We generally consider double standards unfair.
Simple example: JoAnn can leave a mess, but if I do, I’ll hear about it. JoAnn can yell at me, but I’m not allowed to yell at her. JoAnn can talk about old boyfriends, but will get upset if I talk about old girlfriends.
The ego screams, “It’s not fair! Why should she have different rules than I do?!”
When we are single and alone, most of us are looking for that special someone. Someone who can be a best friend. But also someone magical. We don’t want an ordinary relationship; we want something more. Something truly extraordinary.
And when we find it, what will we do with that extraordinary person? We’ll turn them into someone ordinary.
JoAnn was my dream girl. While some might prefer more of the “fairy princess” type, I go for the “bitchy, tough and cutting on the outside; sensitive, loving and intelligent on the inside” type. Let’s focus on the “bitchy and tough” part. It’s true that I love her directness, the way she doesn’t take any crap from anyone. When she told me the story of how she repulsed, on two occasions, armed robbers, I started to swoon.
Ah! But what happens when she gets bitchy and tough with… me! Hold on a minute! That’s a different story. Now all of a sudden I’m criticizing her for one of the very things I most love about her.
That’s what we do with our fairy princesses (and princes). We say, “Look at her, she’s magical, beautiful, a princess!” Then we marry the princess and want to be her equal. And since we’re not royalty, that means pulling them down to our level. WHAT FUN IS THAT?!? I had a fairy princess… now I have… an equal?! How satisfying is that going to be when I see another fairy princess passing by?
Instead, I think the trick is to figure out how to keep the fairy princess a fairy princess. And this means embracing double standards. If she wants the groomsman to clean up after her mess, shall I do it begrudgingly? I shall not! I’ll do it joyfully. If she needs to yell at me to express herself, I will take it like a knight in shining armor. But yell at her, I will not! The queen gets to admonish her subjects, not the other way around. But the subjects get to have a queen!
(Really Important Note: I’m not talking about letting myself/yourself be walked on and mistreated. I’m not talking about letting your partner treat you like dirt. I’m talking about being really, really generous with your partner. I’m talking about letting your partner say what s/he needs to say before you express yourself. I’m talking about cutting your partner an acre of slack. I’m talking about stopping trying to find fault, and instead finding… whatever the opposite of “fault” is. Find blessings, perfection, etc. And there you’ll find your prince or princess.)
So, I’m going on record. No more resisting double standards for me. I’m going to treat JoAnn like a princess, like my queen (I mostly do already). I’m going to clean up after her (I already do and she’s not messy anyway). I’m going to let her yell at me (she doesn’t do that often), I’m going to let her talk about old boyfriends without feeling like I need to talk about old girlfriends. I’m going to let her admonish me for not calling her several times throughout the day, without ever admonishing her for not calling back.
Double standards usually are not what they seem, anyway. We each have different needs. We’re good at different things. We do different things for each other. It would be impossible to try to calculate who is doing more – and a loser’s calculation at that. If you want to keep track of something, keep track of how many times you caught your partner doing something right. Keep track of everything you love about your partner, of everything for which you’re grateful about your relationship.
I used to love to play tackle football with my friends in junior high school. I rarely cared about which team won. I just loved smashing into other guys, going all out and leaving it all on the field. Limping off, aching everywhere, wasn’t something you complained about – it was a badge. As long as you didn’t break anything, the more you hurt, the more you knew you went all out – and you were proud of that.
Just so, I don’t worry about coming out of each interaction with JoAnn unscathed. I want to give her everything I’ve got without concern for minor aches and bruises. I want to be the knight, fresh from battle, banged up but still whole, gazing into the adoring eyes of my princess who says, “You have fared well, good knight. We are most grateful to you. Now come inside and we shall feast.”