People often ask what the most common issues are in marriage counseling and the generic answer is usually “communication”. Digging deeper into what can create real conflict between partners, though, is a sense that both people aren’t counting equally in the relationship. Not counting equally is a subtle thing, often not clear how it shows up until we get into therapy. So check and see if any of these things make be happening in your relationship as red flags.
Top 6 signs someone isn’t counting equally in a relationship:
- Do both of you get equal time to talk about the things that matter to you? That means each person engages in active listening, giving verbal and non-verbal cues. When each person wants or needs to talk, does the partner give the time? Is the partner giving a sense of being interested? Counting equally helps both people feel valued and important.
- How often are each of you getting to do the leisure activities you prefer? Is there balance between who chooses? Are you both giving effort to go along with the other’s choice cheerfully? Sometimes when someone “goes along” most of the time, or gets grief when he or she finally gets to choose, resentment can build over time. Counting equally looks like both people having quality time with friends, feeling valued and appreciated.
- How are decisions generally made? In a more balanced relationship, both partners have pretty equal say in decisions ranging from small to very big. In less balanced ones, what looks like equal decision making is really only the ones the more dominant partner doesn’t care about as much. When there is disagreement in these relationships, one person “wins” most of the time. Counting equally means more compromise and both partner’s thoughts are weighed the same.
- Are you sharing tasks in a way that truly feels good to both partners? Often there is a default parent . Sometimes that’s ok with both parents but sometimes it starts to annoy the person in the default role. Other times, one partner takes on most of the undesirable tasks and that can also start to build resentments. Often, this happens under the radar and a conversation can do wonders to making it all ok.
- Do both partners’ needs and wants get met equally well? Sometimes in less balanced relationships, one person does most of the relational “work” in responding to wants and needs of the other. The person doing most of the work might get shut down, minimized or invalidated when it’s his/her turn. Over time, this partner gives up asking and disconnection happens. With enough disconnection, the relationship goes in different directions that can sometimes seem insurmountable. Instead, counting equally shows the value in each person and upholds it.
- Are both partners encouraged to pursue personal growth, new interests and passions? This is something that may be equally lacking for both partners but really should be strengthened for both people. One danger of not growing is becoming boring to one another. That person not growing can lose a sense of self that can eventually lead to unhealthy, dramatic choices to feel invigorated or alive again.
Occasionally couples think this topic of conversation is somehow connected to “women’s lib”. While there may be somewhat more likelihood of an unequal partner being a woman, it can go in either direction. In even the most traditional couples, the essence of both partners counting equally is still very important. Equity is, at the core, about mutual respect so it’s worth finding that balance.