My parents never treated my sister and I as if we didn't understand something because we were kids. They treated us as equal human beings as they spoke to us, taught us, listened to us, and learned from us. Yet, they maintained a sense of parental guidance; they were still the leaders.
To create equality among apparent unequals, such as a children and their parents, requires consistent democratic thinking. As children, my sister and I were always able to share our opinions, and our parents took them seriously when they made decisions, often putting our opinions at a higher priority than their own. Equality is not a simple equation, like 2+2=4, it's an incredible balancing act, like 3.4+8.7+2.3-10.4=900x8/1800.
This balancing act of equality as democracy is vital in my relationship with Owen, in both daily life and when making big decisions. In daily life, this equality keeps us both sane amidst all of the domestic work that the two of us are still adjusting to. To say that Owen and I should share the cleaning equally does not make sense because he has more work to do outside of the home than I do. To say that I should do all of the cleaning also does not make sense because every day is different, and sometimes he just has more energy than I do. We have to strike a balance between time availability, stress levels, energy, etc.
As far as the big decisions go, balance finds itself somewhere between the strength and practicality of our individual desires. Before we knew where Owen and I would be accepted for graduate school, we determined that we would stay together. The results came in: Owen was accepted to Minnesota and Iowa, and I was accepted to two Colorado schools. Though as an individual my best opportunity lied in Ft. Collins, when we looked at the situation as a couple the scales weighed heavily toward Iowa. At that point I had to make the decision that in my life story Owen and his needs would take an equal footing to my own. I believe that equality within a relationship is not that each partner receives equal opportunity at all times, but that each partner holds the other's needs and desires at that same level as his or her own.
Our situation may appear to favor Owen, since I gave up my acceptance in order to pursue his. Yet, we have to remember that everything comes in time. For now, I am in Iowa, and in the future Owen promises to follow me wherever the opportunity for further education lies. I know that he will follow through because he respects me as his equal and therefore puts my desires and needs at an equal priority to his own.
Recently, I've witnessed older couples face the inevitable situation wherein one partner declines quicker than the other, so that one partner must take on a caretaker role. If anything has made me question my sense of equality in marriage, it is this. How can married people maintain equality when one partner cannot function as highly as the other? I've determined that this apparent inequality is no more a hindrance than finding equality between any two people. It's still a balancing act, albeit a more complicated one, which fully exhibits the importance of putting your partner's needs and desires at equal priority to your own. Though one partner becomes the primary decision maker, the importance of the other's emotional and intellectual desires within the decision making process need not decline.
A relationship can look equal in every way, and yet not be equal. Even if we appear functionally equal in our relationships, if in our hearts, we hold our partners' needs at a lower level, they will sense it, through those things that we say in moments of passing, or the words that we don't listen to.
We have no way of listing every positive and negative attribute, every strength and weakness, every responsibility that each person takes on. Thus, we have no way to empirically determine that two people are equal. Therefore, equality must be felt. If both people in a partnership feel that they are equals, then they are. Perception is reality.