I’ve been thinking for a couple of days about the concept of fairness, specifically with regards to relationships. Admittedly, I’ll often get upset at Conner because I perceive something as being “unfair”. But what does that mean? If I think something isn’t fair, what am I actually expecting?
A hypothetical example of a situation which might upset me due to its unfairness:
Let’s say Conner, who’s in law school right now, spent the day at school, during his breaks between classes hung out with his friends, and then went out with his buddies for a drink, and then, coming home after the kids are in bed, spends the evening studying and expects me to cook dinner. Let’s say that I spent the day dealing with whiny, sick kids who refused to eat everything I gave to them, had more dirty diapers than would seem possible. And for good measure, let’s pretend that it’s a rainy day, so we couldn’t even go outside to play.
I can imagine me getting upset, and thinking that it wasn’t fair.
But does that really make sense? No matter what happened, there would be no way of making our lives fair and even because we’re not the same person. We don’t have the same goals, dreams, fears, irritations, responsibilities, life experiences. There’s no way to make it fair. I think that I could say that in the hypothetical I posed that Conner was being inconsiderate of me and my feelings. That’s something that is concrete and able to be fixed. But to say that the situation isn’t fair–what would make it fair? Since we aren’t both doing the same things, there would be no way of making it equal.
Perhaps one would say that fair isn’t about having the same things, but of equally shared responsibilities. But that also doesn’t really pan out in practice. So for every diaper Conner changes (because he does the bulk of them), I should change one? For every dish that he washes (because that’s another of his chores), I should wash one?
What about for every hour he spends with friends–should I have the same? Maybe in theory… but in practice we probably have different needs when it comes to sociability. What if I happen to need more (or less) time with friends in order to feel fulfilled?
So, fair isn’t really a goal to strive for, I think. And fair isn’t a good tactic to use in an argument. In a relationship, we should not strive for things to be fair. Instead, I think maybe we should strive for both parties to be fulfilled and satisfied, taking into account our different needs.