We idealize relationships as equal. We think that you should give others — your spouse, your child, your sister, your mother, your teacher, your boss, the world — a quantity of work and energy, and get back something of about the same value to you. That’s why we’re in these relationships.
We know that relationships aren’t really equal. Many of us recognize the outsize debt we owe to our parents, or mentors, or friends. And many of us also recognize the times that we’ve given more than we’ve got — the relationships we walked away from as “bad” or “toxic.”
But for most of us, most of the time, we don’t recognize the extent to which no relationship is equal.