It looks like it would work. Two individuals, one marriage. Two halves, one whole. Two forks, one slice of salted caramel cake. Math was never my forte, but one hundred divided by two equals fifty every time. If 50/50 looks good on paper, why doesn’t it work in real life?
A few years into our marriage, Matt came home from work one day, and I had a sheet of paper hanging on the refrigerator. We were both working full-time jobs, and we would come home from work exhausted and ready to sit on the couch and do nothing. Meanwhile, our outfits were getting “creative” since all the clothes we owned were in dirty piles in our bedroom. The dishes were overflowing in the sink. We had missed a couple weeks of trash pickup because we forgot to take the can to the curb. And dust bunnies were propagating as good little bunnies do. I’m the control-freak, slightly OCD one (although becoming a mom has pretty much broken me of that) so I was the one noticing all the chaos. I was the one feeling the stress, and I was the one feeling like I was the only one doing anything around the house. So, I came up with a list of chores, divided them into days and assigned each chore to “M” or “E.” When Matt came home, I had the list prominently displayed on the fridge so he had no excuse not to see his assignments each day. He didn’t say much when I showed it to him, much like the reaction I expected, but I pressed on. I reminded him that marriage is a 50/50 relationship, we ended the very one-sided conversation, and I felt much better having gotten some tasks off my plate. Splitting it 50/50 looked awesome on my detailed, color-coded chore list, but a few days later it blew up in real life.
The problem with a 50/50 mindset is that we come into every situation asking the question, “What’s the least I can do to get by?” Approaching marriage with a 50/50 perspective creates an atmosphere of competition as we continually try to “one-up” each other.
You think you’ve had a hard day… let me tell you what happened to me.
Couldn’t you do this one thing? Look at everything I’ve done for you.
There you go again… not holding up your end of the deal when I’ve busted my butt over here.
I’ve learned the hard way that a 50/50 relationship doesn’t work in real life. It leaves you feeling frustrated and isolated. It turns out the only percentage that works in marriage is 100%, both of us giving our all to the marriage. And the kicker is… we can’t wait until the other person gets on board to start giving our 100%. It’s easy to jump on the spinning Ferris wheel that says, “I’ll start giving when he starts giving. Or I’ll start serving when she starts serving.” But we could circle around and around on that Ferris wheel for the rest of our lives. Someone has to be the first one to get off that wheel and find a new ride, a different game or, better yet, a funnel cake.
We have to change our question from, “What’s the least I can do to get by?” to “How can I do more, give more, speak more life?” We have to out-serve and out-love our spouse. It’s unconditional love. We know what this love looks like because we demonstrate it to our kids often. When they wake us up in the middle of the night, we tuck them back in with a kiss and a hug. When they break the special keepsake we told them a dozen times to leave alone, we forgive them and let it go. Even with our kids, though, we don’t always choose unconditional love, but we see this kind of love demonstrated perfectly for us through Christ. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. While we were still screwed up, ridiculously imperfect and crazy selfish, He died for us. He didn’t wait for us to get our act together. That’s what it looks like to give 100% to a relationship.
Let’s be honest. Giving 100% isn’t easy. Especially when the baby is teething or your meeting at work was just awful or the dogs escaped from the back yard again. These are the times when it’s hardest to give 100% to your spouse because you’ve spent all day giving to everyone else and now you just feel empty. The good news is that giving is infectious and energizing. I love those insurance commercials where you see one person go out of his way to do something nice for another person and then that person does it for another person and so on. I can remember many times when I’ve been having a pull-your-hair-out-hide-in-the-bathroom-pass-the-brownies kind of day and a friend has sent me a text just saying she’s thinking about me or my best friend calls with a funny story and makes me laugh or my husband brings home a big cup of iced tea, half and half, just the way I like it. That one act of kindness can completely alter my day. That simple gesture breathes new life into my weary soul. Let’s be that person. Let’s give 100%.
Appreciation instead of demands.
Encouragement instead of insults.
Grace instead of chore charts.