For the longest time in my adult life, equal partnership was like the holy grail for me. Simply put, equality wasn't what attracted us to each other. These were relationships born out of our patterns. It gutted me. It made my relationships incredibly painful. And I felt desperate to heal the pattern.
Before I go any further, let me explain.
If we're honest, we can see that we're all at differing developmental levels with varying degrees of maturity, emotional intelligence, personal power, relational skill, and willingness to do the deepest inner work. There will always be people who are developmentally more advanced than me, those who're on an equal playing field, and those who're less advanced.
In a very human way, we're all equal (as in, we all deserve the same rights and respect), but what I'm saying is that we can still be at very different places in our relationship with our own power and maturity. Different places on the path. Part of my job as a therapist is to track people where they are and meet them there. No judgement.
Which is great when it comes to my work. When it comes to dating, though, it matters to me to feel met. To feel like equals. And that's not something that comes from a judgement or intellectual critique, but from a felt sense inside. Feeling met is...well...a feeling.
(A disclaimer here is that I wouldn't recommend judging where someone else is because all our lessons look different. It's not about who's more or less, but how the chemistry of your partnership feels; whether it feels equal or not). OK, carrying on.
I've noticed that while some people are able to date and attract their equals without even trying, others struggle with a pattern where they either "date up," so to speak, or "date down."
I've witnessed that those who date up chronically feel like they're not enough, like they're the more childish one in the pair, or that they're a burden or a let down. These experiences may mirror an imprint from their childhood where their parents had all the power, exerted it as "power over" rather than "power with," and the child felt powerless in the relationship. So that child grows up and they feel like they're small looking up at their partner, who is big or on a pedestal (just as when they were little).
Those with a pattern of dating down tend to feel like they're the ones taking care of everything, the health of the relationship is all on their shoulders, and that they aren't able to be nourished or met in the connection. It's lonely. These people may have had childhoods where they couldn't trust the maturity or authority of their parents and felt they had to take care of things on their own. They feel like they're big or on a pedestal looking down at their partner, who is small (just as it was when they were little).
It's my theory that children of empowered parents who were parented in such a way where they were supported to come into their power, felt safe, treated as equals, truly listened to, and valued for their contributions grow into adults who know what equal partnership and mutual respect feel like. And so they tend to attract this into their lives.
My own personal pain was that I used to date down. For decades. I struggled to feel met---socially, intellectually, emotionally, sexually, and in my type A-ness.
I was often told I was "too masculine," but it wasn't actually that my inner masculine was over expressed, rather this issue of repeating my pattern.
It's hard to say who it was that was putting me up on a pedestal, me or them, (I think it was an unconscious co-creation), but what I do know is that because of my childhood wounding, I learned that I had to be competent. The issue with my pattern was that even though there were people I would've felt met by, because of my early imprinting, I didn't even see them when I walked into a room. Or wasn't attracted. I attracted and was attracted to my pattern.
But with therapy, this can change. I know because I've done so much of my own healing work around this and have seen big, positive changes in my relationships because of it, which is such a huge relief. So of course I want that for you too.
If you're interested in equal partnership, here are some questions and journaling prompts you can consider.
- Do I feel met by my partner?
- Do I feel like I'm holding the needs of the relationship more than him/her?
- Does it feel like we work as a team when there's something that needs our attention whether it's the relationship, our kids, or a project around the house?
- Is it clear to me what each of us contributes and offers to the relationship and are those contributions held as equal in both our eyes?
- Do both partners feel safe bringing their vulnerability to the other? Do you each trust that the other person is capable of holding you there?
- Do I feel respected? Do I respect my partner?
- Is there a consistent theme of one partner feeling young, triggered, or less mature?
- Do I feel "gotten" by my partner? Do I feel like I get them and would they agree?
- Do I feel that either of us is up on a pedestal? Either idealized or looked down on?
- Do I feel like I truly have a partner, not just a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend?
- Do I feel empowered with my partner? Did I feel empowered with my parents growing up? Did I feel met by my parents growing up?
Sit with these questions. Write a little. Let your answers come into clarity, into focus. And if this is a conversation you want to have with someone, use the share button below to send this along to them.
Your ally on the path,