When I was much younger, I dreamed of having an ideal relationship – one where the two partners complemented each other perfectly. We would have the same interests, support the same greatest football club in the world (Liverpool) and appear on the cover of Time magazine as “couple of the year”. Above all, we would be be equals. Equal in how much we loved each other, equal in how we split running errands, and equal in decision making.
Thankfully I grew up pretty fast (after making some bone-headed mistakes in my early relationships) – and realized that this was never going to happen.
There are no equal relationships.
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The Bird and the Hand
I first read The bird and the hand theory from Thought Catalog about a year ago. The theory suggests that in every relationship, one partner is the “bird” – who needs more freedom and autonomy. The other is the “hand”, who is the nurturing one. A relationship works when the hand doesn’t grip the bird (no gutter thoughts please) too hard, and the bird knows when to fly back to the hand.
Interesting way of putting it, and very true in the sense that: One partner will always desire the other partner more.
There is no 50 – 50 relationship.
So, if you sometimes struggle with wondering why your partner doesn’t desire you more, here’s the probable answer: he/she doesn’t love you as much as you do him.
If your partner loves you enough though, you guys can still make the relationship work. Just learn to accept it and adapt to it. Because things aren’t ever going to change much. It’s just a matter of getting used to. And making sure that even though you desire him/her more – don’t ever let him/her take you for granted, take advantage of you or abuse you.
The scales will always be tipped, but don’t let it tip very much.
It’s also the reason why your momma always asked you to find a partner who loves you more than you love him/her.
Men and Women Are NOT Equal
This may sound like heresy to you, so if you’re a feminist – please read carefully and feel free to comment below.
The influential blogger Matt Walsh writes a brilliant post here on why Men and Women aren’t equal. I’ll quote him here:
“Men and women are NOT equal, at least not in the practical sense of the word. Yes, men and women are “equal” in intrinsic worth; they have immortal souls and are endowed by God with a dignity and value that can not be diminished or reduced. This is the only sort of “equality” that can ever exist between people, or between genders…”
For everything else though – we are not equals. Not only are we physically different, our brains are wired differently and the hormones flowing through our veins make us very different emotionally.
Women and men are not equal. That’s why we need to treat each other with special kindness and consideration for each others’ needs. That’s why men need to learn to respect women. And that’s why I’m giving up my seat to the pregnant lady in the train.
Gender Roles in a Relationship
You’ll never have an equal relationship because a man needs to be the leader of the relationship.
Nothing pains me more than seeing women who are forced to take on the leadership role in a relationship. Whether by choice, or necessity – to see the men shrink back from the position of authority and responsibility, and let the woman act as the head.
But why not? Women today live longer, are more well educated, and generally make less reckless decisions right? It’s been said that the global financial crisis would have never happened if women were in charge at Wall Street.
Well it all comes down to attraction and desire. I believe every woman desires a man who is dominant, takes charge and leads her. This isn’t to say that a woman’s role in a relationship is any less important. It’s just as important, but everyone is more satisfied when men and women are in their proper roles.
The dream husband is one who equally shares the chores at home right? How nice would it be to have a husband who does laundry, cooking and cleans the house. You’d think that women would totally be hot for this kind of husband.
Wrong. A study showed that when men get involved in traditionally feminine chores, couples had less sex compared to those who had husbands doing masculine chores (like fixing pipes and cars).
What this reinforces (aside from the most scientifically valid excuse ever for me to avoid housework) is that the more we assume our gender roles, the hotter and happier our relationships become.
Find me a woman who has to wear the pants in the family, yet is satisfied with her romantic and sex life. I’d like to interview her. And while you’re at it, get me a unicorn too.
* * * * * * * *
You’ll never have an equal relationship.
But we need each other. So let’s accept it and find ways to make our relationships work.
*The original version of this article first appeared on Emmagem
Pic Credit: “Couple Holding Hands in Kauai” by Christopher Michel, “Unbalanced Scales” By Juhko
Hi mr stingy I just bumped into your site today looking for financial advise and kinda quickly browsed through other writings. Just wanted to be added into you mailing list and drop some (very general) comments. I love what I’ve read (quickly) so far and I resonate with your thoughts and ideas. Keep it up!
Thanks so much Raushan. Really appreciate your kind words, and please let me know if you ever have any questions I might help with.
I think what we need here is fairness not necessarily equality. I might do all the dishes (not equal) but my husband does all the yardwork (not equal) but it’s fair in that we are both contributing the running the household. The problem arises when the amount of traditionally female work is far greater than the amount of traditional male work. We don’t live on a farm we live on a little Suburban plot in a newish house that means occasional repairs but it’s not regular. Throw children in the mix and the imbalance is even greater.
Yeah that’s true! I wrote this a long time ago so I may not have articulated it very well. Fairness and justice, not equality! May we all be supportive partners to our spouses!
So I know this post is very old, but I found it when I searched for articles on equal relationships and had to comment on it. I’m a feminist, so, like you wrote, I read carefully… but still, I disagree with pretty much everything you said.
My parents have been happily married for about 30 years, and when I look back on my childhood, I think they had a fairly equal relationship. Yes, my mother did more cooking than my father and my father carried the heavier things and worked more on the house than she did. But that’s because Mum loves to cook and Dad is quite handy. The rest of the things, they split up evenly between them. My dad does most of the washing and cleaning and grocery shopping now, because he works less hours than my mum. If she cooks, he’ll do the dishes, and vice versa. Going back one generation, things were very different. My grandmother does everything in my grandparents house, and yes, part of it may be because my grandfather is very old and not as full of energy as he used to be, but he’s been resting on the couch while she’s done all the work for as long as I can remember.
The thing is, my grandmother did all of that while raising four children and working as a nurse. My grandfather’s job paid much better so he would have been the main provider, but my grandmother probably worked twice as hard as him.
If you’ve read about feminism, you’ve probably also read about the whole delegating chores thing. Boyfriends or husbands don’t understand why women are upset when their partners don’t pitch in at home. “You should have just asked me!” In a work environment, there is usually a manager who delegates the chores, and other employees get them done. In many households, men expect their partners to be the managers, AND do 50 % of the chores. Which probably means the chores aren’t divided into 50-50, more like 75-25.
Doing your part (without being asked) has nothing to do with being indecisive or unmanly. The most repulsive thing, for me personally, that a man can do is sit back and expect his partner to be some sort of servant to him, whether it concerns cooking, cleaning or anything else that’s a typically “female” chore. The second most repulsive thing a man can do is try to dominate over me. I am perfectly capable to make my own decisions and will run in the opposite direction if any man tries to control me. (We all know what can happen when men wanting to control their women go a little too far. I think it’s an extremely dangerous ideal for men that they should be “dominant, take charge, and lead her.” I’ve seen with my own eyes what controlling, dominant men can do to women, and it’s something I hope I’ll never have to see again.)
Here’s another thought: when people saw that my boyfriend was doing half the work at home, they were showering him with compliments and thought he was being a lovely partner. Which, in my opinion, is ridiculous. Why should he get a pat on the shoulder for doing what he obviously should be doing? I’ve never heard anyone tell a woman, “Wow, you’re doing your half? That’s so great! Talk about a good girlfriend!”
I actually think we agree in principle, but perhaps not in nomenclature. Some thoughts:
1. I think both parties need to contribute to the relationship. So not equal in things they do, but perhaps “equal” in contribution.
2. Acknowledge your point about how some men take it overboard with the domination and go crazy. That being said, from my past research, I believe the vast majority of women prefer a man to “lead” in the relationship. I haven’t looked up recent research on this though, and if anyone has updated numbers/preferences I would love to see them.
I like this piece of writing from Kahlil Gibran on relationships:
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Two persons in a relationship wants to relate to each other, the idea of an equal partnership arises because we want to take as much as we give. If we couch our language in material terms of transaction, definitely it is not equal because every individual value things differently no matter how closely related they might think they are. However if we see that relationship is just an experience of two persons coming together, then definitely they are equal in that regard.
Thank you so much for this Heng — appreciate your sharing!
Hi Mr Stingy!
Just wanted to point out that newer research suggests that equal sharing of household chores actually correlates with better sex lives.
“I believe every woman desires a man who is dominant, takes charge and leads her. This isn’t to say that a woman’s role in a relationship is any less important. It’s just as important, but everyone is more satisfied when men and women are in their proper roles.”
With all due respect, I am an avid reader of your often thought provoking, in-depth content. However, this statement threw me off as it written with so little examination or justification. It’s quite a statement to make, especially when it’s spoken on behalf of everyone, men and women included.
Additionally, while I agree with you that men and women are mentally, emotionally and physically different, I think both sides will have to try to avoid or limit thinking of personality traits as universally masculine or universally feminine. This sort of thinking leads us to all sorts of cognitive biases when regarding others. Plus, our expectations of others (or the stereotypes we impose on them) can actually influence them to conform to them.
By the way, what do you think of same sex couples? How do you think the lack of clearly established gender roles plays out in these relationships? It’s not an easy topic, but would very much like to hear your thoughts. Thanks!
Thanks for writing in and your very well-thought out comments. Thanks for the link to the research also. I believe the research that I linked to showed that when men took on more “traditionally-masculine” chores at home, it correlated with happier sex lives. This wasn’t about sharing household chores (I think we all agree that men who help out at home will definitely get more action). It was what chores were being done by the men and the women.
That being said, I agree with you that the statement I made was overly broad. I wrote this a couple of years ago when I was younger and more foolish. However I still believe that traditional masculine/feminine roles will suit the majority of heterosexual couples. I definitely don’t know enough about other types of relationships.
With regards to same sex couples… hmmm… I’ve really not put much thought into it, but I believe that they’re a lot more fluid. I imagine a lot more discussion, communication and work needs to happen. Again, not done much research on this — so I’m just guessing!
So where is the science behind the idea that a man NEEDS to be the leader of a relationship, besides, of course, gender roles? Also, the author of the the New York Times article that you provided a link to suggests that it is “possible that the sexual scripts we currently follow will evolve along with our marital arrangements so that sameness becomes sexy.” I think understanding the way cultural norms interact with our relationships and sex lives can help us better understand what is going on in the study that you provided.
That being said, I don’t think it is fair to say that we can NEVER have an equal relationship. Society tends to evolve with cultural values and norms, which is why I think you see couples struggling in that particular article. We have many years of cultural norms going against us.
Thanks for your comment. It’s definitely true that we have years of cultural norms that greatly affect our relationships. In certain cultures, certain things are OK, whereas they may not be in others.
As for my comment that a man needs to be the leader of a relationship. I don’t have any direct scientific evidence to prove that. But I believe certain traits are universally masculine, and certain traits are universally feminine. And I’ve seen countless times, how strained relationships become when a man does not “lead” the relationship. I’m not learned enough to prove this — but it’s from my reading and observation — and it remains my conviction.
I’ll give you an example — how many women do you know are unhappy that their partners (or men in general) are indecisive? Every single woman I know hates that.