“Honey, it makes me very uncomfortable when you talk to other women at work.” “But you serve on committees full of men and I don’t question you.” “Well, I’m a lady and I’d never even consider cheating.” Double standards are sneaky and they slip into relationships with minimal effort. We tend to place demands on others without placing those same demands on ourselves.
Defining Double Standards
The basic definition of a double standard is when one person has the freedom to do something the other does not. The definitions I looked up online specifically mentioned sexual activity being tied to the concept of the double standard because society holds men to a different standard of sexual behavior than women (i.e., sexually active unmarried males tend to be praised while sexually active unmarried females are considered promiscuous and easy – not that we’re condoning either behavior). However, for the sake of this post we’ll define double standard as having rules and expectations for your sweetheart that you don’t require yourself to follow.
Some double standards are minor and annoying. “Sweetie, I expect you to always answer the phone when I call. Keep it close to you at all times.” “Seriously? You never answer your phone.” And there are double standards that are major and serious. “I don’t ever want to hear about your talking to your ex-boyfriend again. You got me?!” “You talk to your ex-girlfriend all the time!” “Well, that’s different.” Whether a double standard is major or minor, it can still damage relationships for several reasons. It shows a lack of respect for the other person, it shows an elevated sense of self, and (if left unchecked) it can cause roots of bitterness to form. “How dare he ask me do something he’s not willing to do himself?!” “If she thinks I’m going to be kind to her mother when she treats mine like trash, she has another thing coming!”
There is a difference between a double standard and differences in marital roles. For example, most women want a husband who has the nerve to get out of bed in the middle of the night to check out the creepy sound coming from the basement. Having courageous boyfriends and husbands gives us ladies a sense of peace and security and I think God put that need in us. On the other hand, most men I know appreciate having a kind, gentle woman who is willing to keep a relatively clean home. This is not to say men can’t help out, but more often than not, women add a warm, special touch to a home. Wives have the power to make a house a haven of rest or a detention hall.
Double standards come into play when one spouse puts an expectation on the other that he or she does not fulfill in return. In the case of roles, one spouse may choose to stay home and run the household while the other goes out into the workforce. In that scenario, both people are working together to keep the household running. I work the outside jobs. You work the inside jobs. But let’s say the spouse who didn’t work outside the home declared one day that he or she refused to do more than half of all the housework. That is a double standard – expecting his or her spouse to provide financially for the household and do at least half of the household tasks when the stay-at-home spouse has no intentions of returning to the workforce.
To tell your sweetheart that he or she is expected to live up to a standard you have no intensions of living up to yourself is disrespectful because it says to him or her: “You don’t deserve the same courtesies I expect of you.” It shows an elevated sense of self because it says to him or her: “You owe me these considerations because of who I am and not because we are teammates who take care of each other.” Bitterness can form as a result because the slighted spouse or significant other feels cheated and belittled. Wouldn’t you?
Look at the Intentions of the Heart
Most double standards are not always obvious to the offender, but the receiver still hears the comments above. For example, Eric told me a while back to always turn the monitor to my computer off when I’m finished, but the last several times he’s used it, I walk in and find my monitor left on. Has Eric been doing this to spite me? I’m positive he is not. ~smile~ Still, when I walk in time after time and turn off the monitor, my fleshly nature says, “Why does he expect me to do something he never does?!” On the flip side, I’ve asked Eric to take better care of his health while consistently and happily munching away on candy and other sugary treats. I didn’t mean to say, “You better do it, but I don’t have to;” however, I said it by my actions nonetheless.
This is why it’s important to look at the person’s heart and intentions before assigning blame. If you believe your boyfriend or girlfriend is expecting you to fulfill expectations he or she has no intentions of fulfilling, it is important to discuss those expectations. Don’t go in with your verbal guns blazing and accusations flowing, but bring it up in a kind voice as a matter of concern. There’s a good chance he or she will be surprised and willing to change if you approach the situation gently and without wagging your finger.
On the other hand, if you bring the double standards to your sweetie’s attention and you are constantly met with defensiveness, anger, and refusals to change (a sign of immaturity, selfishness, and perhaps a low self-concept), that’s a good sign that you may want to re-think your relationship. After all, if there are double standards in your relationship now which cannot be resolved, marriage will bring a whole new level to them!
Have you caught yourself placing double standards in your relationship or have had them placed on you?