Double Standards In Relationships — Signs, Examples, And How To Avoid

Relationship Advice | | , Senior Editor & Correspondent
Updated On: February 2, 2024
double standards in relationships

Remember Devil Wears Prada? Anne Hathaway’s character, Andrea, is an ambitious girl, who does whatever her ghastly boss asks to get to the top. When she starts progressing in her career, double standards in her relationship begin to take hold. Her boyfriend, Nate, who is an ambitious chef, is displeased with Andrea’s priorities. In fact, the actor who played Nate – Adrian Grenier – in a 2021 interview with Glamour magazine said that his character was indeed the villain of the film as he was selfish. His conversation indicated that it had a lot to do with double standards in relationships.

Relationship double standards may start small but can go on to assume large proportions. Common examples range from financial issues to sex. For instance, the offending partner may splurge liberally but monitor the partner’s expenditures. Similarly, when it comes to sex, a partner may enjoy certain acts but will refuse to do them for their partner.

What Are Double Standards In Relationships?

A relationship is all about sharing. It involves mutual trust and unbridled loyalty, among many things. One could say that double standard love lacks these essential ingredients. Double standards in relationships can form due to disrespect, a struggle for control, and even severe detachment. In fact, if you see these signs of a controlling woman or a man, you should try to mitigate the situation soon. Because these components, if present in large doses, can be the death of a relationship.

Some instances of double standards in a relationship include jealousy, silent treatment, neediness, withholding or bartering sex, and much more. The latter is counted among double standards in abusive relationships. How, you may ask? The answer is quite simple — intimacy is a shared trait. To use it to gain power in a relationship, that is, by only availing of sexual pleasures and refusing to reciprocate can result in terrible discord. It is among the most damaging double standards in a relationship.

Related Reading: Romantic Manipulation – 15 Things Disguised As Love

Negative effects of double standards in relationships

Double standard is a bane to any human relationship be it romantic or not. You can’t build trust and a safe space in a relationship if it’s standing on the foundation of manipulation and gaslighting. It’s a red flag you need to keep an eye out for from the very first date and address the issue immediately to nip it in the bud. Let’s take a quick look at the negative effects of double standards in relationships:

  • If your partner’s two-facedness convinces you that you are a shallow, worthless person, it can take a serious toll on your self-esteem
  • Eventually, you will stop taking risks and flourishing in life, and face difficulty making decisions. In short, one partner’s double standards can hamper the personal growth of the other
  • Double standard behavior comes along with jealousy, controlling nature, and emotional manipulation
  • As the victim partner deals with all the inequity, abuse, and breach of personal space and trust, it sows resentment in their heart
  • They will start losing themselves and if things keep going on like this, the relationship will soon collapse like a house of cards
  • Double standards for women or men can clearly ruin the peace of a romantic partnership

What Are Some Examples Of Double Standards In Relationships?

Let me tell you the story of Julian and Cassie — an instance in their regular life that could help explain the double standards meaning. Julian is a night owl and Cassie is an early riser. According to Julian, she wakes up, turns on all the lights, loudly sifts through dresser drawers, and bursts through doors in a focused rush to get to work. But she gets extremely irritated if Julian makes a small sound during the night.

Double standards occur in many forms and shapes. And this is a classic case where a partner is not willing to live up to expectations in relationships that they impose on the other. Some other examples of double standards include:

1. Pretending to be a different person in front of mutual friends

Ah, let me guess, whenever you spend time with your common friends, your boyfriend becomes an absolute saint. To them, he is a feminist — he supports women’s issues, their career goals, clothing choices, and everything. Perhaps he presents himself in such a way that nobody can imagine him to be an abuser. But the minute you step home, he accuses you of flirting with his friend or attracting unwanted attention with your revealing shorts. That’s double standard.

Related Reading: Emotional Abuse Checklist – 18 Devastating Signs

2. You can spend thousands on makeup but his PS5 is reckless spending

Surely many of our readers can relate that it’s one of the common double standards for women, at least some of them. Such a woman can go to the mall for a harmless coffee and come back home with an air fryer. She can spend a fortune on designer clothes and bags. Even though her Amazon parcels are piling up on the doorstep every day, her husband or boyfriend investing in a sound system or gaming laptop seems like an impulse buy to her. When one partner criticizes the other for reckless spending habits when their own expenditure knows no bounds, it’s an example of double standards in relationships.

double standards in dating
It’s double standard if you criticize someone for certain habits that you yourself can’t overcome

3. Expecting your partner to stay in shape when you indulge in an unhealthy lifestyle

Talking about the imbalance of standards in your relationship, here’s a copybook example. Suppose, your partner makes you feel that you are a two if you have anything less than six-pack abs. They will taunt you for even eyeing the cupcakes at a party. Or, perhaps they expect you to comply with the traditional beauty standards and look impeccable 24/7. After making you feel insecure about your looks, there they are, sitting with a big tub of chocolate ice cream, lazing around in their underwear all day. That’s utterly unfair and you know it.

Related Reading: 4 Signs Of An Unequal Relationship And 7 Expert Tips To Foster Equality In A Relationship

4. Talking about your partner’s secrets, but you expect yours to be guarded

In intimate relationships, partners share secrets with each other in moments of vulnerability. And it is expected that they are kept that way. To start talking about these secrets suddenly in front of a bunch of friends is uncool. It might have been a sensitive issue for your partner, and it will be hard for them to see their tender emotions catered to an audience as juicy gossip. This sheer lack of emotional support and then asking them to get over it exhibits nothing but toxic double standards.

5. Double standards in dating: You want your partner to do things you like but not vice versa

Say, your partner is always ready to explore your suggestions about anything, be it hobbies or watching films. But you are not interested in theirs and are often critical of their choices. This is a display of zero mutual respect and double standards in relationships when you don’t pay attention to anything beyond your own needs. However small this may seem, it can irritate an individual. This annoyance can fester into deep resentment in romantic relationships.

9 Signs Of Double Standards In Relationships

By now, you must have realized that unfairly applied standards in relationships don’t work in the long run. That is perhaps why you have read on till this point. Maybe you are experiencing certain behaviors that are unfair or unequal in your relationship but have been unable to put a finger on it. The realistic expectations in the relationship appear to be floundering. If that is the case, let us help you in identifying some signs of double standards in relationships.

1. Limitations on having friends of the opposite sex

Lisa, a Zumba trainer from Dallas, told me how jealousy manifested in her relationship with James when it came to hanging out with friends of the opposite sex. Lisa has male friends whom she goes out with to grab a bite or some beers. James does not like this and often creates a scene about it. However, James often goes out with his own friends, who are women, and believes it’s perfectly okay for him to do so. There you go, a classic sign of double standards for men when they try to restrict their partner’s social life.

Related Reading: How Spending Time With Friends Helps Improve Your Relationship

2. Sexual exploitation of a partner

Now let’s talk about presumptions regarding sex. Consent is paramount. Everyone has the right to say no to sex whenever they’re tired or they just don’t feel like it. Say, your partner exercises this right often in bed. All’s well till now.

But they get hurt quickly when you, too, take the liberty of refusing physical intimacy. This refusal directly translates into your partner no longer finding you attractive or even losing interest in the relationship. Some even go to the extent of withholding sex, at a future date, just to get their way. If this doesn’t hold double standards, then we don’t know what does!

3. Not practicing what you believe in are double standards in relationships

So, the other day you gave your partner a solid lecture on their awful habits like smoking and drinking. And the very next day, they caught you at a bar with a mug of beer and a joint. This is a clear disparity of standards in your relationship. For one thing, your actions don’t align with your words, beliefs, and your moral high ground. Then why preach something you can’t follow?

Related Reading: Healthy Relationship Dynamics – 10 Fundamentals

4. Treating each other’s parents differently

A couple that is getting serious has to deal with each other’s families. Unequal expectations arise when one partner expects their parents to be treated with the utmost respect but does not do the same for their partner’s parents. The discord stemming from an unbalanced equation and lack of mutual respect is a characteristic of toxic relationships sometimes. See if they are at least willing to practice fair fighting rules to resolve disputes.

More on couple dynamics

5. Being secretive about your finances but expecting the other to open up

Discussing and sharing financial details is often expected in a serious, long-term relationship. If one partner thinks that opening up about their finances is a violation of their privacy but expects the other to do the opposite, then it’s clearly a double standard relationship. Hiding such crucial information could be deemed cunning. Moreover, if one partner spends a lot and the other is expected to be frugal, then this too accounts for a double standard. Make a note when I say money issues can ruin your relationship.

6. Keeping your options open but expecting loyalty in return are relationship double standards

If you expect your partner to be extremely loyal to you while you keep your options open, then you are being unreasonable. Such double standards in relationships don’t work for the sole reason that you are being covertly mean. Your intentions alone may betray the trust which is the foundation of a committed relationship. Here’s the full disclosure: If you ask your partner to adhere to the principles of monogamy, it goes without saying that the same rules apply to you too.

Related Reading: 7 Ways To Build Loyalty In A Relationship

7. Unequal distribution of household chores

In a relationship, if one partner does the bare minimum but expects the other to take on the entire load of household chores, it may soon lead to irreversible discord. In general, it’s one of the most common double standards for men. One can’t just lounge around taking care of the lighter chores while the other cooks and cleans.

When two people plan on sharing their lives with one another, the same level of effort is expected on both their parts. One person relaxing and the other scurrying to keep it all together is not the best way to go about it.

8. Not allowing ‘me-time’ to each other

How much space in a relationship is normal? The answer lies in balance. Partners need to be independent and have their own interests and lives apart from the ones they share. They are also allowed to have time to reset. In a relationship, when you take this break to rejuvenate but do not allow your partner equal time to do so due to some kind of suspicion (like they will cheat), then this is one of the common examples of double standard behaviors.

9. It’s hypocritical when you disrespect a partner whom you demand respect from

If a person demands respect but their behavior toward others, especially their partner, is often unkind and abusive, it is a telling manifestation of double standards in dating. A partner who is unwilling to treat you with the same respect that they demand is nothing but a relationship bully. Their unsolicited advice and insults can cause cracks in a relationship and leave you with battered self-esteem.

5 Tips To Avoid Double Standards In Your Relationship(s)

We get it that dealing with double standards in relationships can be an emotional roller coaster. Now that you know what comprises unfair standards in your relationship, you may also want to know how to steer clear of them. Weed these out and you may have a chance of joy and stability with your partner. Let the double standard stay and it may poison your bond slowly but surely.

Related Reading: Relationship Advice For Couples – 25 Ways To Strengthen Your Bond

1. Discuss the issue with your partner

Do the hard thing. This has to be your first move. There is nothing a healthy conversation cannot solve. If you feel that you are at the receiving end of double standards in a relationship, you may want to take a step back. De-bias yourself and focus on the issue, not the person. Because if you keep on saying things like “My girlfriend has double standards when it comes to social media usage” or “My boyfriend doesn’t let me spend time with my family even though he sees his folks every week,” it can quickly turn into a game of blame-shifting.

  • Quit complaining but don’t avoid conflict altogether
  • While broaching the issue, inform them and be assertive
  • Use “I” instead of “you” and be a good listener to make them feel like it is a conversation
  • Don’t make your argument sound like an attack. Aggressive communication does more harm than good to intimate relationships
  • Talk about what is happening with you and not what their behavior is doing to you. There’s a possibility that your partner takes it amicably and actually sees the error of their ways
relationship double standards
You need to talk it through with your partner instead of shutting each other out

2. Agree to maintain balance and make compromises

Double standards in abusive relationships could be rested by drawing agreements and compromising the right way. Depending on your situation, different compromises can be made to fulfill expectations of fairness in your relationship. Let’s take the example of a couple in which one partner is a working professional whereas the other stays at home. Just because a partner stays at home does not mean they are not occupied. The burden of all the household chores falls upon them round-the-clock.

So, the working partner can be assigned some light tasks, if not all the chores — as long as it feels fair. This may not be the perfect solution but it could be a good first step toward building a more balanced dynamic and making the relationship more sustainable in the long run.

In case you think you are being stopped from doing certain things that your partner does freely, initiate a talk. It won’t be easy to set rules that are the same for both of you and put them in practice, but do not stop until you have agreed to have equal rights.

Related Reading: Secure Relationships – What Are They And What Do They Look Like?

3. Be transparent when it comes to finances

Establish the transparency rule in money matters. You could do this by voluntarily being transparent. Be open about your salary, debts, and spending habits — show that this is nothing to be ashamed of. It can help your inhibited partner to do the same, seeing that you are comfortable discussing the most private things.

However, if your partner still does not want to reveal their expenditures, you are not accountable to them either. Regardless of the amount of pressure they put on you. But if your relationship is getting serious, it is obvious that your wallets will become shared entities. This is a topic that you will need to tackle gently. If you fail to see eye to eye on money matters, employing a financial advisor might be a good way of handling things. It doesn’t bode well for a couple’s future together if finances are the cause of double standards in relationships.

4. Agree to make decisions together

The road to dealing with double standards in relationships will become smoother if you start involving one another in the decision-making process. Decision-making is imperative to a relationship. If you keep on fighting over small decisions, like watching movies or picking a place for a date (as one partner overpowers the other), how will you make bigger decisions in life? These aren’t the characteristics of a healthy relationship.

  • In such a scenario, a partner who makes the other watch movies of their choice or only insists that they go to a certain restaurant must stop being stubborn
  • They have to learn to try new things that their partner takes an interest in or at least agree to a middle route
  • Remember, aggressive communication or trying to impose one’s own wishes on others is never okay
  • To establish the same standard in a relationship, both partners need to seek each other’s opinion on certain matters, both big and small, and practice being a good listener from this point forward

Related Reading: Transparency In Relationships: Meaning, How To Show & Some Secret Tips

5. Meet each other’s needs

Your partner has this double standard where they expect you to meet all their needs even though they are not attentive to yours. They get upset when you do not meet their needs and even get hurt quickly making a big deal out of it. While not everything can be balanced all the time, it must never feel like you are putting way more effort into a relationship than your partner. If this is happening, here’s what you need to do:

  • You must let your partner know that you always put their needs first
  • Tell them that all you have been asking is that they do the same for you
  • It may not always happen that your partner acknowledges ‘all’ your social, physical, and emotional needs but they could at least try
  • Explain to your partner that you also need to be looked after in some capacity. Specify what you want from them
  • Couple’s therapy can be a good starting point to make sense of each other’s requirements, if they are unclear at present
  • If it seems like your partner’s expectations are crossing your patience threshold, don’t hesitate to set some clear boundaries and make sure they respect your limitations

Key Pointers

  • Double standards in relationships can cause resentments, detachment, anger, and a lowered self-esteem
  • A relationship can be strained if you do not allow your partner to do some things that you do openly, or if you don’t take part in each other’s interests, or are hypocritical when it comes to finances or sex
  • To avoid double standards, be transparent with one another and try to fulfill each other’s needs by meeting halfway
  • Get off your high horse and keep the same expectations from your partner that you can fulfill yourself
  • If there is conflict due to unfair treatment, set boundaries and have a heart-to-heart conversation

In conclusion, one could say that double standards in relationships are not the best news but it’s not the end of the world either. So, parting ways is certainly not your first move to get rid of this issue. There is so much mutual effort you can put into overcoming your own double standards and building a lasting relationship. Resort to open communication, spend time understanding each other’s needs, set boundaries to make space for yourselves, and most importantly, get off your high horse and keep the same expectations from your partner that you can fulfill as well.

Compassion is the other way of keeping your relationship dilemmas in check. It can also help one deal with an unreasonable partner. At any point if you feel the need for professional help, just know that skilled and licensed counselors on Bonobology’s panel are always here for you. If the relationship seems to have a future, it is better to untangle the hurtful double standards and be on an equal plane.

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