Gender and relationships
The Relationship Field Model recognises that all personal relationships are free and equal – one person can’t just take what they want from another person or do what they want to them.
No two relationships are the same and no two people are the same. But all healthy relationships are based on each person showing the other person respect for their individual rights and freedoms.
In an intimate relationship there is a ME, a YOU and an US.
ME: I make decisions that affect me as an individual and my partner respects my right to do this.
YOU: Your partner makes decisions that affect them as an individual and you respect your partners right to do this.
US: Together we enjoy shared time and make shared decisions about the things that affect both of us together.
Each person has their own inner world full of thoughts, feelings, memories, beliefs, values and desires.
In a healthy and respectful relationship, each person cares about the other person’s inner world. When a person feels that their inner world is respected and nurtured, they’ll be open to respecting and nurturing their partners inner world.
But when you’re in a relationship, how do you discover what’s going in your partner’s head – their thoughts, dreams, ambitions for themselves and for your shared relationship?
Stop Ask Listen
Stop Ask Listen is about recognising other people as individuals with their own rich inner worlds and making an effort to understand what they really want from your shared relationship.
We stop ourselves from acting blindly, selfishly, or assuming something about the other person based on gendered stereotypes and the power we may hold in the relationship.
We ask the other person about their individual needs and wants.
We listen and are willing to be changed by what they tell us.
When we Stop Ask Listen, we are actively communicating with the other person.
A relationship based on mutual respect and active communication values each person for the individual that they are.
- I like this and you like that
- I’m good at this and you’re good at that
- I’d rather read my new book than go to the footy
- I hate dresses so am wearing these gorgeous pants to your sister’s wedding.
Gendered stereotypes and norms might reinforce a person’s inner world.
- I can’t wait to start a family with you and care for our children
- I love wearing makeup and beautiful clothes
- I want to be able to protect you from harm
- I’d be grateful if you managed the finances
- I’m happy to do the grocery shopping.
Gendered stereotypes and norms might go against a person’s inner world and put pressure on a relationship, if the individuals feel they should ignore their inner worlds to behave as others expect them to behave.
- I know I should be good with cars, so I better work out how to fix the engine, but I’d rather be learning how to make paella.
- I love my job but the pay is not great so I should take a course and get a better job so we can start a family.
- I deserve that promotion, but it means I’ll be earning more money than my partner and my inlaws will be very judgy.
- I find this so upsetting but I can’t let my partner know – I’m meant to be the strong one.
- My partner knows much more about this than I do, but I’m supposed to be the one making the decisions.
- I’ve never felt the urge to have children and don’t expect my feelings to change, but now we’re married it’s all everyone can talk about.
Using the Relationship Field Model
Even the best relationship can go through difficult times, particularly when there’s conflict over shared decisions. One way to tell if a relationship is healthy and respectful is by how conflict is resolved.
In any free and equal relationship, shared action with your partner needs to be negotiated. If the decision affects and involves both people, then both people get to decide how they feel about it, each and every time.
Shared decision-making starts at the beginning of a relationship and continues as the relationship develops. Shared decision-making occurs between you and your partner and considers both of your inner worlds and your hopes for your shared relationship.