Is a protest that I hear over and over as couples strive to implement a basic rule drilled into them in childhood. There are many times when this injunction can produce equitable and sustainable alliances and as one tool among many, it is useful. But if you will–just for a moment–breathe open more space for another perspective, I will attempt to take us outside the box where fair….really isn’t.
It requires radical invocation of subjectivity, deepest humanity, and relativity. Think of Rumi’s field “beyond conceptions of right and wrong”, where profound love can flourish.
Let’s start simple. To the bull, a red flag waving means “charge and destroy”. To the hardworking father, the red flag waving means “it’s Canada day” and he can finally relax with his family for a picnic in the park. Yes, that kind of relativity. Where it’s not the behavior or situation ITSELF, it’s the personal context and history that produces the meaning.
And now it gets harder. She argues that they should spend the holidays with her parents this year because they were with his last year. If only rational and logical lenses were used, she’d win the day. But his father is ill and it’s not clear how much longer he will be lucid. Grandpa has never met their brand new baby girl, and she’s the spitting image of him. Should they honor this more imbedded view, the love of one generation will find its flow into the next as grandpa cradles the little tyke and she hears the paternal rhythm of his heart.
He can see that she is alight with passion to become a 5 rhythms dance teacher and ignite the community on the open floor. But she knows there’s only enough money for one of them to train, and he’s already waited several years for her to finish her accounting degree. It just would’t be fair–it would mean his masters degree would be put off for another year and she just couldn’t do that to him. Which is all very well meaning if we only look at a turn-taking model, believing that adherence to you-me-you-me demonstrates care and love. Which it does…..but! It cannot register the subtleties and nuances of situations, nor evaluate which avenue cultivates optimum life force and passion in the partnership. It leaves out contemplation of the higher purpose of being a couple. And so to reap the highest relational rewards we must use discernment and CHOOSE when to be strictly fair, and when ask “what option allows the deepest contribute to our long term goals and vision”.
Tit for tat thinking keeps everyone at the same level when actually, one party may be able to withstand “unfair” circumstances if it grants access to greater gains for the alliance. It can be very sweet to forgo your own personal need to contribute to the good of your mate, which then blooms everything (including your life together). In this case, privileging your beloved is freely given and there is not even a whiff of resentment or “you owe me”. At this level of maturity, in the couple described above, he understoods that granting his wife her big fat juicy passion to manifest her wild dancing queen brings more light to our union and our world than gaining the income and status that will eventually come with his masters degree. And she has to learn to step out of turn and answer yes to this gift. His Giving away his turn is actually more essentially “true” to their shared life course and if they slow down and consider deeply, they can feel it.
So next time you want to lie on the beach in Hawaii and drink pina coladas and he wants to build houses for refugees in Ecuador, (and he picked the last destination), ask yourself if you really, deeply, truly, madly want your “turn” ? Or do you want to pack a pina colada mix and roll up your sleeves, get to know the lion heart of your man, witness his passion for his people and his planet? Even a Hawaii beach might not be as sweet as the profound respect he earns in your heart with his contribution to the human crisis.
Yes, you’re right, it’s crucial to take your wise and relational self into these dialogues, not your conditioned self–keep the scarcity-narcissism-competition firmly on a leash . And yes, an immature person could abuse or take advantage by “inflating” how much something means to them. We are human after all. But considering the payoff–it’s worth taking the chance to see how your relationship shakes down.
In reprise: for a really juicy relationship, listen deeper than fair sometimes– exercise your relational “greater good” muscle and watch your alliance bloom as profound new levels of gratitude and generosity are born between you. ALL power couples know how to do this
And sometimes fair is just really…fair. May your wisdom–or that of a couples counsellor–grant you the clarity to know the difference. If you are inspired to cultivate new skills and competence to live relationally, let’s meet! I love to excel couples on this particular journey