My friend emailed me the other day fuming over the seeming lack of equality in her marriage. This was her calculation. “He does 50 percent of the labour, but only if I do 100 percent of the thinking, 100 percent of the organizing and 100 percent of the reminding. Is that equal?”
Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But this I know for sure: scorekeeping is as detrimental to a marriage as a bag of Miss Vickie’s is to a diet. It’s a slippery slope that ends in bitter, cold resentment. Instead I’m going to suggest something really radical: forget 50-50. It’s a formula full of flaws. Whose scorecard is being used? I mean, what counts and what doesn’t? And, here’s the big one: what price is your relationship paying for the constant counting required to maintain the formula? The perpetual tracking and tallying of contributions only allows for two possibilities — a winner and a loser. So if you win, what does that make your partner? Exactly. We don’t want to go there.
What if, instead, we adopted a 100-100 value proposition? And what if we based this formulation on effort and intention, rather than outcomes? In this new accounting system you and your partner bring your A-game every day. But here’s the kicker: In order for this to work you need to put away your measuring stick and accept that we are all different, with unique strengths and unique weaknesses. So it stands to reason that your A-game is going to look fundamentally different from his. (My husband can’t organize to save his life. Oh he’ll make a list, but then he’ll lose it. But let me tell you, when I screw up and double-book us, or leave my son’s Optimus Prime Transformer on a plane, there is no one better than my husband at getting us out of tight spots.)
And that’s the beauty of marriage—we aren’t intended to be two identical peas in a pod, but rather two planets in perfect orbit. Choose to perceive your mate as someone who is doing his best (even if his best looks different than your best) and watch what happens.
Join relationship columnist Liza Finlay each week as she dishes on ways to keep you and your partner close through the rocky terrain that is marriage with kids.
Do you have an issue you’d like Liza to explore in a future column? Drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your comment below.