We are all created equal according to the American constitution and in the eyes of the law; supposedly, anyway. It’s believed that we are equals in the eyes of the creator also. However, in the eyes of each individual, and often times in various religious and political cultures, equality is not always a definite principle, nor is it in practice either.
It causes me to wonder. Please bear with me on this as I question, “Is there really is such a thing as equality, other than in conceptual terms?”
Based on my experience working with people from all walks of life the last 39 years, I find it a highly questionable and seriously arguable concept, especially within the intimate domains of life. And, from what I’ve read and seen through the eyes of the media, and in society as a whole, it cannot be a simple equation that amounts to any exactness through calculation: Or, for that matter an agreed upon principle among the whole of humanity past and present. It certainly doesn’t seem to exist in nature as a whole.
I began to ponder this issue more in-depth when speaking with a client recently who expressed how she felt an inequity on her relationship with her live in partner. She provides their income, pays for their vacations, household expenses and the extras that couples usually enjoy together. He can never pay for a meal in a restaurant, or any of the other things she feels a partner should do, even a date would do. She is greatly disturbed by what she feels is wrongness in the situation; for although he contributes significantly i.e. doing so much around the home, taking care of the animals, doing repairs, decorating and more, she feels he’s not equal in his contributions. She questions why it should be that he gets to enjoy the pleasures of her money but doesn’t add any to their budget? It doesn’t feel fair.
As a brilliant highly educated and independent individual, who is as up to date and even advanced in her attitudes and thinking, and even though intellectually she knows differently, her woman-ness, her feminine self argues against it. She finds it difficult to accommodate it on a deeper level of her self. Like many women of her generation, and perhaps even of the current one, she feels deep within herself that the man should be source of financial security, the bread-winner, the provider, or he should at least contribute as much financially to their living style.
I asked her to calculate what it would cost her to have someone do all the things he does for her personally and around the home. She agrees that it would be considerable, and in that respect he is pretty equal. Yet the notion that her monies are the mainstay of their lives causes her discomfort, resentment, and serious disharmony in their relationship.
She is not alone in this dilemma.
Obviously the man -woman traditional roles and expectations are still embedded within the psyches of the majority in the world. I know this is changing to some extent; however, it can take many generations of social change to cause a total internal shift in each individual.
To those who believe that men and women are equal and have equal rights, it seems an old-fashioned notion that the man should be the breadwinner and the woman more dependent on him.
Women’s’ roles in society began to change in considerable ways during world war two when women were called upon to work while their men were away at war. But when the war ended, women were expected to go back home and be mothers and wives in the old ways. They didn’t though. Even before the war independently minded women were taking their place in the work–a-day world, owning their own businesses and having careers. But they were definitely the minority and in some people’s eyes, taking a man’s place in society. Women’s Liberation and all of its advocates did much to change the old mentalities. Never-the-less old sociological mores and traditions are hard to let go of; especially in some ethnic cultures; more so where women are subjugated and held hostage to man made religious, politically oriented and cultural doctrines that prohibit them from freedom or self actualization.
When women earn more than men, or contribute more to the family income, like my client, they feel just like many men have felt for ages; that the one who isn’t bringing home the bacon, so to speak, isn’t pulling enough weight. Many men while in therapy with me have expressed it quite openly. As one client put it, “I’ve got the burden of supporting the family. I have that huge responsibility. I work all day, I cut the lawn, I fix things in the house, while she had all day to herself; all she has to do is take care of the house and the kids. She’s on her own schedule, doesn’t have to punch a time clock or anything. When I get home she complains she’s tired and expects me to do more to help her. It’s not fair.”
When I pointed out to him, as I did to my other client, that it would cost him more than he earns to pay a 24 hour a day nanny, a housekeeper, cook and laundress, shopper, and even a bed partner and more he realized her contribution was not only significant, she is worthy of a great deal more respect and appreciation.
Just as there are many men who prefer to keep their wives at home and dependent on them, there are others who feel deep down that their homemaker wives are “living off of them.” He may express his attitude jokingly, but speaking his inner truth. As the Brad said, “Many a true word is spoken in jest” … Its really Freudian slips, actually in those cases, for far be it in our society for a man to feel less manly and openly begrudging in his roles. Many men feel they are being taken advantage of, whether consciously or subconsciously, thinking that their wives live more leisurely lives while they struggle in the work-a-day world. If the woman is the primary wage earner, she could naturally feel that way too. The man who “lives off” a woman is often thought of as being kept; a rather negative notion, always demeaning for him, and reprehensible to many who see him as an exploiter; including in may cases, his woman. That is, unless she has come to terms with their arrangement.
Often when a divorce is breaking couples part, the man expresses resentment that his wife will get half his pension, half the property and estate. They feel it’s unjust, they say they earned it all. More so if she never worked or if she did she earned considerably less than he. It’s the reason many men stay married when they are unhappy, and why so many women stay married because they would have less financial support. Many feel insecure without a man taking care of them; especially if they have grown up conditioned to be dependent on men, or they have spent their lives being wives and mothers and are not equipped to go out and earn their own living. Sometimes it’s their age, and often a lack of confidence.
I suspect that the feeling of inequality is so entrenched in peoples’ psyches that it is going to be difficult to wipe out its influence quickly.
Is there a way for achieve a sense of equity…fairness for all?
Ironically more women than men have said to me “It balances out in a marriage or living arrangement, because you have to realize that sometimes its 50-50, other times its 75- 25. It’s a give and take.”
But what if one consistently feels there is more giving than taking?
Open honest, respectful discussion is always the best means of resolving these, as with any issue in a relationship. Each person needs to truly understand the other, and value what the other brings to the relationship and the situation. Their expectations, their sense of fairness needs to be explained to each other. They need to communicate thoughts and feelings without judgment or criticism, and make adjustments within themselves in order to come to an agreement. I explain that one need not compromise one’s values or principles, it’s not about that. It’s about being part of a team. And in a fair-minded relationship, no one is the team captain; both are supporters of the whole and contribute in their own ways to the balance of their lives together. I’ve done a great deal of couple’s work that involves these issues, so I know it can be resolved.
Preferably though, to avoid the need for professional intervention, it’s a conversation that takes place before they move in together or get married. There needs to be a complete understanding and a documented covenant between them. Expectations need to be well-defined and put in writing and signed by both. After the fact too many unspoken feelings, or angrily or demeaning expressions of frustration make it more challenging to resolve things. The man becomes defensive, angry too. Too many hurts get in the way of their coming to an understanding; he’s likely to withdraw and resist making changes that could make things better between them. She’s likely to let her anger and resentment get in the way of closeness between them.
Unfortunately it’s not always something that either one of them considers enough in advance. There are many reasons for this. One is often that a woman feels she is able to live with the inequities; she focuses on the good things in their relationship; love and wanting to have him in her life overshadows some deeper level needs and expectations, such as the impact of her upbringing as well as educated belief systems. She doesn’t think it through enough and doesn’t use any foresight and usually doesn’t listen to her inner voice about the issue. Also in many cases it’s because she believes that it will get better – that he will at some point pull his own weight. It’s when her hopes, dreams and expectations, often based on his promises, are not realized that the problem becomes the source of her dissatisfaction and their disharmony.
So, unless they come to a sincere heart-felt agreement and reach a state of acceptance deep within them, and realize that all things cannot and probably will never be exactly equal, they will not be able to get along.
We are not equals. We are all different. We are all made of flesh and blood and have brains, feelings and emotions. But the forms they take and how they evolve are highly individual. We are not all born into money, nor are all born into poverty. We don’t have equal intelligence, nor are we all equally educated or as wise or street smart. Some are stronger, others not so strong. Some are taller, some are midgets. Some are handicapped mentally and/or physically. Some are open warm and friendly, others not. We grow up with different values and cultures and social mores. Some are better equipped by their upbringing to cope with life. Some are winners and others not. And the differences in sexes….men are different from women. Ah! That makes it impossible to equate to equal in any sense of, or meaning of the word.
And we must realize that what one person thinks of as equality differs with another’s.
According to the law we all have equal rights. However regardless of what is written in law, it is in effect only so if those working within the legal system adhere to its premises, can the scales of justice balanced as intended. Keep in mind though; there is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law: Understanding of the differences between what is humane and what is a doctrine needs to be imparted to people planning on living together. In the spirit of the agreements they make needs be open to addendum and codicil to provide for the natural changes that occur within a relationship, the people in it and life situations.
Equity/fairness is neither absolute nor irrevocable. It is like beauty, it is in the eyes of the beholder. Sometimes we need to adjust our vision of things to see what it truly most important.
And because not everyone agrees with what is right and wrong and what is fair and just, there is inevitably some conflicts. One does not always in every situation have to adjust one’s standards and values and principles in order to have harmony. One just needs adjust one’s expectations of always being able to live up to them ourselves while letting t go of expectations that others will always agreeably comply with them.
So forget equality in the sense that you will always feel something is fair and just. Just adjust your expectations and your attitudes when the situation calls for it, and come to the place within that allows you to live with the facts of life.
Life is not fair. Arguing with life is a waste of time and energy. Life does not adjust to us, we need to adjust to life.
We can only do our best to be fair in our thinking and fair in our dealings with others; whether or not they agree we have been fair. And that’s the rub!
The old saying,” All things being equal” is a misnomer. All things and all people are not equal and never will be. The balance we achieve within our selves is where equity is achieved. In life almost everything is a trade-off; remember that. Just don’t trade off harmony with old stale beliefs and expectations.
TTFN from Elaine
Please note the addendum to The Mysterious Case of the Lost and Found, or read it here.
* Addendum. One day recently. la month or so after the above bog was posted, I was looking for a CD that I was sure was placed on top of my filing cabinet in the therapy room. When I couldn’t find it, I emptied the cabinet thinking that it may have fallen either into one of the files or between them. So I went through every file. Not only did I improve the system of organization as I went along, I discarded papers that were taking up space for no good reason, I discovered some extremely useful and valuable documents. Some of these were creations of mine that had been stored and forgotten about; others were powerful memory evoking files that reminded me of the positive impact of my working with family members and friends. I keep those private files separate to those of my clients. Interestingly enough, as soon as I had completed the task I’d set out to do, I found the CD, it was between two pages of the note pad that I use when working with clients. I wondered if my subconscious set this situation up for me. I would not have consciously been sloppy about where I put an object, nor would I have consciously placed it there. When I dialoged with my subconscious ( a method I teach my clients and Mind Mastery Students) to learn the meaning of this venture it admitted that it wanted me to go through the files, carefully, reorganize and rediscover things that otherwise would be lost to my conscious mind. So the message here is that when we feel we have lost something, or cannot find where it is, while searching for it we are likely to find other things that are important to us. Perhaps in the end it is for that very reason we don’t see other things we are looking for that are right under our noses, we are supposed to find other lost or forgotten things. .