Double Standards in Marriage

When marriage allows one of its partners privileges the other doesn’t have, it is a double standard. Most marriages have quite a few, by mutual agreement, which is no big deal.

It’s a problem when most of the double standards favor the same partner. Any double standard is trouble when, according to unbiased and well informed experts, the underprivileged partner is undeserving of his or her lower status. The problem is that partners given a second-class status before long come to believe they deserve it.

Marriage is set up to be a partnership, not a dependency. Both the civil and religious vows required are quite mutual, creating a partnership of peers. When that partnership degenerates, when one partner becomes very insecure about loosing the other, when both are convinced that one could do much better than the other on the open marriage market, love starts to spoil and smell bad. One partner becoming insecure is a problem the marriage partnership is designed to correct, not exploit.

Here are some of the privileges I see most often in my office being doled out in unfairly double standards. Sometimes there are obvious justifying circumstances, but it is a danger sign if one marriage partner enjoys a lion’s share of the following privileges:

How the two families of relatives are treated

Deciding where the couple eats, vacations, or goes for fun together

Having lots of free time to eat, vacation, or have fun without the other

Spending money on one’s own clothes, hobbies, entertainment, or creature comforts

Deciding who gets invited over to the house

Setting behavioral standards for children and grandchildren

Flirting with the opposite sex

Accusing the mate of flirting, or disloyal thoughts and behavior

Deciding whether, when, and where the couple goes to church

Having confidantes with whom one can talk about the marriage

Improving or neglecting one’s health, fitness, and appearance

Knowing or determining the marriage’s assets or debts

Relaxing around the house when the mate is present

Deciding where the couple lives

Deciding whether and where to work outside the home

Deciding how the house looks (inside or out)

Making accusations of partner’s poor mental health

Receiving an apology from the mate when hurt by that mate

Judging and punishing the mate for misdeeds

Making messes one doesn’t have to clean up

Doing most of the talking

Being appreciated and gifted on birthdays and special holidays

Teasing each other

Initiating lovemaking with successful results

Being complimented by the other, in public or in private

Criticizing the mate, in public or in private

Expressing opinions without rebuke that differ from mate’s

Being given trust that can be demanded instead of earned

Can you think of others? If so, I’m developing a list for my clients, so please email me. More next week about how to address double standards in your marriage. For starters, cut out this article. You’re going to need it.

Dr. Paul Schmidt is a psychologist life coach you can reach at [email protected], (502) 633-2860.


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Dr. Paul F. Schmidt