How many percentages do you think your responsibilities are in the marriage?
I have heard many people said that marriage is 50-50. That is, I put in the 50%, and you put in 50%, and they combined to be 100%.
Do you agree? Why?
Try to think of your relationship as a child. If you consider your relationship is growing like your child, would you say that I only have to put in 50% of the effort?
The assumption of 50% is enough for my relationship is based on the idea of equal partnership: I will put in 50% of what this relationship needed at any time. The problem with this assumption is: are you sure that you put in 50% at any given moment? The other danger with this assumption is that your partner also puts in 50% of his/her part at any given moment. However, are you sure that your partner is capable of putting in 50% of what this relationship needed at any given moment?
Are you sure that you are always at a good enough place to give everything in your life enough attention as well as at least 50% of your responsibility to the relationship?
What if you are sick today?
What if your work needs more attention today?
What if your children need more attention today?
What if your friends or extended family members need you today?
What if you are not in the right place for any reason and cannot give yourself to your life the way you used to offer today?
Equal partnership is vital for a healthy relationship. However, what does equal mean to you when it comes to the relationship? Do you have to divide every responsibility to 50%? Alternatively, do you see the equality as an overall assessment of your “give and take” balance?
So, if you and your partner both cannot give the best you can to live up to your part of the 50%, what would happen to your relationship today?
I believed that giving 100% of what you can do today is what makes the relationship work. If what I can give to our relationship today is 80% and what you can give today is 90%, that means that our relationship has more than 100% today. If what I can give to our relationship today is 20% and what you can give today is 60%, our relationship is still close to having 100% with our combined effort.
So, when I can’t give more than 50%, and you can give more than 50%, today, our relationship has enough with our combined efforts.
I see the couples fighting about the equality all the time in therapy. After a while, the fights become what Dr. John Gottman called the “negative sentiment override.” Even before we start to complain about our partner’s behaviors, we already assumed that “I do more than you do” or “I care about our relationship more than you do.” However, more often than not, it’s not that your partner is unwilling to put in his/her 50% but because he didn’t have enough in him/her to give that day.
If we can both acknowledged that we are giving the best we can but what I can give now is not enough for our relationship or my partner today, we can sincerely apologize to each other and promise to each other: I will do better tomorrow.
Isn’t that the meaning of: “to have and to hold, for better and for worse, for rich and for poor”? Often, we forgot how to have and to hold during “worse” and “poor” time but to expect we can always be in the right place to have and to hold. How is that even possible to expect any of us to be in a good enough place all the time?