Monday, April 6, 2009

Inequality in Relationships

Inequality in Relationships

All people are equal, but some are more equal than others – based on George Orwel – Animal Farm

We all strive for equality in relationships but if you reflect on it, most relationships are unequal.

The relationship at work is the most obvious because there is an implied hierarchy and one is supposed to follow it. Even with this though, there are times when some employees may feel that they are better than their superiors. Though this may be true in some areas, management and leadership are very complex issues. As an employee you may not be able to fathom the goal of an organization. e.g. your boss may not have such good technical skills and may not be an expert on the latest nuances of Object Oriented Programming but he may be an expert at talking to clients and charming them.

It is tempting to fall in the trap of being critical of people who are better than you but the best way to resolve inequalities is to look at what the other person is clearly superior in and learn from it. If you then add it to your existing skills, then at some point, you will supersede the person in question.

The same inequality exists in friends and man-woman relationships. Here it gets a bit more complicated because the normal misunderstanding is that friendships and relationships are based on equality, but they are not.

How many times does one observe the stark inequality between two friends or between man-woman relationships? How do these work then?

Unequal relationships can only work when there is a compensatory benefit from one side. E.g Assume Rakesh and Robert are friends. Rakesh is rich, Robert is middle class. Rakesh always wines and dines Robert in fancy places, the kind he is used to. Robert though is more intelligent and a source of knowledge for Rakesh. He is also loyal to him even though he can be objectively critical of Rakesh. Also, Robert makes sure that periodically he takes Rakesh out to cheaper but eclectic places with clean food which is really different experience for Rakesh.

Krish and Nishi are married. Krish is good looking and intelligent, Nishi is a bit above average in looks and intelligence but not equal to Krish. In the beginning years of the marriage, everything is hunky dory because Nishi adulates Krish and is an avid learner. Krish enjoys being a mentor and watches her bloom. As she becomes better, she gets more respect all around and suddenly starts thinking that she is equal to Krish. She starts arguing and fighting with him which not only hurts the relationship but also her own growth.

Unequal relationships work as long a the equation is clear on both sides. Suppose one is a 7 and the other a 5 and they know it, its ok. The moment the 5 starts thinking like a 7 or the 7 starts thinking like they are a 9, there are issues.

On a controversial closing note, women always are happier if the man is more intelligent and capable than them. This does not mean that a woman is less than a man, it only means that she may like a lot of men who are lesser than her but instinctively she looks for a man who is superior to her.

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