Do you find it difficult to be fair in your relationships? Do you think that others have been unfair to you? Sometimes, there’s a big difference between what you give and what you receive and vice versa. In fact, relationships could be compared to dances in which the dancers exchange gestures, postures, and acrobatic moves, giving rise to a beautiful show. If these gestures and postures occur unevenly, just as if there’s an absence of fairness in a relationship, the results can be unpleasant.
In every relationship there are exchanges. You exchange gestures and glances, but also information and prosocial behaviors or favors. There must be mutual care when it comes to co-constructing and co-creating relationships. When the balance between what one partner does for another isn’t balanced, the relationship isn’t symmetrical and an intense feeling of negative valence can appear: inequality.
“Life cannot subsist in society but by reciprocal concessions.”
When there’s inequality in the context of a social relationship, one partner usually perceives that they’re giving more than they’re receiving. This gives rise to an unequal, parasitic, unfair relationship that drains their reserves of energy. At the opposite pole, equality in a relationship suggests a symmetrical exchange. It means the partner receives affection and attention at the same level as they give.
Although there may never be a perfect balance at any given moment, over time, a balance should occur. For example, if you’re currently the one providing time, attention, and affection to your partner, for equity to occur, in the future, your partner should make themselves available to you.
“The rewards obtained must be proportional to the contributions or the effort expended.”
-Juan José Giraldo-
The mental traps of unfairness in relationships
Some people act like black holes. They drain your energy and then leave you. As a result, you’re left alone, feeling empty and heartbroken. To prevent this from happening, you must set boundaries. This implies assertively communicating what you want and need. If these needs continue to go unmet, it may be time to leave the relationship.
There are some mental traps that you might sometimes fall into. It happens because you tend to trust that, at some point, your partner will start to show more interest in the relationship even though, deep down, you know that it’ll never happen.
“A little reciprocity goes a long way.”
How many times have you decided not to give any more of yourself? And, how many times have you given in?
You can decide to stop investing in your partner. It might work out okay. However, this strategy, with the aim of making them realize what they’re doing so they start to change, can be frustrating for you. Moreover, if this situation continues over time, you may well end up feeling exhausted. That’s because sustaining a relationship single-handedly is, by definition, impossible.
In a relationship, whatever the type (partner, friendship, family), the responsibility to maintain it lies with both people. If one is absent, the relationship is doomed to failure.
“Next time will be different” “Surely they won’t do it again”
When these phrases become the norm, rather than the exception, you should feel alarmed. It’s a sign that something is far from right. In fact, you need to reflect on whether your effort, both physical and mental, is paying off.
When you find yourself saying these kinds of phrases, your discomfort usually decreases because you’ve replaced it with the emotion of hope. In effect, you have faith that everything will change in the future. But, this is preventing you from accepting that it’ll never really happen.
“I’d like you to change because the way you’re treating me is hurtful”
This message is the starting point if you want to establish certain boundaries. Indeed, talking about what’s hurting you in a relationship is important if you want it to evolve. However, if your partner remains in their position and perseveres in the behaviors that are causing you pain, you must stop and reflect.
Resistance to change
You might be extremely resistant to situations that demand change. This happens because any change is always coupled with an adaptation process that makes you expend more energy than usual. Your resistance increases if the changes that are required have a significant impact on your self-concept and self-esteem.
If you feel there’s an absence of fairness in your relationship, because you’re giving far more than you’re receiving, you’re sacrificing yourself and favoring your partner. Sustaining this situation over time can be extremely frustrating. For this reason, you must stop and reflect if you want to continue investing in the relationship. Ask yourself, is it really worth holding on to?
“We have all had that fear, that despair of losing someone, or this fierce desire because it’s not reciprocated. The less reciprocity there is, the more desire we have.”