How To Avoid Double Standards In Relationships

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated February 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

A double standard is a rule or principle unfairly applied to different people or groups. In an intimate relationship, double standards may occur when one partner has expectations of the other that they may fail to apply to themselves. Double standards in romantic relationships can manifest in money matters, behaviors, sexual actions, and family roles, among other areas. Understanding how to avoid these behaviors may be a step toward healthier and happier love.

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What are double standards in relationships? 

Double standards in a relationship may also be known as hypocritical behavior or behavior that a person partakes in but asks others to avoid. Any person can exhibit this behavior; it is not limited by gender. Like other potential relationship challenges, like infidelity and disrespect, double standards can work both ways, and both partners can be guilty of having them.

Another way double standards can occur is if one partner accepts certain behaviors from a best friend but argues with their spouse when the spouse acts like their best friend. For example, this individual and their best friend may leave the TV on overnight whenever the friend comes to visit. However, when their spouse does the same, the individual gets angry and tells them they must turn the TV off. 

How to avoid double standards in a relationship

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 always to answer the phone or respond when they call or text, even if they do not reciprocate that behavior.

This type of double standard may irritate a partner and cause conflict. The more often these double standards occur and the more significant the hypocrisy, the greater the potential threat to the relationship's health. As this behavior persists, resentment and mistrust can grow. Below are a few ways to avoid these behaviors. 

Look at the situation from your partner's point of view 

If your partner sets double standards in your relationship, it may be intentional or subconscious. 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 communicate. 

Talk to your partner 

Communicating honestly and openly is one healthy way to avoid conflicts about double standards in a relationship. Consider individual communication styles, ways to communicate more effectively, and conflict resolution skills as part of this process. If your partner is not receptive or doesn't see how their behavior has created a double standard, you might also benefit from trying couples therapy to discuss these behaviors in further detail. 

What are communication styles in relationships? 

Experts often cite three communication styles regarding relationships, including the following. 

Passive communication 

People who communicate passively may show the following behaviors: 

  • Prioritizing the needs of others before their own 
  • Being soft-spoken or quiet during conversations 
  • Believing they are unable or unwilling to express their own needs and wants
  • Allowing others to take advantage of them or struggling to see when others are trying to manipulate them 
  • Lacking confidence or having low self-esteem
  • Maintaining poor eye contact when communicating 
  • Avoiding conflict even when they have been wronged 

Aggressive communication 

Aggressive communicators may showcase the following behaviors: 

  • Using criticism, dominance, or humiliation to control conversations
  • Speaking loudly or with overbearing mannerisms
  • Becoming frustrated easily
  • Acting disrespectfully toward others
  • Refusing to listen to others
  • Constantly interrupting others while they are talking
  • Showing an unwillingness to compromise or negotiate 

Assertive communication 

Assertive communication is often considered one of the healthiest forms and may involve the following behaviors: 

  • Advocating for one's needs, wants, feelings, and beliefs
  • Listening and not interrupting others while conversing
  • Standing up for their rights and the rights of their partner 
  • Setting healthy boundaries 
  • Displaying confidence while speaking
  • Showing a willingness to negotiate with others
  • Validating their partner's point of view, even when they disagree 
Getty/Vadym Pastukh

Ways to use assertiveness to tackle double standards  

Assertive communication is the most constructive and healthy communication style of the three. Assertive communicators can balance the need to feel heard and respected with the willingness to compromise and listen to others. Consider the following tips to become an assertive communicator when double standards are present. 

Respect yourself and others

Your needs, wants, feelings, and beliefs can be a priority in your life. Try not to allow them to fall by the wayside to the needs, wants, feelings, or beliefs of others. You have the right to express these areas in your relationship. However, ensure you respect your partner's needs in the process. If you ask your partner not to act a certain way, don't act that way yourself. 

Be mindful of your tone

Raising your voice, threatening your partner, displaying aggression, shaming others, and stonewalling or giving the "silent treatment" are ineffective and 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…" In addition, use a calm and level voice and try not to yell, scream, or make large gestures when upset. 

Plan or practice what you want to say 

When you talk to your partner about double standards in the relationship, consider rehearsing what you want to say beforehand. Identify your wants and needs in the relationship and a few ways to validate your partner and show them you care. Rehearsal may improve your confidence and comfort level during the conversation.

Say "no" when you need to 

Being assertive with a partner when you're generally a passive communicator may be difficult or uncomfortable initially. Your partner might believe your assertiveness is aggression if they're used to you going with their decisions. However, setting boundaries can be an essential aspect of a healthy relationship.

You set boundaries for your body, time, energy, space, and belongings. They are not rules you set for someone else's behavior, as you cannot control how others react to your boundaries. If someone does not accept your boundaries, you can suggest alternatives. However, know that saying "no" doesn't require an explanation. You have the right to leave a situation that is harming you. 

Use reflective listening

The reflective listening technique allows both individuals to listen and feel understood by the other person, even if both parties 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 said to you in your own words. After confirming that you heard them right, respond to what they said with a validating statement or a prompting question. 

Continue this process until your partner acknowledges and agrees that you understand them. Afterward, switch to being the speaker so your partner can listen to you and follow the same steps to practice reflective listening.

Keep the focus on the problem and not 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.

Take a break

If you or your partner become agitated or argumentative, or if you begin yelling or insulting one another, you might be unable to have a productive conversation. If you struggle to take a break in the middle of an argument, talk about how you might do so beforehand. You could set a "safe word" that one of you can say to indicate it's time to take a break and reconvene later.

During your break, physically separate and engage in a relaxing self-care activity. Once calm, readdress the disagreement or conflict, perhaps taking a different approach to try to resolve it. If you struggle to communicate healthily, talking to a couples therapist might be helpful. 

Identify and work toward a resolution

In relationships, you and your partner may disagree on some topics. If you reach an impasse, attempt to negotiate to find a happy medium so you are both somewhat satisfied with the outcome. 

When equal satisfaction is not possible, compromise comes in, and one partner may be more satisfied than the other. However, if you agree that the disagreement will not negatively impact your relationship, you may agree to move on.

Are you ready for healthier communication in your relationship?

Consider professional support 

Couples, including those who have been together for many years, may benefit from working with a therapist.

However, some couples avoid therapy due to stigma, financial insecurity, or transportation limitations. In these cases, online therapy platforms like BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples can be valuable resources. 

Studies show that 95% of couples who engage in online therapy consider it helpful. Online therapy is flexible, so you can arrange couples' sessions according to your and your partner's schedules or pursue individual therapy alone. It is also more affordable than in-person therapy, and you can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions with your therapist.  


Double standards aren't healthy in a relationship. When one or both partners set double standards, neither partner's expectations may be met, and resentment can begin to build on both sides. The first step to overcoming double standards and repairing a relationship can be to lay your cards on the table. Talking about your feelings and expectations and learning to compromise can be challenging but may be worth it. If you struggle with this step, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist for further guidance and support.
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