Written by Writer’s Corps member Stephanie Perez
We’ve probably all found ourselves humming along to the lyrics from Julia Michaels’ song “Issues” last summer. In it, she sings, “I’m jealous, I’m overzealous. When I’m down, I get really down. I get angry, baby, believe me. I could love you just like that. And I could leave you just this fast.”
As catchy and popular as this song became, the type of relationship it describes is one based on power and control instead of equality and respect. But, what does it mean to have an equal relationship? Equality in a relationship means that each person’s interests and desires are respected and met to a reasonable degree as opposed to just one partner’s needs dominating the relationship. Inequality in a relationship refers to an imbalance of power between partners. In an unhealthy relationship one partner “maintains power and control over the other.” If your partner’s needs dominate the relationship without much consideration for your own then the relationship is unequal.
Sounds simple enough. Still, some of the most common relationship problems stem from inequality within the relationship. Think about it. Do you always have to do the housework? Are you expected to pay for every meal in order to earn your partner’s affection? If unintentional, these behaviors do not necessarily mean your partner is abusive, it just means your relationship is unequal. Left unchecked, inequality in a relationship can lead to resentment and other controlling tactics over time.
To make sure no one gets the short end of the stick, we’ve put together a list of relationship red flags that will help you determine whether your SO is giving (or not getting) their fair share in your relationship.
1. They Make All Of The Decisions
We’re all for asserting your needs in a relationship because in some cases, like when you’re feeling sick, your needs should come first. However, you likely will not be the only one deciding where you and your SO will go out for lunch every week. Healthy relationships are based on mutual respect and working toward the needs of both partners. If you aren’t sure whether you are dominating the decision making in your relationship, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I (does my partner) always decide what we’ll do on the weekend?
- Do I (does my partner) decide which friends we’ll hang out with and not give a second thought to their (my) preferences?
- Do I (does my partner) always decide when sex happens?
- Do I (does my partner) decide who will do the housework?
If you answered yes to the questions above, then it may be time to start a conversation with your partner about the inequality in your relationship. An excellent way to teach yourself or your partner to split the decision making in your relationship is with a D.I.Y. project. D.I.Y. projects can become an excellent exercise in compromise if you and your partner approach the project mindfully. Not only do you get to learn more about your SO in a relaxed environment but you can make it a point to make decisions together.
2. One Partner Refuses to Compromise When You Disagree
It’s totally normal to disagree sometimes and is not automatically a sign that you aren’t right for each other. The key here is to work towards a solution that is acceptable to both partners. To do this, each partner has to be willing to make compromises, instead of competing with the other person’s needs. There will be times that you both have to agree to disagree. Making compromises and knowing that it is ok to disagree (respectfully), will contribute to a more balanced relationship where both partners feel comfortable. The next time you and your partner disagree and your partner refuses to compromise, let them know how it makes you feel. The bottom line is no one’s opinion is more important than the other and if your partner continues this unhealthy behavior, it may be time to consider leaving the relationship.
3. One Partner Is Expected to Pay for Everything
In an equal relationship, both partners should be willing to split or alternate the cost of dates. It’s totally fine if one partner insists on paying for most things, however, they should not feel that this is to be expected of them in order to earn your affection. If your partner is uncomfortable paying for every date and you continue to expect them too then it’s time for you to reevaluate your behavior.
4. One Partner Always Has To Have The Last Word
In an equal relationship, when conflict does arise each partner should feel the freedom to express themselves without feeling dominated by the other. Instead of shutting your partner down when they are voicing their opinion, take it as an opportunity to get to know them better. The goal is not to win an argument, but to gain a mutual understanding of the issue you are both facing. And if you feel that you cannot disagree with your partner without facing severe criticism or fear of being met with an angry response than it may be time to walk away from the relationship.
Everyone Deserves a Healthy Relationship
Equality does not mean uniformity, rather it means that you both give each other the freedom to be who you are, while you grow together. Ultimately, you and your partner will have to define what “equality” will look like for your relationship. So, it is important that each of you feel the freedom to communicate regularly about the balance in your relationship. Understanding the difference between a relationship built on mutual respect vs. control, and learning more about how to create equality in a relationship will help you and your partner build a healthier relationship together. And, if you’re getting to know someone that’s got “issues”, maybe it’s best to let them work those out on their own. You deserve to be in a healthy relationship that lets you be free to be yourself.