An equal relationship. Isn’t it what everybody dreams of? A partnership where you can feel loved, respected, and valued, and give the same in return. Equality is important in every relationship, but even more so in relationships based on gender, race, or other identity aspects.
But it’s not that easy to determine whether your relationship is equal or not. For instance, if you hate doing something around the house, but your partner loved doing it, in order to be equal you should split it 50/50?
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If you earn more money than your partner, are you supposed to pay more for your dates? It’s off for your partner to be more of a giver in the bedroom and you at the receiving end all the time? What does equality really mean in a couple?
These types of questions have no right or wrong answers, and equality can be different for each couple, it’s something that each person has to define, based on their preferences and what feels good for them.
If you’re not sure whether your relationship is equal or not, here are some questions you can ask yourself, according to relationship experts!
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Do you listen to each other?
As an answer to the previous questions asked in the introduction, equality in a couple is more about being present than it is about who pays the bills or who does certain chores. As says dating and relationship coach Karolina Bartnik would explain, it’s essential that couples feel like they have equal rights and equal decision power in the relationship in order for things to run smoothly.
“They never need to do things just because they feel obliged to do them. It’s also about never trying to manipulate your significant other into doing something by making them feel like they owe you.”
Sometimes, equal decision power can be determined by how well you listen to your partner and vice versa. According to Bartnik, most of the time, in a relationship that’s not equal, the one that gives the most and put in more effort is also the one who hesitates more to express their feelings, while members of an equal couple will feel more relaxed even when discussing serious topics.
Do you feel like both of you are being yourself in the relationship?
Before asking yourself whether your relationship is equal or not, you need to ask yourself whether you’re being yourself or wearing a mask. According to licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist Natalie Finegood Goldberg, CST-S, LMFT, people are paying way too much attention to who’s taking the trash, who’s doing the dishes, who earns more in the relationship and forget about the things that really matter.
In order to have an equal partnership, you need to ask yourself the following questions: Who’s the planner in the relationship? Who’s the dreamer? Who’s the one that gets things done? Who’s the one that loves to organize? The calm one? Or how about the sensitive, emotional one?
According to Goldberg, even with sex, people get so used to paying attention to who’s the initiator, or the giver. It’s important to understand that some people do not like to initiate and prefer to be dominated, but they can show their appreciation and please their partners in other ways.
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As Goldberg explained, even if someone is not an initiator, they might be a planner/organizer on other plans, which is great for the relationship. Equality in a relationship does not mean exceeding in the same aspects.
“I encourage people to reconceptualize that each partner likely won’t do 50 percent of each ‘job,’ but rather, each partner contributes in different but equally important ways.”
Do you and your partner respect each other’s differences?
Equality in a relationship means respecting their perspective and values as you would respect yours. Their feelings are as important as your feelings, and even when your partner is very different from you, you offer them the chance to be themselves, and they’re doing the same for you in return.
According to psychotherapist Carolyn Karoll, LCSW-C, CEDS-S, “50/50 means you both respect the other’s interests, desires, hopes, and dreams, even if you don’t share them.”
Therefore, if you want to have an equal relationship with your partner, you need to learn to give them space, encourage them, love them, show interest and be there for them when they need you.
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Additionally, you can learn to do all those things by asking your partner to teach you an interest they have or explain to you their points of view more often. According to Karoll, “Being open to actually learn or enjoy something that is important to the other helps couples feel that they’re important and each member matters.”
But even when you do all those things, you need to make sure yur partner is doing the same for you.
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Do you take good care of each other?
In a relationship, each partner contributes in their own way depending on how they feel at the moment. For instance, when your partner is feeling down or they’re going through something, it’s normal that they won’t have enough energy to put in the partnership. That’s when you’ll need to step in and make sure they have all the support they need.
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According to a licensed professional counselor, Stephanie Strouth, there will also be times when you’ll feel like you’re doing all the work, but that’s ok, it’s normal to feel down sometimes, especially when you or your partner have a lot to deal with a lot of challenges outside the relationship.
A healthy relationship is never 50/50. Sometimes your partner might give you 20%, and you’ll have to work a little harder to make things work, but there will also be times when they will give you more than you give them. It’s all about being someone’s strength when they feel weak, and vice versa.
But you need to make sure your needs are being met as well because if you’re the only one that puts in a lot of time and effort, chances are it’s not going to work out.
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Is there mutual respect in the relationship?
When it comes to your bedroom life, more important than what you do in bed is how you respect your partner’s desires and boundaries. According to Mia Sabat, sex therapist at Emjoy, you can expect to have an equal relationship when you’re not both satisfied sexually.
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A healthy, long-lasting couple needs to know what their partner likes and dislikes, their wishes and boundaries, and never feel the need to pressure them into doing something they don’t like, inside and outside the bedroom.
Also, it’s vital to know and respect your partner’s limits, and they should do the same for you, explains Sabat. Learn to respect their needs, privacy and understand their limits, even when they’re different than yours. Also, just because you’re in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean you should tell them what to do.
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