Equality in relationships

JOSH WILLINK/PEXELS.COM How decisions are made in a relationship or family tells a lot about the level of communication.

Psychology For Living

How decisions are made in a relationship or fam­ily tells a lot about the level of communication. Many decisions are made daily about how money and time are to be spent. Decisions are made about what children may or may not do, about social activities, and about what to have for supper. Some decisions are minor, while others have far reaching impact.

It would be time consuming and at times ridiculous to consult with everyone every time a decision is re­quired. So, we informally delegate decision making with regard to certain things.

But every once in a while, it is important to notice how this is happening, and if it is still suitable for the people involved. Sometimes parents forget to turn over more decision making to their children as they grow older, even though this is an important part of assisting young people to take more responsibility for them­selves. The sudden surge of rebelliousness that sometimes erupts in adolescence may be the result of never having made the gradual transition to having more responsibility. Increased opportunities for decision making ear­lier, in matters affecting teenagers directly, prepares both parents and children for this inevitable shift.

In adult relationships, we often hear the partner say, “My wife/husband would never go for that!” In this case it would seem that over the years one has given the other veto power over what one can and cannot do. This is not to suggest that a couple cannot set mu­tually agreed upon boundaries for behavior within the relationship, but rather it is not appropriate for an adult to deprive oneself of something which is enjoyable (not illegal or immoral) simply because a partner doesn’t “approve.”

This puts a couple into a parent-child relationship which sooner or later breeds resentment. Often one person in the partnership has the final say on how money should be spent. Rarely is this a conscious agreement, it’s just how it seems to end up. This puts the other person in a position of having to ask “permission” to get something that he/she really wants. Again, this is too much like a parent-child re­lationship, and either resentment builds or self-es­teem suffers.

Each of us has the right to have input in decisions that affect us, and the amount of input increases for children with age and maturity. However, in adult relationships, decision-making should be on an equal input basis. Couples for whom this is a concern need to begin by looking at how decisions on various matters are currently being made, and if both are comfortable with this. If not, then they need to work together to develop a process that they will use so that decision making is more equitable. The decision timing process is often taken for granted; however, it can be a very powerful factor in how we feel about ourselves, and how happy we are in our relationships.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit www.gwen.ca. Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.