People often want relationships to be equal, but they often work better when they are balanced. ‘Equal’ means that each person has half the responsibility for each thing. And doesn’t just include tasks, these are also approaches to life.
An example of the above would be a naturally unemotional parent is often urged to assume ultimately insincere, unnatural emotions towards their children, all in the name of good parenting equality. Yet many unemotional people, or people on the Autism spectrum, have made wonderful parents by being exactly the way they were. We need to learn to connect with those sorts of people too.
Contrary to ‘equal’ is ‘balanced.’ That means that the relationship is shared around the idea that each person gets to be who they naturally are, without being told to be someone else by their partner. That love is unconditional.
If that wasn’t a possible way to live and love, then people like Stephen Hawking couldn’t have fallen in love, because he certainly wasn’t helping around the house. Then again, because he was Stephen Hawking he was likely able to afford help, but it’s the marriage itself still demonstrates a passion to support another human being in a way that few people can relate to.
I have no doubt his marriages were sincere on both ends, but the fact that they did or could not include certain romantic relationship tropes points to the fact that clearly there are other forms of shared passion that both people find deep value in. What they give each other and the world is very different in the end, and it could be described as unequal, but what matters is if it worked for each of them.
Today we’ve begun to ignore when things aren’t working because our thoughts and ideas have become so predominant that we ignore how life feels. We want things done in the ‘right’ way, and by current standards of thought the ‘right’ way is things divided equally, even if the people involved don’t want it that way or if they don’t think that’s reasonable.
If people are equal then both people have to care which restaurant is chosen, and both have to care about how things are cooked at home etc. etc. But when two people both want to pick the restaurant that can lead to arguments, and the same thing can happen over how to cook in the kitchen.
In an unequal but balanced relationship, a naturally more passive personality can be far more comfortable not deciding where to eat, and they may be far more interested in family happiness than the happiness they get from how a food is cooked. They may simply not care enough about this or that subject to argue over it.
Their passiveness is actually a form of letting-go that is a cooperative, helpful aspect of the relationship, not obsequiousness. Any demands that they be more assertive are stressful, unwelcome and unnatural for them. Can that go too far? Or course. But the approach itself is not an issue. Many couples walk that line to very long and happy marriages.
Just as some are more passive, others are more naturally comfortable leading. Who is who can change from subject to subject, but one person being active and another being passive is not necessarily a problem. That can very well be what is making things work really well.
The point in fairness is not equality, it is respect. It is not about dividing things 50/50. It’s dividing everything up in a way that demonstrates both respect and responsibility for and from each of us. No spouse who ever cared for their loved one with cancer or dementia was in a position where equal made any sense when it came to expressing love. People shouldn’t need a disease to be given that grace by the rest of us.
If some goth couple wants to move in next door, be awesome neighbours and swap traditional gender roles –or even have none at all– that’s great. They’re awesome neighbours. No one should feel the need to talk him out of letting her dominate.
Likewise, if some couple chooses super traditional male-female roles because that’s what they’re more comfortable with, they also shouldn’t be told to change to suit others because others deem that relationship unequal.
Further, if some transsexual or gender-less couple moves in across the street, that too is fine so long as it works for them. No one should pressure anyone to assume identities that don’t feel natural. Each of us knows ourselves better than even our closest friends. We know what works for us.
There is room enough in the world for everyone to be the versions of people they naturally are, including versions that we aren’t comfortable with. It’s not other people’s job to make us feel comfortable. Our discomfort lives between our ears.
Instead of talking to ourselves or others about our judgments about other’s lives, we should be pleased any time we see anyone find a partner (or a life without a partner), that supports them in being who they naturally are.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.