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.