An unwavering constant in life, double standards always tend to creep up in relationships, friendships, etc. So how do we address, and better yet, prevent them?
Is it safe to assume your partner or friend will react the same way you would in a given situation? After all, they are close to you for a reason. The answer is an obvious no. Just because you are close to someone doesn’t mean you’re the same. However, many times, we expect our loved ones to carry themselves in the same way we would when faced with a problem. Making assumptions can harm us. Because when you assume, you set expectations, and if they aren’t met, you’re let down. Although rifts may show up when someone in a relationship regularly assumes, real divides occur when there is a double standard.
Assumptions are easier to handle, as you can express to your loved one how you feel, show it through your actions, and they should stop making assumptions, so long as you’ve addressed other problematic areas pertaining to them. But double standards are a different beast. As defined, a double standard is “a set of principles that applies differently to one group of people or circumstances than to another.” In essence, if someone yells at you and I condemn you for yelling back, rather than taking the high road and walking away, yet, I do the same when they scream at me, it’s a double standard.
Double standards take on various roles. There are gender double standards, such as women’s wages remaining less than men’s in many states in the United States. Another example is fathers receiving an inordinate amount of praise for raising their child, while mothers are expected to be caregivers. Additionally, double standards show themselves through race and wealth. If someone isn’t treated the same as another person due to their skin color, it’s blatant racism. Or, if someone wealthy receives a less than typical jail sentencing after breaking the law, it’s most likely due to their money and power. But there are more subtle, nuanced cases that take place every day.
If a cop pulls someone over for a speeding ticket and they let that individual go, but not the next one, what’s the difference? Was it a preconceived notion in the officer’s head? Did the cop cast judgment on the person, and that’s ultimately the reason why the driver got away with or without penalty? The point here is that we must lead by example, which is a tough tightrope to walk. It’s always fascinating when you bring up a double standard to someone by telling them their actions and words go both ways. Usually, they have a mystified look on their face, as if they’re shocked you recognized you should both be treated equally. We should aim to treat everybody the same, that remains true. But where it gets tricky is when you observe someone’s track record.
If you know someone who consistently expects you to do things for them that they aren’t willing to do for you, how long will it be before you call them out on creating a double standard? When you glance into their past, is it filled with double standards? Are they always making excuses for those standards? Don’t be fooled by someone who continually creates double standards in your friendship. They should be willing to do for you, whatever it is they ask you to do for them. Yet, in attempting to take a world filled with double standards and reverse course, we must show fellow members of our community grace and forgiveness, even when they create them.
However, the best way to prevent double standards from occurring in the first place is to set a precedent. Some double standards are built over time, such as ones with family. So if there’s a double standard with a family member and you are no longer comfortable with it, tell them. Let them know how you feel and what is required from both of you moving forward to have a better relationship. For those relationship buds that haven’t bloomed into flowers yet, lay the groundwork.
When you enter into a relationship or friendship, explicitly state that you will not tolerate double standards in your life. By simply making them aware, you’re planting seeds of prevention. Lead by example through reigning in your temperament and assumptions when someone reacts similarly to how you would in a given circumstance. Instead of condemning them, acknowledge you may have reacted the same, and point it out as an opportunity for you to grow together. Even if you wouldn’t have responded the same, show your fellow human a little grace. Treat it as a teaching moment, not one where you shun them. They’ll be better because of it, and so will you.