Reciprocity And Mutuality

Make sure you’re on the same page with your partner and that there is an equal balance of give and take.

Me and my partner didn’t realize how much we were doing for each other until we broke things down more explicitly. It definitely made us appreciate each other more.” – Aaron, 24

Reciprocity and mutuality promote a sense of equality and balance between partners, which can lead to greater intimacy, trust, and happiness in our relationships.

Here’s a quick overview and example of each concept.

Reciprocity
Mutuality

Refers to the even exchange of feelings, actions, or benefits. It involves giving and receiving in roughly equal measure.

Emphasizes the shared nature of a relationship. It involves a sense of collaboration, shared goals, and a joint investment in the well-being and growth of the relationship.

For example:

  • If one partner consistently supports the other emotionally, the expectation is that this support will be reciprocated when the other partner needs it. It’s a balanced and fair exchange of care, attention, and efforts.

For example:

  • In a mutually satisfying relationship, both partners actively contribute to decision-making, compromise, and problem-solving.They work together to build a shared life, rather than one person dominating or controlling the relationship.
Differences

Reciprocity is more about the give-and-take, where each partner contributes and receives in a balanced way.

Mutuality is about the shared experience, joint efforts, and a sense of “we” in the relationship.

When couples have reciprocity and mutuality, they can trust and rely on each other much more readily, knowing they are both invested in the success of the relationship.

Here are some ways to help build these bonds with your partner:

Make sure you’re on the same page

It’s important for couples to have a shared understanding of what they expect from their relationship. Both partners having an equal say and a willingness to compromise are critical for making this happen – and for finding a middle ground to help resolve disagreements when they arise. 

Some key themes to keep in mind and discuss include:

Amount of time you make for each other

  • Do you want to spend all available free time together or do you each enjoy having some personal time too? 

Social circles

  • Do you participate in all social activities together? How much time do each of you allocate to your individual social networks?

Core values

  • It’s key to be on the same page when it comes to issues like religion, politics, and social justice. Your views don’t have to be identical, but partners need to be OK with and show respect where there are differences. 

Gender roles

  • How comfortable or uncomfortable are you with embracing different aspects of traditional gender roles within the relationship, such as the man taking control or responsibility for household finances?

Work life balance

  • How much time do you each want to dedicate towards work, versus time together (or other tasks)?

When partners aren’t sure if they’re on the same page or not, the easiest way to check is simply by talking. Sometimes we avoid these conversations because we shy away from potential conflict, but if our goal is to form a stronger, more mutually satisfying bond with our partner, then these are important areas to discuss. 

Challenge outdated gender norms

There are some outdated social norms that can prevent couples from splitting responsibilities in ways that are fair or best for them. Here are a few examples:

“Men should solely be responsible for providing financially or performing household repairs”

  •  Some couples may work well with more ‘traditional roles’ like this, but not everyone will and it’s important to recognize this and make sure you and your partner are on the same page. Instead, you can take the time to consider you and your partner’s individual interests and skills.

Don’t be defined by outdated stereotypes

For example, being a stay-at-home dad or having an interest in cleaning does not make a man less masculine. 

“Men should be stoic and figure things out on their own”

This can impact a relationship when a guy is going through a stressful time or dealing with a mental health issue. A partner may pick up on signs and want to talk or help, but some guys see this as an affront to their manhood rather than their partner trying to understand their wants and needs. Turning down a partner’s help can leave them feeling confused and rejected. 

“A man should ‘take care’ of a woman”

This myth can cause men to try to attend to a woman’s every want and need (planning, organizing, paying, etc) which often leads to burn out and negatively affects our mental health.   

“Women should do the cooking and cleaning”

Sometimes these ideas are so ingrained in us (both partners) that we often overlook them, which can lead to sources of ongoing stress and resentment.

“Who’s the man in the relationship?”

Both internal and external pressure to conform to ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ roles can impact same-sex couples when it comes to housework, chores, and who takes a larger role in raising children. 

Be aware of potential power dynamics that may affect your relationship

Power dynamics in a relationship refer to the way in which power and control are distributed between partners. Power can be influenced by many factors, such as financial contributions, physical size/strength, emotional intelligence, social status, gender, and race.

In an imbalanced relationship, one partner may dominate or control the other, leading to an unequal distribution of power, which can lead to problems such as resentment, lack of trust, and communication breakdowns. 

Imbalances in power can create situations where one person is able to abuse or exploit the other, particularly if they are not aware of their own power or underestimate the impact it may have on their partner. 

Therefore, it’s important for couples to be aware of power dynamics in their relationship and strive for a healthy balance of power.

  • For example, if there is a large discrepancy in financial contribution to a relationship, the partner with less finances may feel unable to ‘say no’ or disagree with their partner’s suggestions – like where to eat out or go on vacation.

Even if you don’t think there are any power imbalances in your relationship, it’s still valuable to broach the topic to check if there are any dynamics affecting your partner.

If one partner is unfairly using their  power over the other, it’s important to acknowledge this and work together to address it. 


Developing mutuality and reciprocity in a relationship takes time and open communication. It’s important for couples to actively work on these skills together and make a conscious effort to understand and meet each other’s needs. 

THIS IS MEN'S HEALTH WEEK | JUNE 10-16TH, 2024

Men's Health Week takes place annually in mid-June, during the week preceding Father’s Day. The week is not just a campaign, but a call to action for men to take better care of their health and for communities to support men in this endeavour.

Men's Health Week 2024