Are We Even? On Fairness in Relationships


Fairness in Relationships

Fairness in relationships is important to us. We care a lot about feeling “even” in many places in life, including in our connection with our loved ones.

There is something about fairness that we all consider in our lives. We decide if something is right or wrong. We often consider whether we didn’t get enough of something, and if someone else got more, we say to ourselves, “that’s not fair”.

Humans like things to be even. And we really feel this equation when we are in a relationship with our person. You might ask yourself questions like:

  • Am I doing more than my mate?
  • Does my partner do more than I do?
  • Do we contribute equally to each other’s lives?
  • Do I feel that I get more than I give?

We All Want Things to Feel Fair

Fairness in relationships is important. If we feel slighted or like there's imbalance, we become unhappy.

These questions are common. Here’s how I look at it: in my life, I am very fortunate to have a partner who loves to cook. This is good, because I am not a fan of the kitchen and do not like cooking. So, in this scenario, it works. But what about clean up? If my husband cooks, I feel a fair trade is that I clean-up. But I have to tell you sometimes I just don’t want to.

Sometimes I am tired from a long day at work and just do not want to do it. I probably feel this feeling more than I let on. But I also feel something else: I remember that he already did his work for me. I remind myself of his generosity toward me and that gets me moving to do the clean-up. And sometimes he even offers to do it for me. Yes, when I am very tired he sometimes says, “You go relax, I will clean- up.”

Sometimes, We Feel Guilty About Taking Too Much

Now I love it when he offers. But I don’t want to take advantage of this cherished moment. So, I remember this experience as well when I don’t want to do what I know I should. I remember him picking up my plate and telling me to relax and I remember that I am part of this couple and I have to do things for him.

We all have to do things for our mates that we might not like doing. This is part of being in a relationship. Is it fair? Well in a sense, I guess it is. Both of us feel taken care of. But sometimes it just doesn’t feel fair.

Think About What You Do For Your Partner

When considering fairness in your relationship, think about how you help one another.

What do you have to do that you don’t like to do? Do you do it anyway because you know you should? Do you reject what you have to do because you don’t think it’s fair? But this fairness scale that many couples hold each other to is really artificial.

We can always look at something with a set of scales, but being in love and working on a relationship with your partner isn’t about measuring what each person has done. This thin way of examining who is right or wrong, or fair or unfair, or black and white is too simple to encompass all the textures and nuances of being with another person.

Let Your Love for Your Partner Guide Your Sense of Fairness

Remember that you love your partner. Remember that you want them to have a good life. See what you can contribute that adds to their good life. Do this because your better angels are happier when you do. Do this because you are a kind and nice person. Do this because it is the right thing to do.

Don’t wait to see if you are getting what you are expecting before you participate. Be the leader in the relationship who is loving and demonstrates it, and do this because you can.


Want to Open Up and Help Those Around You Feel Less Pain?

Read a Book About Relationships

'Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship.' A book by Linda Nusbaum.

Learn how to cultivate fairness in your relationship by reading Linda’s book, Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. It might help you communicate more clearly and have a better idea of what you do for one another, what you both feel you need, and how you can both feel fulfilled. Give it a read.

Get Couples Counseling

Come in for couples counseling. Couples counseling can help you and your loved one get the most out of your relationship. It'll equip you with coping strategies and tools for communication that can help you argue less and love more.

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