7 Common Double Standards in Marriage

A friend of mine is married to an elementary school teacher. His wife has to get up early and needs her sleep to have enough energy for the kids in her class. Quite often, she will go to bed earlier than my friend, who is a night owl. Early in their marriage, on more than one occasion, he stumbled into the bedroom late without considering his volume. He found out quickly how much that agitated his wife. She gave him an earful about his lack of consideration and selfishness; he then complained about her over-sensitivity and harshness.

But many mornings, she woke up, turned the lights on, loudly sifted through dresser drawers, and burst through doors in a focused rush to get to work. She operated completely unaware of the disruption she made. My friend would lie in bed angry that his morning sleep was disrupted. Each held the other to a double standard. Each one expected the other to uphold standards that they both broke. Such attitudes can attack the foundation of even the strongest marriages. Here are 7 common double standards in marriage and ways to avoid them.

1. Meeting Each Other’s Needs

She expects all her emotional needs to be met before having sex. He expects all his sexual needs to be met before meeting her emotional needs. The double standard is expecting your spouse to meet your needs without also meeting your spouse’s. Both parties end up frustrated.

How to Avoid: A good way to avoid this is by putting your spouse’s needs before your own. When you do that consistently, you can call on your spouse to do the same. Someone has to make the first move, though. It might as well be you.

The double standard is expecting your spouse to meet your needs without also meeting your spouse’s.

2. Her Parents and His Parents

One spouse’s parents receive more attention, have concessions made for them, or are always welcome. When the in-laws come around, the attitudes change. Extended family dynamics and inflexibility can cause significant marital stress.

How to Avoid: Focus on why your spouse may have a double standard. In what ways is she pressured by her family? Is she intimidated by yours? Discuss it with her. Be sure to explain how and why it hurts you and your family.

3. Spending Habits

Maybe your wife buys a lot of things for herself, and it feels frivolous to you, yet she is critical when you make similar purchases. It’s important to come to an agreement regarding financial choices.

How to Avoid: This takes a lot of dialogue, budgeting, and a financial plan. Meet with a financial advisor. Take time together to go over the types of purchases that are and aren’t appropriate. If there are core issues of distrust and/or resentment regarding money, deal with it.

4. Her Friends and His Friends

There can be several double standards in marriage here. One spouse goes out with her friends all the time while criticizing any time the other does the same. Another scenario is having disdain for a spouse’s friends while overlooking the imperfections in your own. Lastly, some spouses have strict rules about a spouse having friends of the opposite sex while not applying the same rules to themselves.

How to Avoid: In general, try to treat the other’s friends well. Discuss the subject openly, listen, and show grace. Setting a schedule for equal time may be a good place to start. If either one has a friend or friends who are a bad influence, there may be a need to discontinue those friendships. Understand that this is a hard thing to ask your spouse to do. Be patient and give it time.     

5. Household Chores

This often breaks down into gender roles. Some people consider certain jobs around the house to be “a man’s” or “woman’s” job. They think that if a wife makes dinner, it’s expected, but when a husband makes dinner, he’s going above and beyond. Or they think a husband who takes out the garbage is doing what he is supposed to do; but when a wife does it, she is picking up the slack. Now if those roles are clearly delegated, it isn’t a double standard. But having those expectations without an agreement is where the problem arises.

How to Avoid: Divide the chores so the workload is even. Consider rotating chores if there is disagreement about who does what. 

6. Hurting One Another

We all hurt one another. However, when one spouse wants the other to quickly let go of a hurt he or she caused while dragging it out when the roles are reversed, it’s a double standard.

How to Avoid: Set rules for how you argue and reconcile with one another. Having boundaries and guidelines surrounding conflict can make all the difference.  

7. Watching the Kids

At the end of the day, everyone is tired. After a long day at work, one spouse tends to come home tired and looking for rest. The other spouse, whether a stay-at-home or working parent, is looking for the same. The double standard comes in when one expects the other to solely handle all of the kid duties.

How to Avoid: Tune in to your spouse. Try to put yourself in her shoes and think how you would feel. If you see yourself consistently as the one on the receiving end of a double standard and your spouse continues to deny it, bring in an objective third party.

Sound off: What other double standards in marriage have you seen?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Have you ever felt like others held you to a standard they didn’t meet themselves? How did it feel?”