Why It's Not High Maintenance To Ask Questions In A Relationship

Photo: Terhi Tuovinen/ABC.
Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers about last night's episode of The Bachelor. Read at your own risk.
Last night's Bachelor finale involved a lot more conversation than the usual coy "I have strong feelings for you" rambling, and that's a testament to Vanessa, Nick's fiancé, and the recipient of The Final Rose. Vanessa had a lot of questions — mostly about how his priorities in the relationship measured up to hers — and rightfully so, given that she was about to decide whether to spend the rest of her life with him.
Still, people on Twitter said Vanessa was acting too high maintenance, especially compared to Raven:
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But actually, there is nothing high maintenance about telling your partner what's important to you, and in fact, it's essential, says Lena Aburdene Derhally, MS, LPC, a licensed psychotherapist. "Later on down the road, you'll find after you're already invested in somebody that it's not going to work out because you didn't discuss in the beginning," Derhally says. "You could save a lot of trouble if you do more of what Vanessa did."
It's important at any stage of your relationship, whether you've been dating for years or just met on a reality TV show, to know what your deal breakers are and make them known to your partner, she says. "It doesn't mean you make crazy demands, but you have to talk about your needs with each other, because if you repress that, resentment builds up and leads to deterioration of the relationship," Derhally says. And you should keep doing this periodically throughout your relationship, because your relationship dynamic changes, says Michelle Hope, a sexologist. "It’s like a job in that you get performance reviews, and people should be doing that in their relationships as well, because it's work," she says.
If you're afraid that voicing your concerns will make your partner get freaked and run away, shift your thinking: "Being high maintenance is like being protective of yourself," says Hope. "It allows you to make informed decisions, because if you don't have all the facts, you can't make decisions." When discussing concerns with your partner, Derhally suggests using "I feel" phrasing rather than "you do" phrases, because it's less accusatory. "Framing it as a discussion about your feelings, as opposed to ultimatums and what your partner is doing wrong," will be more productive, she says. There's also nothing wrong with ultimately ending on a compromise (those are healthy, too), as long as both parties are comfortable and feel like their needs are met without giving up too much, she says.
As this Bachelor backlash shows, there is an unfortunate pressure to be as low maintenance and "chill" as possible, so some people feel like it's easier to just ask for nothing and go along with whatever their partner wants. Do this, and Derhally says you'll end up playing yourself and causing a lot of anxiety in the relationship. "Even though you might not have active conflict, you're still unhappy and anxious, because there's an imbalanced power dynamic," she says. "People are attracted to people who challenge them, because it creates a level of respect." If you bend over backwards for your partner, it can create a "disruptive relationship dynamic," she says. Hope agrees that you should get it all out there early: "We can be quick to hop in bed with someone, why not be quick to bring up that you really care about your family?"
In the end, Nick had it down to two women who both aren't afraid to speak up. Remember Raven's confession that she had never had an orgasm? So saying one woman is "high maintenance" while the other is "fun" isn't really a fair comparison (not to mention, it's totally possible to be both high maintenance — whatever that means — and fun). But Vanessa's ability to know what she wants and verbalize it might be the key to her success and everyone else's in the Bachelor Nation. "I think that's one of the reasons why Nick picked her," Derhally says. "She respects herself."
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