Posted by Nisha Naik
We all want good relationships with the people around us. Family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors all play a role in our social wellness. Some of those relationships (supervisor/subordinate, parent/child) might not be built on equality. With your spouse or partner, though, equality is vitally important. Equal partnerships foster closeness, which results in a stronger and happier relationship. When partner are equal, they feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings, causing them to feel better about themselves, their partner, and the relationship as a whole. Couples with an equal partnership also report more stability in their marriage, less conflict, less dependency, and less resentment.
There are eight types of interactions that are associated with equality in a relationship. You and your partner may be stronger in some areas than others. By knowing, understanding, and implementing the following behaviors, you can foster a healthier relationship and a stronger bond.
Negotiation and Fairness – When you and your partner are trying to resolve a problem, find resolutions that really work for both of you. In an equal relationship, neither person’s wants and needs are more important. While both partners should be willing to compromise, neither should be expected to give up or give in just to satisfy the other.
Respect – A big part of having respect for someone comes in how you listen to them. When your partner is talking, hear her out before responding. Listen to her without judging her, and try to respond in a way that shows you really heard her. If you can do those things, she might feel like she can tell you anything.
Being respectful also means affirming your partner in a positive way. By valuing opinions and acknowledging emotions, you create a space in which both partners are comfortable sharing all of their thoughts and feelings.
Trust and Support – In an equal relationship, both partners’ life goals are supported by the other – not one person’s more so than the other. You also trust each other so that each of you can have your own feelings, friends, activities and opinions.
Economic Partnership – If you are striving for an equal relationship, it is also important that you and your partner make money decisions together. This doesn’t mean you have to check with each other before any purchase is made (as some financial independence is also important), but big decisions like the family budget, significant purchases, and savings and retirement accounts should all be discussed and decided together.
Equality also means that both partners benefit from the financial arrangements, and one isn’t feeling controlled by the other through money. Both should have equal say and equal access when it comes to family funds, and neither should feel pressed to give up his own wishes to allow money to be spent based solely on his partner’s preferences.
Non-Threatening Behavior – It’s also important for both partners to talk and act in a demeanor that makes the other feel safe and comfortable expressing herself and doing things. In other words, both people should be comfortable being themselves around the other. If one partner is particularly critical or domineering, for example, it could create an environment where the other feels s/he has to act or say or do things a certain way in order to avoid being criticized.
There rarely is one right way to do any one thing, so give your partner space to be him or herself without you responding with your own critique.
Responsible Parenting – Equal partners also share parenting responsibilities. That doesn’t mean you necessarily have to take turns each time the baby needs to be changed or the teenager needs homework help. Usually one parent or the other is better at certain tasks and will handle the bulk of those parenting duties. But what it does mean is overall both parents should work equally in the process of raising their children, and they should both constantly make the effort to be positive role models for the children.
Honesty and Accountability – Creating equal relationships is a continuing process, and it’s rarely perfect from the start. Part of that equation in reaching equality is that both partners must accept responsibility for themselves.
Acknowledge things you have done or said in the past that were hurtful to the relationship. Admit when you were wrong without trying to make someone else share the blame. Taking steps to make sure past wrongs won’t be repeated also makes you more accountable. Saying you were wrong and you’re sorry isn’t enough until you demonstrate how committed you are to not making those mistakes again. Communicate openly and truthfully with each other to avoid passing blame and keep working toward resolution.
Shared Responsibility – You can’t have an equal relationship if one person isn’t pulling her weight around the house and the other person feels he is having to do everything. If there is an imbalance in your house, work together to agree on a fair distribution of work. Once you do that, be responsible about your commitment.
Saying you’ll do something and actually doing it are two different things. If you want an equal relationship, both partners have to contribute fairly and responsibly to helping the house run smoothly.
It’s also important to make family decisions together. Both partners need to have equal input and both need to be heard by the other.
When you build these behaviors into your relationship, you will strengthen your relationship’s foundation. Each partner will feel better about her/himself, feel more positive about the other person, and value the relationship more.
How would you assess the equality in your relationship? Are there areas that are particularly strong? Are there other areas that you think you and your partner could do better? Take some time to think about how you can improve in those areas, and talk with your partner. Listen to each other, make some changes, and let me know how it goes!