A double standard is a rule or principle that is unfairly applied in different ways to different people or groups. In an intimate relationship, this usually occurs when one partner has expectations of the other that they fail to apply to themselves. Double standards in romantic relationships can manifest in many ways, from money matters and dressing habits to sexual behaviors and roles within a family.
For example, if a person prefers for their partner to be frugal while they themselves spend frivolously, then there is a double standard at play. Any person can exhibit this type of unfair behavior; it is not limited by gender. Like other relationship-killers such as infidelity and disrespect, double standards work both ways, and both partners can be guilty of having them.
In this article, we'll talk about ways to avoid double standards and how to communicate more assertively, so you can have the healthy relationship you desire.
How to Avoid Double Standards in a Relationship
It's important to know that double standards can take many forms, regardless of the length of your relationship or the personality of either partner. For example, a person may want their partner to always answer the phone or respond when they call or text, even if they do not reciprocate that behavior.
This type of double standard can irritate a partner in a relationship. The more often these double standards occur and the more significant the hypocrisy, the greater the threat to the relationship’s health. As this behavior persists, resentment and mistrust can grow.
If your partner is setting double standards in your relationship, it may be intentional, but perhaps they're completely unaware that they're doing it. Consider the situation from their point of view. What life experiences have they had or what could they currently be going through that could cause this behavior? Once you understand their needs, it might be easier to work with them on the issue.
At this point, you may be wondering how to let your partner know why you expect certain behaviors from them. Alternatively, you may feel a need to let them know that you feel like they're not listening to you or are taking advantage of you.
The most efficient and effective way to avoid conflicts about double standards in a relationship is to communicate openly and honestly with one another. As part of this, you may need to consider individual communication styles, ways to communicate more effectively, and conflict resolution skills.
Read the three communication styles below to see if you can identify the styles you and your partner use.
Assertive communication is the most constructive and healthy communication style of the three. Assertive communicators balance the need to feel heard and respected with the willingness to compromise and listen to others. Follow these tips to become a more assertive communicator:
Respect yourself and others. Your needs, wants, feelings, and beliefs should be a priority in your life; they should not always be secondary to others' needs, wants, feelings, or beliefs. You have the right to express your needs, wants, feelings, and beliefs to others; it's also important to be respectful of others’ rights and voices.
Be mindful of your tone. Raising your voice, threatening or displaying aggression, shaming others, and even stonewalling or giving the “silent treatment” are ineffective, inadequate ways of communicating with others. Take ownership of your emotions, and try to express them in a calm, factual manner by beginning your sentences with "I feel…" or "I think…"
Plan or practice what you are going to say. Organize your thoughts first. Then try to prepare what you would like to say by identifying your needs and wants before you interact with your partner. Think through what you would like to express and how you will communicate it; this will help improve your confidence and comfort level during the actual conversation.
Don't be afraid to say "no." Sometimes, being assertive with a partner when you're normally a passive communicator can make you both uncomfortable. They may even become unhappy, but their unhappiness in this moment is not your main concern. When saying "no" to something you disagree with or do not wish to participate in, be honest with yourself, and speak clearly. You can suggest alternatives, but also remember that your "no" doesn't require an explanation.
Use reflective listening. This technique allows both individuals to listen and feel understood by the other person, even if both parties still disagree. Practice reflective listening in a discussion by listening to your partner first before responding with your thoughts. When they're finished, restate what they just said to you in your own words. Continue this process until your partner acknowledges and agrees that you understand them. Then switch, so your partner can listen to you and follow the same steps to practice reflective listening.
Keep the focus on the problem and try not to focus on the person. Avoid unproductive conversation detours like personal insults, mockery, and elevated tones. Be mindful not to place blame on your partner. If you notice that a disagreement or conversation has become unproductive, consider taking a time-out, so you can revisit the topic when both of you have calmed down.
It is okay to take a break or a time-out. If you or your partner become agitated or argumentative, or if you begin yelling or insulting one another, it can help to take a time-out. In fact, it's a good idea to talk about breaks prior to having an argument, so you can be proactive instead of reactive. During a time-out, it's generally wise to separate, and engage in a relaxing activity to help calm you down. Once calm, it's important to readdress the disagreement or conflict, perhaps taking a different approach, in order to resolve it.
Identify and work toward a resolution. In relationships, it's normal that both you and your partner will not agree on everything. If you reach an impasse, attempt to negotiate to find a happy medium, so both partners will be satisfied with the outcome. Sometimes, that's not possible; this is where compromise comes in, and one partner may be more satisfied than the other. However, if you can at least agree that the disagreement will not negatively impact your relationship, you can agree to move on from it.
BetterHelp Can Help
Do you think there are double standards in your relationship? Do you feel like your partner is being unreasonable? Do you find that you have difficulty communicating, especially during conflicts, or do you have frequent disagreements that are seriously affecting your relationship? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. Many couples, even those who have been together for a long time, can benefit from working through therapy. More and more, people just like you have begun to rely on online mental health support services like BetterHelp. If you think that counseling with a mental health professional could help you feel better supported and stronger in your relationship, then you can pursue help today.
Online therapy is flexible, so you can arrange couples sessions according to you and your partner’s schedules or pursue individual therapy on your own time. It is also more affordable than in-person therapy, and you can choose how to connect with a mental health professional: via video chat, phone call, or text messaging. Online therapy is not just for struggling couples; relationship maintenance is healthy and important, too. You and your partner should both feel respected and heard, and online therapy through BetterHelp may make your relationship stronger than ever. Consider these reviews from BetterHelp users who have used online therapy services to strengthen their relationships.
"I would refer Helen to anyone that would need to speak to a counselor. She listens and gives excellent advice. My husband and I are the closest we've ever been."
"Rachel is awesome! Gently encouraging and very responsive. I prefer to communicate via messages and I love that that is an option. I feel that she totally understands me and is never judgemental. The stress from work impacts my partner less since I've been talking to Rachel - I am managing my stress and insecurity better."
Double standards aren't healthy in any relationship. When one or both partners sets double standards, neither partners' expectations will be met, and resentment will begin to build on both sides. The first step to overcoming double standards and repairing a relationship is to lay your cards on the table. Talking about your feelings and expectations and learning to compromise won't be easy, but if the relationship is worth saving, it's worth a few difficult conversations. You can take the first step today.