Double standards in relationships – How They Destroy Intimacy
All partners in intimate relationships are bound, at times, to say and act in ways that distress and disappoint the others, especially when they are in the middle of conflicts.
The most dangerous of those argumentative interactions is the use of double standards to win an argument. In the four decades, I’ve been helping couples to resolve their differences, I truly believe that ending that kind of manipulative behavior has had the most positive effect on helping couples to resolve their grievances.
This is how it works. Partner A, feeling as if he or she is feeling cornered and losing ground, “flips” the interaction to get partner B to let go of the argument at hand because of the need to defend the new challenge.
“People cant handle the truth unless you speak to them with a mirror.” – Lakia Echols
Here are some examples of an effective “flip” statement:
“You’re driving me crazy with your nitpicking.”
“What about you? You just spent all morning telling me how I didn’t treat your friends the way I was supposed to.”
“You don’t seem to have any trouble doing whatever you want to.”
“Good maneuver but it won’t work. You are the biggest example of selfishness I’ve ever known. “
“Why don’t you look at the way you blame everyone but yourself.”
“Well, what are you doing right now? Aren’t you blaming me? You’re twisting the truth again.”
In intimate relationships, partners who use double standards to win an argument manipulate the others by getting them on the defensive so that they lose sight of what the argument was about. When “flipping” becomes the standard strategy, both partners are likely to get meaner, turning the double standards into wipe-out statements and character assassinations.
“People are quick to judge, but slow to correct themselves.”
Here are some examples:
“You’re needed for trying to look superior is extremely unattractive.”
“You always need to have the last word, don’t you?”
“Okay, Mr. Know-it-all. Go ahead and try to pull rank. You won’t stop until you win. You never do. At least I’m willing to listen and compromise.”
“Just face it. You’ll never convince me that you have your finger on the truth and I’m just living in a fantasy world.”
“Don’t pretend to be fair. You know you’re basically not. Why don’t you Just admit it?”
Recognizing Different Forms of Double Standards
Couples who want to leave these dangerous and destructive interactions must be able to recognize them as soon as they happen and stop using them immediately.
Some are quite subtle and hard to recognize, while others are intentionally mean. But all of them, unstopped, will eventually destroy any trust the couple once had between them.
Though the following are by no means inclusive of all the ways relationship partners use double standards, these five examples might help you identify them in your own relationship.
1. Lack of awareness
Sometimes people are just not aware they are using double standards to win a dispute. For instance, a partner challenged for spending too much money on “frivolous” things, might rationalize those same rules for themselves, citing that their ways of spending money are obviously more legitimate. Or, one partner sees working long hours despite being away from the family has more honor than taking time for a pleasurable hobby, though it affectively causes the same outcome.
Parents regularly tell their children not to yell or threaten each other, while not modeling that same behavior in their own relationships. One partner sees himself or herself as necessarily shifting priorities while accusing the other as being a procrastinator.
The similarities are evident. When accosted, change the rules in favor of the challenger.
“A great relationship is about two things, first, find out the similarities, second, respect the differences.” – unknown
2. Simple Conflict Situations
When attacked or threatened, partners are more likely to use double standards to defend themselves. They don’t like the way they look in the mirror of the other partner, and “smash the mirror” by holding up one that will make the other defendants in turn. The escalating spiral of repeated attack/defend maneuvers soon destroys any capability for them to resolve their situation.
Here are some examples: