Learn the Difference Between Equity and Equality in Your Relationship

Spinning your wheels? This may be why.

Frank Vaughn
3 min readJul 31, 2022
Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

Relationships are hard. Sometimes impossible. I’ve been through a few myself and have always lacked perspective on the root cause of why they went wrong.

Until yesterday.

Nothing happened yesterday that would’ve directly lent insight into my past failures, but my epiphanies rarely come as the result of any single identifiable catalyst anyway.

I was in the shower, rinsing the soap off my bald head, when it hit me.

I’ve been chasing equity over equality my entire adult life.

I don’t know why those two particular words hit me. I know even less about why they are the ones I’ve been trying to put my finger on for years and years without success.

And I have no idea why a random, everyday task finally knocked them loose in my head. I’m using a new soap lately, so maybe that’s why?

So what is the difference between equity and equality?

Equity (noun):

A system of law originating in the English chancery and comprising a settled and formal body of legal and procedural rules and doctrines that supplement, aid, or override common and statute law and are designed to protect rights and enforce duties fixed by substantive law.

Take it from me — if your relationship has become something that requires a system of law…designed to protect rights and enforce duties, it’s probably time to have some tough conversations about the long-term health of the arrangement.

If you or your partner feel your rights are not naturally respected and responsibilities to each other are ignored to the point of having to codify them, something isn’t right.

If your relationship is defined by rights and responsibilities rather than respect and value of each other, you’re in trouble.

If your relationship involves seeking your self-worth in the words and deeds of the other person, you’ll likely always feel undervalued no matter what they say or do.

You may even be tempted to force them to do and say things that aren’t organically them. And anytime someone has to try to be something they aren’t for the satisfaction of another, disaster is nearly always assured.

Are you wondering if this is true of your relationship? Ask yourself this:

Am I constantly having to coach my partner to make me feel a certain way? Are they always coaching me to do the same?

If so, you are in a situation that is defined by equity — a system of score-keeping and merit that is likely adjudged by each of you in the context of your own expectations.

Equality (noun):

The quality or state of being equal.

Such a tight definition. Whereas equity is a system with codified rules and regulations designed to protect itself, equality is simply a state of being.

When two people see each other as equals and value each other accordingly, it is ultimately a more fulfilling place to be in life.

You don’t have to keep score and chase your own value in the relationship because you know your partner values you already. Your partner knows you value them.

It should be more important to you to invest in your partner than it is to make them invest in you. You know, because you truly love them and want the best for them in all things.

If you bring that to the relationship — and they bring it as well — then you have achieved that state of being that doesn’t need to be legislated and enforced.

You have equality without the need to track equity on a spreadsheet or a scoreboard.

Take a hard look at which is which in your life. If conversations need to happen, start them with love.



Frank Vaughn

Regional Emmy- and AP-award winning journalist and writer. Everyone’s brother.