Is Your Current Relationship Fair?

What constitutes an equitable love relationship?

Posted Feb 02, 2021 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan

Relationships are all about give and take — balance and “fairness.” When the relationship seems to be unfair, and “out of balance,” is when we start to wonder if it’s worth it to continue. Or, we may think about how to change it — how to make the relationship more fair.

Equity theory argues that we strive for fairness. We want there to be a balance between what we put into the relationship (“inputs”) and what we get out of it (“outcomes”). Here is a way to assess the level of fairness in your relationship.

[Score one point for each area where you feel that the relationship is fair. Score minus one point if the area is unfair and “out of balance.”]

  1. My partner and I love each other equally.
  2. Our liking for each other is about the same.
  3. We both understand each other’s wants and needs.
  4. We are equally concerned about our appearance.
  5. My partner and I both care a lot about our health.
  6. When it comes to physical attractiveness, we are both about the same.
  7. We both show appreciation for each other on a regular basis.
  8. We have a mutually satisfying sex life.
  9. We both demonstrate our affection for one another on a regular basis.
  10. When it comes to household duties — shopping, cleaning, yard work, and maintenance — our “workload” is equitable.
  11. We share many of the same attitudes, likes, and dislikes.
  12. We tend to make important decisions jointly.
  13. My partner and I tend to agree and get along more than we disagree.

[If your score is low (< 7) or negative, there is an imbalance in your relationship fairness. You might want to have your partner also complete the index and compare scores. It could lead to a productive discussion about relationship fairness and how each of you perceives the relationship’s quality!]

What does equity theory predict will happen if our relationships are out of balance? If our inputs are greater than our outcomes, we may strive to confront our partner to try to get more of what we need. Or, we may start to withhold our own inputs and do less. If the relationship fairness is too low, we may look elsewhere for what we need.

What if the opposite is true? What if our partner puts more into the relationship than we do? We can strive to do more (before our partner decides to do less or decides to leave the relationship). Fairness in relationships is indeed critical.