What exactly is a double standard?
And how do you know if your expectations of someone qualify as such?
This isn’t just about double standards between men and women, though we do cover some of those.
The main issue here is the mentality behind the most common double standards.
It’s more about blind spots, which all of us have.
Once you recognize a double standard for what it is, what you do about it is what will define you.
Let’s start with an obvious question.
What Is A Double Standard in Relationships?
A double standard in marriage or other committed relationships is present whenever one or both of you expect something of your partner that you do not expect of yourself.
We’ll dive into examples below, but for now, we’ll summarize the situation this way:
- The imposer of the double standard feels justified in their expectations without realizing (or finding fault with) their own refusal to live up to the same standard.
- The one imposed upon feels unfairly burdened with a standard they see their partner unwilling to meet but absurdly willing to impose on them.
The sooner you both recognize double standards and deal with them, the better chance your relationship has of healing and becoming all that you both want it to be.
What Does It Mean to Hold Someone to a Double Standard?
Holding someone to a double standard essentially means expecting something of them that you don’t expect of yourself or other people.
Often enough, that double standard has to do with your partner’s gender or the role you’ve mentally assigned to them, with or without their consent.
Once you recognize the double standard for what it is, the unfairness becomes obvious. Unfortunately, many refuse to see their own double standard and persist in imposing them on their partners, which, like infidelity and abuse, eventually destroys the relationship.
What Type of Person Has Double Standards?
Any type of person is capable of having double standards. It’s just easier for those who don’t question long-held assumptions or thinking habits. It also comes more easily to those who are used to being right about everything and getting their way all the time.
That said, having double standards doesn’t make you or anyone else a narcissist.
It may simply mean you’re less self-aware or less inclined to question the beliefs and biases you grew up with.
The good news? You can learn to question them — and to do better.
13 Examples of a Double Standard in Relationships
Feel free to switch their order with any of the following double standard examples since you may just as easily be on the receiving end of this behavior.
Keep in mind that it’s also possible for both people in a relationship to have double standards, often relating to each partner’s blind spots.
Which ones sound most familiar to you?
1. You want your partner to be frugal while you continue to spend as you wish.
You expect your partner to be a model of careful economy. You might even question their decision to spend money on self-care items. Even if they earned the money they spent, you make “helpful suggestions” on how to spend it more wisely.
But how dare anyone question your right to spend your money as you please?
2. You want your partner to clean up their own messes when you do not do the same.
You may expect your partner to stay on top of their messes, but you’re constantly leaving dishes on the table, clothing on the floor, or dirty tissues scattered around the nearest wastebasket. You’re asking something of them that you clearly don’t expect of yourself.
3. You want your partner to say only nice things about you while you criticize them behind their back.
Your partner had the gall to tell someone else about your latest DIY disaster, and who can blame you for feeling a little betrayed. That YouTube video made it look so easy!
But if you turn around and start complaining about your partner to anyone who will listen, you’re not modeling the kind of behavior you want to see in them.
4. You expect your partner to be 100% faithful to you while you intend to keep your options open.
It makes no sense to play the field if you’re in a relationship with someone whom you expect to be 100% faithful to you alone.
If you’re not committed to your partner, and they want an exclusive relationship with you, breaking up is a better option than just hanging onto them until someone new and exciting comes along.
5. You want your partner to be content with less than you insist on for yourself.
Maybe you feel justified in taking up more of the space you share with them. It doesn’t bother you that your partner’s allotment of space keeps shrinking, as long as you can always find a place for the things you want to keep.
The idea of downsizing to make more room for them feels either impossible or unfair.
But if keeping all your stuff is more important than making room for your partner, sooner or later, they’ll get the message: your stuff has more right to the space than they do.
6. You want your partner to be chaste and modest while you take pleasure in mentally undressing those who are not.
Maybe you expect your partner to be a model of purity and modesty in their dress and comportment. But you’re constantly ogling people who exemplify the opposite. Your partner will likely pick up on that.
Try as you might to convince them you value their purity and modesty, your words don’t matter if your behavior objectifies your partner as well as anyone you mentally undress.
7. You expect your partner to keep up with housework when you do the bare minimum (or less).
You want your partner to keep your shared living space clean because, as you see it, they have more time and opportunity to do so. You, on the other hand, are far too busy. So, you expect them to sacrifice their free time to stay on top of the mess — including yours.
But how dare they suggest you sacrifice any of your free time to help out.
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8. You expect your partner to treat you with respect when you deny them the same.
You demand respect from others, but your behavior toward them, including your partner, is often unkind and even abusive. Maybe you never lay a hand on anyone, but you’re free with the insults and unsolicited “advice.”
Turn the tables, and it’s easier to see the obvious: a partner who’s unwilling to treat you with the same respect they demand themselves is a bully.
9. You expect your partner to cancel their plans in favor of yours, but you don’t reciprocate.
You made plans without consulting your partner, and when they tell you they have a previous commitment, you feel affronted and expect them to cancel that commitment and choose you and your plans instead. If they don’t, you hold it against them.
Yet if the tables are turned, and you have a previous commitment when your partner would like to do something with you, you defend your right to keep that commitment.
10. You expect your partner to respond within a few minutes to every text, while you tend to take much longer.
When you text your partner, if they take longer than a few minutes to reply, you’re quick to send follow-up texts asking why they haven’t responded.
Yet when they text you, you might take hours to get back to them because the urgency just isn’t there — unless you want to tell them something ASAP.
And if they worry about you, they’re just “being paranoid” or “controlling.”
11. You expect your partner to have no boundaries where you’re concerned while you jealously guard your own.
When you need time and space to yourself, or you need to keep someone else’s confidence, you don’t hesitate to defend your personal boundaries.
But when it comes to your partner, you take it personally when they need alone time or have a secret they can’t share with you.
Your boundaries are about personal autonomy and self-love; their boundaries, to you, are a sign they’re pushing you away or falling out of love with you.
12. You expect your partner to maintain a certain look while you take offense when others expect the same of you.
If you’re expecting your partner to look a certain way, but you cry foul whenever someone expects you to meet a similar ideal, that 100% qualifies as a double standard.
It doesn’t matter if you think you’re only making helpful suggestions out of genuine concern for your partner’s health and well-being.
Look at it from your partner’s perspective and choose your words accordingly.
13. You expect your partner to adopt your beliefs, while you would be outraged if they asked you to do the same.
If you can’t agree on a major issue that’s driving you apart, neither one of you has a right to expect the other to abandon their beliefs in favor of your own.
You will sometimes disagree, even if you profess the same faith (or lack thereof); what matters is that you handle those disagreements with love and respect for each other.
How to Deal with Double Standards in a Relationship
Once you recognize double standards in your own or your partner’s behavior, it’s time to do something about it. The following tips are a great place to start.
- Talk to your partner about double standards you’ve noticed;
- Ask your partner to be more aware and stop expecting from you what they won’t do;
- Talk to a trusted therapist or advisor about your own double standards;
- Consider couples therapy to help you both address these in your relationship;
- Bottom line: treat each other the way you want to be treated.
Now that you’ve got a better handle on what it means to have double standards, which of the examples described above struck you as most familiar? Which have you caught in yourself? Or which have you noticed in your partner or in someone else you care about?
And what will you do differently today?