Some say that in a relationship you may have one of three roles; master, slave or negotiator. Such narrow view can leave you quite hopeless. My friend and Colleague Joe Whitcomb has dedicated a lot of time to think about the elements that make a relationship one of equals. I want to share his work with my readers. Here it is:
The Elements of Equality
Attention. Both partners are emotionally attuned to and supportive of each other. They listen to each other. And both feel invested in the relationship, responsible for attending to and maintaining the relationship itself.
Influence. Partners are responsive to each other’s needs and each other’s bids for attention, conversation, and connection. Each has the ability to engage and emotionally affect the other.
Accommodation. Although life may present short periods when one partner’s needs take precedence, it occurs by mutual agreement; over the long haul, both partners influence the relationship and make decisions jointly.
Respect. Each partner has positive regard for the humanity of the other and sees the other as admirable, worthy of kindness in a considerate and collaborative relationship.
Selfhood. Each partner retains a viable self, capable of functioning without the relationship if necessary, able to be his or her own person with inviolable boundaries that reflect core values.
Status. Both partners enjoy the same freedom to directly define and assert what is important and to put forth what is the agenda of the relationship. Both feel entitled to have and express their needs and goals and bring their full self into the relationship.
Vulnerability. Each partner is willing to admit weakness, uncertainty, and mistakes.
Fairness. In perception—determined by flexibility and responsiveness—and behavior, both partners feel that chores and responsibilities are divided in ways that support individual and collective well-being.
Repair. Conflicts may occur and negativity may escalate quickly, but partners make deliberate efforts to de-escalate such discussions and calm each other down by taking time-outs and apologizing for harshness. They follow up by replacing defensiveness with listening to the other’s position.
Well-being. Both partners foster the well-being of the other physically, emotionally, and financially.