I could keep it simple and respond "I'm sure the truth is in the middle, and what you should do is compromise,"
...but this is an advice column, and not only would that would be fairly boring advice, but life is rarely ever that simple anyway!
So let's look at the situation from a few different angles, and see what resonates for you.
Thinking about you and the behavior your partner is speaking about.... is their request, need, or perceived relationship deficit a theme that tends to show up in other areas of your life?
Meaning- in your other close relationships or primary environments (think work, family of origin, school, sports teams, etc.), are there common themes about you that show up (even if in a humorous way) that match or parallel the concerns your partner is verbalizing?
For the sake of example, let's use the workplace environment ...
...say you are someone who tends not to express your feelings or opinions at work... or you are one to either hold on to your resentments silently... or you are someone who might leave your co-workers feeling unsure how you feel about them due to your closed nature or unwavering neutrality...
While that trait may be unremarkable, just "quirky", or possibly even helpful or amusing at work, it still could potentially cause conflict at home.
Or perhaps it works the opposite way in the workplace... there, you are warm, friendly, and expressive, while you present as more closed and withholding in the context of your most initimate relationships. These dichotomous behaviors can feel confusing for your partner... and for you!
Do you ever feel confused by your partners feedback and requests because you feel that how other important people in your life would describe you is in high contrast with what your partner is expressing?
For example, do people experience you to be a loving, expressive and generous person, and yet your partner doesn't seem to view you that way? If that is the case, why do you think that is? If you think it is because you are truly showing a different version of yourself to your partner than you show in other enviornments, why do you think that is?
Alternatively, do you feel that your persona is fairly consistent in all environments and relationships, and yet your partner seems to respond to to you differently than everyone else does? If it's the latter, what do you make of that?
Can you think of any reason why you would pick to be with someone who diverges so greatly in personality and perspective than the other people in your life? Is this is a sign that you have a "picking problem?" (a "picking problem" involves your displaying a chronic pattern of choosing inapropriate and ill-matched romantic partners... and this assessement of your picking problem would most often also be corroborated by those closest to you.)
Alterantively, could you have a conscious or subconscious tendency to pick people for romantic partners who literally compensate for an under-developed or missing piece inside of you, or a relational dynamic you feel is missing among your broader social network and support system?
In this specific case of what your partner is saying, do you think you possibly (consciously or unconsciously) picked someone who pushes you improve something about yourself because you need that, and maybe no one else in your life will give you that pushing? Is it possible that other than your partner, there is really no one knows you well enough to realize these limitations you have, and the importance of helping you grow in that way?
If none of this resonates, then what would you say is the reason you stay in this relationship? What does this relationship do for you that another relationship may not? What does the answer to that question say about your values... your yearnings... and the patterns and trends in your life?
What I know at minimum from your question is that your partner is highlighting and pushing you on something that makes you feel uncomfortable... and that rub you feel is likely either because:
1) light is being shined on your own deficiency
or the flipside,
2) light is being shined on an aspect of your partner's personality that may require you guys to have some hard conversations or make some difficult decisions.
....or maybe it's both!
Now try this exercise...if you close your eyes and visualize losing this present relationship as a result of the reasons your partner is identifying, meaning they broke up with you because of being so tired of not getting these emotional needs met that they decided to call it quits....
in this case example, does your reaction to that visualization feel more internally focused? or externally focused?
Internally focused: imagining losing the relationship fills you with feelings such as regret, disappointment, shame, frustration with yourself, a sense of lost opportunity, grief, a desire to turn back time and change or improve something about yourself or the relationship, or having ruminations about missing unique qualities and traits about your "now ex."
Externally focused: imagining losing the relationship feels more linked to an aversive feeling towards the relationship, relief, freedom, motivation to learn from your mistakes, and move forward with pursuing a more rewarding and appropriate relationship next time around.
If your visualization seems to elicit in you more internally focused reactions, this lends itself more to the possibility that deep down you know your partner is on to something. Then the question becomes about a deeper exploration into the source of your intrinsic resistance to your partner's requests of you. More on that later....
If your visualization seems to elicit in you more externally focused reactions, this is more suggestive that you feel that your partners perspectives or needs are not as much about your defecits and limitations, and but rather more about something fractured inside of them or skewed in their perceptions...or at minimum it suggests that you and partner are misaligned on some very key values. In that case, the question then becomes, what are the reasons that you are in this relationship? How did you get here, and why do you think it has sustained, even amidst your discomfort?
If you find yourself leaning toward the former scenario...
(eg, your self assessment reveals elements such as:
1) your partners concerns have shown up in many areas of your life, or many times in past relationships
2) you can recognize that you are at least partially drawn to your partner because they are developed in an interpersonal arena in which you personally may struggle
3) even if it makes you uncomfortable when they say it, your partner addresses a desire you hold deep down inside of you to grow and be a better and more whole person, in this identified area in question.)
then you want to think about "what are the barriers to your viewing the situation at hand with this much clarity, pragmatism, and gratitude for your relationship helping you to stretch and grow?"
Most often the path to finding the answers to these broader and deeper questions extend beyond what could be covered in an advice column... because our upbringing, life experiences, genetics, socio-cultural, and environmental influences all play a part in why we feel and act and the way we do.
If something about your life is confusing or troubling for you, and reading an advice column such as this leaves you feeling like you have more questions versus just a response to your original question, engaging more resources could likely be of great benefit to you. Some examples of this include seeking feedback from friends and family members who's lives and relationships you admire...engaging in psychotherapy for improved insight and self awareness...attending self-help groups...or doing further reading and research on intimacy concepts, to name a few.
If doing this exercise makes you realize that you love your partner deeply and truly do know where they're coming from, but still think they are going about it with you in the wrong way, ask yourself... is there a more effective and less off-putting way that they could engage you on the topic? If yes, have you explained that to them?--what that would that look like? And in what ways could a different approach from them on the topic could be helpful to both of you? What are the elements that have held you back from having that conversation with your partner? Or what has gone wrong previous times that you have attempted to talk about about? Can that be discussed more proactively together?
True intimacy and a fulfilling relationship is never without pitfalls, obstacles, and challenges to work through. There is no perfect relationship and no singular person on earth who will meet all your needs at all times, nor will they see things exactly as you do.
The true test of the strength and value of a relationship is a couples' ability to speak openly and honestly with one another, and demonstrate mutual respect in sorting it out all out, even when the topic or situation is difficult and/or frought with adversity.
The question is not whether your relationship or not your relationship has tension. Tension is a component of all meaningful relationships. The question is whether your realtionship tension is primarily healthy tension, which serves as the platform for growth and opportunity for both of you. Unhealthy tension is not productive and in excess, leads to relationship toxicity.
KA, I hope that your exploring within yourself these questions I posed today, will help you have a more informed perspective of your relationship, and provide you some renewed energy to take the necessary steps to move the relationship forward, or move you forward as an individual.
Thanks for writing!
Most Sincerely, Claire