When most people think of “equality” they think of a 50/50 split, or everything being exactly the same for everyone. While equality can be defined like this, in a relationship it’s often a little more complicated. Relationships ebb and flow as people’s needs, interests, and desires change over time – or even daily!
Equality can mean different things to different partners. What matters is how you and your partner define it for your relationship. It’s important to communicate regularly about the balance in your relationship, especially if one of you is unhappy or uncomfortable.
Why does equality even matter, you might ask? Well, we know that in an abusive relationship, one partner maintains power and control over the other. This type of relationship is extremely unbalanced and unequal. By learning more about how to create equality in a relationship, we can end abuse and build healthier relationships.
Ask yourself these questions to help determine the level of equality in your relationship:
Do both sides get heard in an argument, and can you compromise respectfully?
Conflict is normal even in healthy relationships, but how you handle conflict is what counts. Are you able to express your feelings and opinions to your partner, and vice versa? Do you both know how to “fight” fair?
Do you feel free to explore your interests with your partner and/or on your own?
In a relationship, usually both partners share some common interests and are able to enjoy activities together. That’s awesome, but it doesn’t mean you don’t get to have your own separate interests, too! In an equal relationship, partners can enjoy doing things together while respecting each other’s desire to pursue other interests as well. This includes hobbies, hanging out with friends – whatever makes you happy!
Do you both feel comfortable with who pays for what?
Money can be a real sticking point in relationships. Even though discussing money might feel awkward, talking about who pays for what can help you maintain your relationship’s balance. However you and your partner choose to divide (or not divide) paying for stuff like dates, bills, gifts, etc. is entirely up to the two of you. For example, some people split things evenly, but others divide spending in proportion to each other’s income. What isn’t healthy is when one partner creates unreasonable expectations or begins to feel a sense of obligation to the other. It’s not cool to pay for dinner and then expect your partner to “pay you back” with sex, gifts or other favors. On the other hand, it’s not okay to expect your partner to pay for things in order to “earn” your affection.
Do you feel safe with and respected by your partner?
We say it all the time: respect is so important in a healthy, equal relationship! Feeling safe is important, too. You shouldn’t be afraid to express how you feel and think to your partner. If you fear your partner may become violent or put you down, that’s a red flag.
If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, congratulations: your relationship is pretty equal! If you answered “no” to one or more questions, you and your partner might want to work on creating more balance in your relationship, and check to make sure that your relationship isn’t becoming unhealthy or abusive.
Feel free to call, chat, or text with one of our peer advocates anytime to talk about what’s going on in your relationship!