One of the most important attributes of our humanity is that we crave a sense of fairness and equality the way we do food or sleep. More than just an aspirational concept of governance, like “by the people, for the people”, all of our relationships thrive within the honest intentionality of creating equity between people. It is part of our DNA as we all recognize the plaintive cry of a child’s “it's’ not fair.”
We grow to become jaded by unfairness as it seeps into our professional and personal experience. Many stop believing in equity as a right – even that it is a possibility in their home.
A Look Back at Equality Through the Years
When you look at any meaningful steps towards equality, like the right to vote for women or African Americans, the victory is told in the individual lives sacrificed and the blood spilled. Equality has never been easily won. Those who have relinquished power have always done so unwillingly. It has never been a collective belief in equality that has created the biggest shifts in recorded history; rather equality has been made real to the degree that individuals have been willing to fight for it.
The American aspiration that proclaims equality as a god-given, unalienable right misrepresents the truth of it.
- How real is the right to vote if you don’t go vote?
- How real is the right to assemble and speak your mind if you don’t ever show up?
Civil rights, including the right to equal access to education and equal pay for the same work, only come alive through the lifelong efforts of the real people who demand them and are willing to work to maintain them.
Striving for Equality in Our Relationships
Likewise, the work required to create equity inside of our intimate relationships and within our families is an ongoing effort. Despite our best intentions, life rarely splits in a neat 50-50 whether in financial, household chores, or parenting. Yet, the efforts to recognize and work towards equity is a powerful bonding agent that grows trust in your relationship.
For many years, the most significant and unresolved conflict that lived between my husband and I had to do with the division of labor in our home. In fact, this is one of the top cited reasons for dissatisfaction and ultimate destruction of many long-term partnerships.
Establishing a balance to working through life’s responsibilities and details is the single largest predictor of relationship success and the clearest reflection of the overall dynamics of the relationship. When daily workload does not feel equitable or fair, the trust and intimacy in the entire relationship is impacted.
Equality Is Key to Deeper Intimacy – And Better Sex
Studies have shown that couples who enjoy the best sex lives have cracked the code when it comes to sharing the work of home and family.
In general, the happier that women are with their partner’s participation in home and childcare, the happier that the men were with their sex lives. Help with housework and childcare is perceived as a form of care and attention that expresses the intimate “showing up” that women crave. Men who nurture this household connection see the dividends in the bedroom.
And yet finding the balance is not always that easy. Not uncommonly many women actually choose to take on more of the housework and child care because they don’t trust their partners to care for the kids and the house the way they want it to be done. Many men who try to share the load often end up feeling like their offer is not good enough and their communication efforts are met with controlling dictates on how to do it right. This is not sexy for either partner.
It took years for me to allow my husband the freedom to care for our kids his way. In hindsight, I can see that my need for control made the task of taking care of the kids both more complicated and less appealing. It was so easy for him to get it wrong that I made it easy for him to not even want to try. Inevitably this breach of trust almost always turned into the primary conflict of who worked harder, who contributed more. This is a classic “no-win” argument that effectively closes the door to intimacy of all kinds.
The truth that saved us from this debilitating cycle of blame and retreat was that we each were working as hard as we could at our own pieces of the puzzle that made our life work together. As I relinquished my need for control, he had the room to show up for me and the kids. Our longstanding arguments of who did more were replaced with the ability to witness and appreciate what we each were able and willing to contribute. Shifting the focus towards what we could both bring to our family and life together, instead of what we each held back, created a fundamentally different world view of our relationship.
A sense of equality and fairness are the building blocks for open communication. Our sense of safety increased as we were able to witness the many ways we did show up for each other. All of this led to a vital and passionate connection in the bedroom.
Tragically, this connection is never achieved in many marriages. The distancing that engulfs the relationship hides the fact that in many cases it would have taken so little time and effort to right the scale. Sometimes it can be as small as:
- Paying attention
- Expressing gratitude for the efforts.
- Helping with the laundry or the dishes
It is rare that divorcing couples cite conflicts in home and child care as reasons for separation compared with disinterest in the bedroom. For most of us, sexual satisfaction is a product of how we live together outside the bedroom. Do you want more foreplay? Start in the kitchen with the dishes. Are you longing for more curiosity and experimentation in your intimate life? Shock your partner by doing some chores you have never considered before. Suddenly cleaning the refrigerator out has a sex appeal.