Equity Theory of Relationships

Couple looking at water

Many men and women wonder if there is any theory of equity in relationships. The answer is, Yes there is. John Stacey Adams gave a theory for “equity in a relationship”. In this article, We are going to discuss in detail the “Equity theory of relationships”.

As we know, There are many types of relationships. The equity theory of relationships is purely based input and output of the humans in a relationship. In simple words “Equity theory of relationships” based on one very famous quote “you get what you give”.

What exactly is equity?

Equity is basically the quality of being fair and impartial to others. As we know, People value fair treatment to each other.

We strive to achieve equity everywhere. “Equity theory of relationships” proposes a change in behavior of any one of the partners or both of them.  Sometimes we feel that we are putting in too much effort but not getting what we deserve also may experience distress.

In any case, This change put a huge impact on relationships and leads to divorce or breakups. The Equity theory of relationships helps in balancing the situation that only needs a few behavioral changes and helps to make the right decisions in any circumstance.


When you are putting time and effort into a relationship. So you obviously expect the same thing from your partner. You may feel happy if you see little effort from your partner as well and the situation gets worst by the time when that person sees that it is not happening.  This may lead to anger and behavior changes with the partner.


This theory also explains how partners in an intimate relationship react after they feel that they are getting rewards beyond their efforts. Those partners who feel that they are being over rewarded will also experience emotional distress in the form of guilt. These partners will also have a perception of fairness and will make certain changes to restore balance to the relationship.

Equity theory example:-

“Ramesh, who is working in Information Technology and overburdened with work every time. This leads him to neglect Sunita’s needs for intimacy. When he figured out that Sunita is making huge efforts in maintaining the relationships it’s being very stressful to Ramesh. Ramesh was in guilt and that he let Sunita down on her expectations.”

“Ramesh then tried to compensate by getting Sunita gifts or by exorbitant gestures of affection, like buying her a pet cat.”


You don’t need to make an equal contribution

According to the Equity theory of relationships. You just need to maintain a similar contribution ratio. Let us study this example:-

Ramesh and Sunita are in a good relationship for 3 years. Ramesh, Who is working in Information technology is contributing financially to the relationship. Sunita on other hand contributing time by helping Ramesh in other things. These inputs will be considered equal as per the “Equity theory of relationships”.

According to the “Equity theory of relationships” Ramesh is getting love and care from Sunita and Sunita is getting financial security from Ramesh. This Equity theory of relationships is one of the best ways to understand how to make relationship equity.

The equity theory of relationships is purely based on inputs you give in any kind of relationship. No matter if is in between you and your kids, You and your lovers, You and your parents, and You and your company.

Here is a list of input and output that people expect in any kind of relationship.


Input Output
Adaptability Recognition
Effort Praise
Loyalty Commitment
Hard Work Appreciation
Flexibility Care
Tolerance Understanding
Love Security
Support Gratitude


The equity theory of relationships can help you to resolve relationship issues if followed correctly and make you feel good. You can contribute to a relationship and also helps in maintaining healthy relationships and romantic relationships within your organization and surrounding.




Author: Laura

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