“The best way to learn to be a lady is to see how other ladies do it.” – Mae West

Last night was the much anticipated season premiere of the L word, the lesbian drama on Showtime and we actually caught the episode twice. Once, at an HRC event in Laguna Beach earlier in the evening, where it was a difficult to catch much of the story line with hundreds of women cocktailing in the room and the second viewing was at home. Jeanine enjoyed it. I thought it started off a bit slow.

Helena is back again this year and vulnerable, insecure women are already falling prey to her bewitching ways. Helena is the mogul using her money and status to keep the upper hand in her relationships and poor Alice is this season’s target. Making me wonder why anyone would get entangled in a relationship where the power is so one-sided. An array of emotional issues is usually culprit, but often times, money is the talons that hold the victim prey.

But we have all done it. I once dated a wealthy woman that was much nicer than Helena (and nowhere near as good looking) and I witnessed this same shift in power. The shift was subtle at first. I was taken by the gifts, the expensive dinners, and nice vacations. But then all of a sudden I found myself in a relationship where she held the power and control.

This happens to many women in marriages and partnerships. Lorna Wendt founded the Equality in Marriage Institute in 1997 after her public divorce and fight for equality put her in the national spotlight.

She writes, “In the early stages of a relationship, the intense chemistry and mutual love of Chinese take-out while watching old movies may seem like more than enough. After you’ve gained that inevitable five pounds that comes with the transition from singledom to domesticity, you’ll certainly find that “making it last” isn’t as simple as pressing “play.” The reality is that all the wonderful benefits of a long-term relationship come with intense responsibilities to manage that partnership. Building a balanced, equal partnership isn’t an easy task and can’t be ordered off a take-out menu.”

“Equality in a relationship has many dynamics. Essentially, for a partnership to be healthy, both parties have to feel equally valued in relation to emotions, lifestyle, finances and objectives. Below are a series of questions that will help you start thinking about the equality in your relationship.”

Are Your Priorities Just As Important?
Is your partner aware of your goals, dreams and hopes for the future?
Does your relationship allow you to pursue these objectives?
Is your partner supportive of your endeavors? Are you equally supportive of his/hers?

Do you frequently adapt your schedule to meet your partner’s needs?
Does one party in the relationship seem to extend more effort on the “us?”

Are You A Financial Equal?
Does one partner bring more money into the relationship?
Are both of you comfortable with this situation?
Are you aware of your partner’s assets, debts and spending habits?
Do you find it difficult to discuss financial issues with your partner?

Are You An Emotional Equal?
Do both of you communicate your feelings?
Are you open to listening to your partner’s feelings and concerns?
Do you feel your concerns are addressed by your partner?
Are you fulfilled intimately?

“There is no pass or fail on this quiz and your equality equation comes from your feelings of comfort with the partnership. Every relationship is different and creating balance takes constant attention.”

Suze Orman believes, “What better time to chart the future of your marital partnership than when your love is strong?” She writes in, The Courage to Be Rich, “It’s not a sign of greed, weakness or fear to want the reassurance that you both will be safe, whatever happens, and, in my experience, opening up these issues can bring partners closer together in ways they rarely comprehend until they do it.”

And women of the world… beware of Helena.