Is 50/50 Really Fair?

We’ve heard this question before from couples preparing for marriage: “We plan to have a 50/50 marriage—making sure everything is equal. That’s the most fair, isn’t it?”

Photo from Pixabay

Photo from Pixabay

But here’s the truth: One of the biggest problems among the couples we talk to is husbands and wives who measure out their need-meeting service for each other in reciprocal portions. The best many marriages ever do is operate according to the popular “50/50 plan,” the “I’ll-meet-your-needs-if-you-meet-mine” philosophy. In this plan, marriage becomes an issue of trade-offs and compromises, with spouses keeping score so one person never gets or gives more than the other. The goal is to meet each other halfway.

To be fair, some couples who live by this rule are generous to each other and even moderately happy. But apportioning love usually doesn’t result in spouses feeling honored and understood. The problem usually arises when neither of you can agree on where
“halfway” is.

Listen to the following story we heard on our radio program:

Tom and Sue both grew up watching their mothers get trampled by their demanding fathers. So when Tom and Sue married, they vowed that they would evenly divide all tasks and responsibilities between them. Household work would be split down the middle. They insisted that their 50/50 relationship would be 100 percent fair. It sounded logical and workable. It sounded like they would be able to maintain control without either of them getting trampled. Instead of creating a fair environment, however, this 50/50 plan became like a slave driver. They argued about who washed the dishes last—or who did the laundry or who cooked. Sue’s weekend with her college roommates was matched minute-for-minute and dollar-by-dollar by Tom’s hunting trip with his buddies. They tracked their child-care duties as if they had a stopwatch ticking in their heads. When Tom came home from work, Sue said she was off duty. They also kept track of the money they each earned, the running totals clearly distinguished in separate bank accounts.

Can you imagine the tension between Tom and Sue? Control and comparison tore them apart. A friend of ours calls these couples the “ledger people.” They keep track of everything, compare and weigh their lists, and then proceed to hurt each other with angry words when the “ledger” doesn’t balance.

Would you want to live like Tom and Sue? Do you want to wait for your spouse to give in and serve first? Do you want to compare what you’ve done for your spouse to what your spouse has done for you? Do you want to be “ledger people”?

There’s a better way. It’s the 100/100 marriage, which is God’s design for a husband and a wife. Listen to what Paul said: “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word” (Ephesians 5:25-26).

When a husband loves in this way, he chooses to serve his wife because of his desire to be obedient to God’s design for him. He is stirred not only by pleasing her but also by pleasing God. The same is true of the wife. When you serve each other, trying with 100 percent of yourself to love and serve your spouse, you will find joy and fulfillment beyond what you can imagine.

For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!