When it comes to relationships, equality is key. However, it can be easy to let power dynamics slide in favour of one person.
This can create an unhealthy and imbalanced relationship. Here are a few signs that there is a lack of equality in your relationship:
The equality I am talking about here is not only equality about the law of the land but equal rights and responsibilities in human terms.
Everyone is entitled to expect the same fair and equitable treatment, respect, consideration, dignity, education and access to information; to work and to share in every aspect of human life.
Value of Freedom
All human beings are entitled to aspire to freedom, love, happiness and peace; to obey their consciences and lead their own spiritual lives; to follow their aims and aspirations. Every human being has the right to all these things because they are a prerequisite of social equality and an expression of the concept that all people are equally valuable simply because they are human.
Of course, individual rights may vary according to a person’s function within a group. For example, in a group such as a residents’ association or music society, each committee member has specific rights to achieve the group’s goals, defined by his or her function. For example, the chairperson has the right to decide who speaks next, and the treasurer will speak first regarding decisions on financial matters.
These individual rights that relate to the different functions of the group or family members, however, are not as significant as basic human rights, and they mustn’t be assigned different values as in the past, particularly when issues of gender, race or class are involved. Marriage is a partnership in which two individuals of opposite sexes but equal worth as human beings choose to live together as equals.
This statement may seem self-evident. It is not, however, the traditional view of marriage. How many adults can look back on their own parents’ marriage as an equal partnership? Examples of such true equality in the marriages of previous generations are few and far between.
Because we may not have personal experience of marriage equality, it falls to a lot of most couples to work things out in their own way. Is it surprising that so many couples fail and give up the struggle? The relative novelty of the concept of equal partnership, and the difficulties that couples experience in trying to achieve it, are prime causes of the rising divorce rate and the general lack of confidence in marriage as a way of life.
The proof of this is clearly seen in the fact that two generations ago, it was usually the man who initiated divorce proceedings. Today more women want to leave their husbands than the other way around.
Until very recently, society was entirely on the side of men and their time-honoured privileges, and women seemed meek to accept their inferior role. Today society has recognized the necessity for and justice of equal rights for women. Conscious of their equality and new legal rights, women refuse to accept a subordinate role and opt for individual freedom. As often happens, social custom is lagging behind the legislation.
That is why so many marriages are in trouble today: the law says the partners are equal, but society still expects the wife to take time off work to look after a sick child or wait for the plumber to fix the washing machine, and women frequently shoulder the double burden of housework and a job. Women are less and less likely to accept this unequal treatment, and the rise in divorce rates is partly a result of their dissatisfaction.
Of course, there are undeniable differences between men and women. Few women can compete with men in physical strength, and no man has ever suckled a child. These differences in certain abilities and functions do not, however, imply a difference in worth as human beings. Thus, both partners have equal rights to express their opinions, and neither has any right to overrule some preconceived notions of superiority.
Above all, it is important to remember that when consulting or making decisions together as a couple, there can be no simple majority to ensure fairness. Couples must take pains to ensure that each partner has an equal say in the family’s affairs. Again, one partner may deserve special consideration by virtue of particular skills or additional knowledge. Still, this consideration does not affect anyone’s overall worth as an individual, and neither should habitually overrule the other.
We live today in a stage of transition when the traditional roles of men and women in society are changing, and these changes are having a profound impact on marriage. As women juggle full-time work outside the home with their traditional responsibilities of child-rearing and housework within it, stresses will be felt, and stereotypical divisions of labour will have to be adjusted between husband and wife.
Every couple today must negotiate these new challenges and find their own way of living together as two equals in a harmonious and sustainable relationship.
The promotion of women to a position of equality is not a mere matter of fair play within the law. It goes far beyond that. It entails establishing a completely revised set of relationships between human beings; relationships based not on tradition or physical strength but on mutual rights, responsibilities and friendship.
Only in this way can we function fully as human beings and enjoy a rich and rewarding life within marriage, with husband and wife walking side by side and neither partner lagging.