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When you ask a couple what each individual wants in a relationship, many will respond they want an "equal partner." But many experts believe that's a misnomer. What we really want isn't equality, they say, but fairness and equity. "Equality is 50-50," explains Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great, "and I'm not sure we need to gauge that split in a relationship because things are never really equal."
In the first year of your marriage, she posits, you may contribute more than your spouse in anything from income to housework. For example, when you're sick, he could pick up the slack around the house. Or if he's laid off, you might pay the bills. "At these points in time," Orbuch says, "the relationship isn't equal, but each partner might think it is fair or equitable."
So, then, what's fair? Take a look at how much you contribute to the relationship, says Orbuch, and compare it to what you receive from your partner. "If you guilty that you are over-benefitted, or feel anger or sadness because you are under-benefitted, then that relationship is not equitable," she explains. "When you perceive that you put in as much as you receive, then you'll think the situation is fair, and you're likely to be happier."
Laurel House, dating coach and author of Screwing the Rules: A No Games Guide to Love, suggests holding monthly check-ins with your significant other so you can get on the same page about what you need from one another. "It might seem like a strange concept at first," she says. "In fact, for the first several months it might feel awkward. But it's important to know where you stand on a regular and ongoing basis. Once you create the routine around checking in, you will discover that your bond is growing tighter, you are more cognizant of each other's needs, and how your words and actions affect each other, and you will be more open to have revealing and substantive conversations that solidify you as a partnership as opposed to two individuals in their own worlds who happen to be walking the path together — tempting fate that your paths will diverge and grow apart."