Double Standards in Relationships

Double Standards in Relationships by Dr. Randy Gilchrist, LDS Psychologist (FREE LDS online dating site)

According to the Webster dictionary, a double standard refers to "a situation in which two people, groups, etc., are treated very differently from each other in a way that is unfair to one of them". In relationships specifically, a double standard occurs when one partner is allowed to engage in certain behaviors or habits that the other partner is not allowed to do. The hypocrisy of such double standards creates resentment and even bitterness in the disallowed partner, and blind spots in the partner allowed to act that way. A "blind spot" in a relationships in this case refers to such double standards to seeming invisible below a level of self awareness to the benefitting partner. Perhaps the offending partner doesn't want to see themselves as a person who would act that way and/or perhaps they don't want to lose their special privileged status. In any event, the existence of such double standards generally builds resentment in the other partner over time and often contributes to the eventual ending of the relationship.

Common Double Standards in Relationships

Here are a number of common double standards in relationships, where one partner is allowed the privilege, the second is not (through either explicit or implicit pressure):

*Spending money without collaboration
*Spending time with friends
*Spending time with the parents/family of origin
*Yelling/explosions/name calling/threats
*Food/meal/restaurant choice
*Division of labor around the home
*Parenting and discipline style
*Choosing leisure activities
*Spending money and time on hobbies
*Keeping the other informed of where they are/what they are doing

There are many more double standards than these, but these are some of the more common issues I hear in couples therapy. Built up over time, the resentment from these double standards can threaten any relationship.

Why Double Standards Develop

Most double standards develop because one partner cares more about engaging in a certain activity than the other and pushes to do the activity while the second person looks the other way and accommodates. Perhaps in the beginning, the double standard doesn't seem like too big of a deal. However, what one can look the other way with for a while begins to irritate. Bitterness and resentment result from months, years, even decades of such double standards. The common retort of the privileged partner is often "well, this never seemed to both you before", or "you knew I was this way when we got together". Such statements are generally met with, "well, it bothers me now".

Sometimes one partner just has such an aggressive, dominating personality and/or the second partner has such a passive, permissive, accommodating personality that it's almost impossible for such problems not to develop. When particular double standards honestly don't bother the partner not afforded the same, resentment may still follow over time because of the sheer inequality involved. In short, double standards are dangerous and many if not most need addressing in some fashion betterment of the relationship.

Addressing Double Standards

By far, the best way for double standards to be addressed is for the partner allowed to do the activity of question first noticing the inequity and voluntarily admitting the discrepancy and inviting and encouraging their partner to do the same. However, the much more common way that double standards are addressed and challenged is for the partner not allowed to do the activity speaking up, challenging the inequity, and requiring a more even, equal approach to such issues. In my opinion and from my experience, such discussion are done best with assertive communication, not aggressive communication (which usually leads to arguments, even explosions). The buildup of resentment leading up to such discussions often results in such explosions, so be careful.

Some assertive ways to start such conversations with a firm yet civil tone of voice includes the following:

A) --I understand________ (how it's been before/to this point)
--I get that __________ " " " " "
--I know that ________ " " " " "

B) --However__________ (how I need it to be now more equally)
--And______________ " " " " "

And when the other partner puts up resistance and argues against your challenge, like a broken record, you can basically repeat your same statement. The main idea to emphasize is that whatever double standard you are challenging bothers you now and needs to be changed to eliminate your resentment for the betterment of the relationship.

If you need some assertiveness training to develop an assertive tone of voice and dialog, I recommend psychotherapy with a qualified licensed psychologist and/or reading one or more of the following assertive communication training books:

*Your Perfect Right by Robert Alberti and Michael Emmons
*The Assertive Woman by Stanlee Phelps and Nancy Austin
*Tongue Fu by Sam Horn
*Verbal Judo by George Thompson

In sum, identifying and working out troubling double standards is important to eliminate resentment and preserve relationships. Because "…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:11). Good luck.

Dr. G
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2016-11-21 Randy Gilchrist Dating, Communication

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About the author

Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (, practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at; email me questions to