning speed. We are maybe going a bit faster than I would choose, and much slower than he would. We also make sure we have conversations about what things I want to be doing and plan those things together, so it's not always and only about doing this hobby. We've had some tension around this because HE'S VERY EXCITED about this new hobby. But we're figuring it out with lots of conversation. Can Person A do this? I suspect not.

Like, it's okay to not want to ride the tandem. Truly.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:32 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]

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