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Unequal Relationships

Do you sometimes feel that you're carrying more than your share?

For some, unbalanced relationships start way back in grade school. Kid #1 will happily give his lunch treats to Kid #2 in order to be liked. In some cases, Kid #2 thinks it’s his due and will just appropriate lunches.

To many, the traditional arrangement that men do all the paying for dates, after having to initiate the date in the first place, seems similarly one-sided. And, of course, it is. Some men, seeking to equalize things, expect the woman to pay for her share of dating with sexual favors—an arrangement demeaning to both sexes.

Some women, seeking to equalize the traditional “man pays for it all” arrangement, will propose dates that have no cost or will prepare a meal for her guy or suggest each pay for themself.

Somehow or other, through fair methods or not, the male and female are now a couple. (Same-sex couples do not have a dating tradition to flout, so can more easily equalize things from the beginning.) Who phones to arrange future get-togethers or pays for them when they happen will fall into a pattern, whether negotiated or following tradition.

Couples who live together these days often try specifically to equalize the homemaking duties beforehand so that they don’t automatically fall on the woman, perhaps in a pattern seen in their childhood homes. Same-sex couples need to set their own rules. Certainly, there are many women who do the fix-its and many men who do the cooking or decorating, but I am talking more about social dynamics within a couple. What makes most sense is that each person in the duo do what s/he prefers doing or has the most talent for, generally by mutual agreement.

Equality in relationship can be an issue not only within a couple. Within a family or a social circle some people do all the entertaining and others are perennial guests for the price of a bottle of wine. Some groups do potlucks for their get-togethers or rotate hosting duties. These equalizing measures usually have to be negotiated, or someone will always be the host and others will always be the guests.

The point here is that because of traditional or natural propensities, relationships of any nature will, by themselves, fall into a pattern that may not feel fair to all parties. If this is so in your life, if you notice that the other person always invites, pays, or hosts, or your shoulders are the ones on which things naturally seem to fall and you don’t see this as fair, speak up. Suggest an alternate arrangement.

Just because something has “always” been done a certain way does not mean changes can not be made. Tradition has its place…and so does personal preference. Modern times may call for modern methods—and hurrah for that.

More from Isadora Alman MFT, CST
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