PQ 16.3 — What does fairness mean to me? How does this affect the way I make choices and interact with my partners?

a tabby cat that is sleeping rather peacefully
Image by yoppy / CC BY

PQ 16.3 — What does fairness mean to me? How does this affect the way I make choices and interact with my partners?

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Something important I had to learn a while back: While some people may use them interchangeably, fair and equal are different things.

Parents run into this all the time when parenting multiple children. Here’s an example:

Human beings need to sleep different amounts of time depending on how old they are. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it breaks down like this:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range 14-17 hours each day
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range 10-13 hours
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range  9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range 8-10 hours
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range 7-9 hours
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range  7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range 7-8 hours

These differences could mean you have a younger child with a bedtime of 8 pm and an older child whose bedtime is 10 pm. This arrangement isn’t equal at all. But going by their developmental needs, it’s totally fair that they have different bedtimes.

This is because everyone has different needs. And sure, in that example it can have to do with developmental age. But looking at something like polyamory, you’ll find that there are likely different reasons in play:

  • One partner might have every Tuesday as their “night.” Someone else’s work schedule is erratic, so it’s not feasible for them to have a standard “date night” every week. They might have to be seen more irregularly and/or on a different day each week.
  • A long-distance partner might only have a rare chance to have real-life face time, so they might have a 3-day weekend date that other partners might never experience (or far more rarely).
  • Partners might mutually agree that they want to see each other less often than their other partners because they find their chemistry works better in short bursts than when they have sustained contact.

The solutions that people reach don’t always have to end up with everyone having exactly the same arrangement. What’s more important is that everyone’s needs are considered and people are generally satisfied with the outcome.

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This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions and answers, please see this indexed list.

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