Relationship Equality—Finding the Approval, Affection, and Support You Deserve

Relationship equality is about the balance of support and respect between two people. Unhealthy relationships, such as those that involve abuse or neglectful disengagement, have distinct imbalances. For example:

  • One person’s needs are more important than anyone else’s in the family
  • There are both a dominant role and a subordinate role in a relationship of ‘partners’
  • The household revolves around the needs, moods, impulses, behaviors, feelings, thoughts beliefs, opinions, and wishes of the dominant partner
  • The dominant partner is ‘entitled’ to respect and support, but the subordinate partner is not

Emotional Imbalances and Effects

In a dominant/subordinate relationship, there are also emotional imbalances. The dominant partner is typically allowed a wider range of emotions, while the subordinate partner typically has emotional constraints. Also, the emotional tone and mood of the dominant partner sets the tone for everyone in the household. Everyone else learns to suppress and repress any other feelings and to take on the feelings and moods displayed by the dominant family member.

Such unequal relationships cause many problems for the subordinate partner. Some examples are:

  • Depression, anxiety, resentment, anger
  • Low self-esteem and poor self-worth
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and even suicidality
  • Feelings of being overly responsible for the partner’s emotions, behaviors, and overall well-being
  • Resentment of the partner
  • Stress-related illnesses

Making Changes

If you are in such a relationship, or like many people have been in more than one such relationship, you can take action to change that if you want. The patterns you have developed are tenacious but can be overcome and replaced by healthier ones if you get the right help. You can break patterns such as:

  • Denial patterns that prevent you from seeing the reality of your situation
  • Low self-esteem patterns that prevent you from asserting yourself, protecting yourself and aspiring toward your goals, ambitions, hopes and dreams
  • Dependency patterns that keep you reliant on others even when you are unhappy with them
  • Compulsive behavior patterns that keep you from being in touch with your authentic feelings
  • Fear patterns that convince you that you need to remain in unhealthy situations because something else would be worse
  • People-pleasing patterns that prevent you from acting on your own behalf

It is possible to break through if you want to change relationship habits that have resulted in unequal partnering. Perhaps you find yourself in a relationship with someone who has a chronic addiction or an unresolved mental health problem of some other sort. Whatever your situation, there is professional help in individual and group therapy/counseling. There are also self-help groups in the community such as Alanon and Codependents Anonymous. You can replace your dysfunctional relationship habits with healthier ones and have the approval, affection, and support you deserve.