Why Understanding the Difference Between Equity and Equality in Your Relationship or Marriage is Key
There has been a cultural shift where more and more people are turning their attention to matters of equality. And, while fighting for equality is, in general, a great endeavor and one that, in many cases, has been long overdue, it’s important to remember what the difference between “equity” and “equality” is and, in the case of marriages, why “equality” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, far too many couples are struggling in their relationships because their attention is hyper-focused on making everything equal, which, in turn, leads to scorekeeping, contempt, and other corrosive thought patterns and behaviors.
Turning to dictionary definitions as a jumping off point, “equality” is defined as “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities”. “Equity”, on the other hand, is defined as “the quality of being fair and impartial”. A quick glance might make these two words seem also interchangeable and, in most of our day-to-day language, they are. However, in terms of what to strive for in our relationships, the two are strikingly different.
“Equality” in a relationship or marriage often makes individuals aware of amounts, like trying to balance two sides of an equation. For example, if one partner spends an hour doing the dishes, then the other should spend an hour doing some other type of chore. This type of “tit-for-a-tat” scorekeeping corrodes relationships, especially if this type of equality becomes the measure for a relationship’s success. Far too often we use this “equality” measuring stick to determine how much each person is bringing to the relationship, which means we’re focusing on things done or achieved rather than the person as a whole.
“Equity” and its attempt to make things “fair and impartial” is a very different perspective in terms of relationships. Rather than keeping score on hours clocked or items checked off lists, striving for marital or couple equity means creating an overall sense of fairness and balance. And, because equity implies being impartial, it allows us to remove our ego and selfishness, looking at the strengths and abilities of our partner in order to determine what’s best for them to bring to the table.
An equitable, not equal, partnership develops a healthy sense of individualism, recognizing that each person has a unique set of gifts and talents that they bring to the table. Equity also understands fairness in terms what feels right, rather than always focusing on what’s on either side of an equal (=) sign.
Transitioning from an equality-focused relationship to an equity-driven relationship takes time. After all, it’s difficult to create new habits and rewire new patterns. However, making this sometimes-subtle shift is not only incredibly healthy for all types of partnerships, but it’s also freeing as well. Rather than constantly trying to balance an imaginary scale, you’re able to focus your attention and energy on deeper, more profound emotions. As you turn your attention to equity, you’ll be able to consider questions like:
As small as a differentiation as it might seem, shifting from “equality” to “equity” is one of the most important things you can do in your relationship today.