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Why 50/50 Marriages Don’t Work
I am a Christian mental health therapist. I see some married couples who have chosen a 50/50 marriage. Most couples however don’t realize they have fallen into the trap. Marriages that slip into this mindset begin to view their marriage more like a business arrangement than a devoted couple. I usually hear the complaint “we have fallen out of love with each other.” They lose the principles of God’s design for love. Ultimately they become disappointed in their spouse and resentful.
So what do I mean by a 50/50 Marriage? I see it as the marriages that fall into the “mine and yours” mentality. Examples include separate bank accounts, separate bills, designated chores, set “night off” evenings for each spouse, separate vacations, etc. Now most couples have some roles designated, however, the difference in a 50/50 marriage is that the lines become firmly drawn.
The most popular verses used during marriage ceremonies is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 that describes love. I’ll use that guide to show you how 50/50 marriages fall short.
Love is patient, love is kind
When marriages use a 50/50 mindset or “mine and yours” they tend to lose patience and kindness towards their spouse. Because in these relationships the focus is not each other but the item or task. My clients will focus on the amount of funds in each other’s accounts or the chores that didn’t get completed by their spouse. They lose sight of their spouse as the person they vowed to cherish.
They stop not only asking about the why of a situation but they also stop caring about it. For example, a 50/50 marriage may have designated chores. They decided one of the husband’s chores is to mow the lawn. The wife gets home before the husband who ends up having to work late. The lawn doesn’t get mowed. This happens a few nights in a row. The wife loses patience in her husband for not completing his chores and either begins to nag him about the lawn or begrudgingly mows the lawn. No where in this scenario did the wife focus on her husband with patience and kindness realizing the extra hours he is having to work. The focus became the chore and not her husband.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud
I hear my couples in a 50/50 marriage start to boast about their own accomplishments at the expense of their spouse. The focus then becomes about boosting themselves up instead of their spouse or the marriage as a whole.
One of the spouses will start telling me about their ability to get their bills paid or their chores completed. They will brag about their aptness for saving and the cool toys or vacation they are going to buy with their money. Let’s be honest, the entire point of bragging is to show off AND to put someone else down. In this situation, it’s your spouse.
The result turns into the one spouse becoming envious or jealous of what the other spouse has.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered
Marriages that have chosen or find themselves in a 50/50 mindset continue to fall down the path further away from love. After the bragging and envy, they start being rude towards one another. “If you would be better with your money, you’d be able to take a vacation too.” “If you weren’t so lazy, you’d be able to get all your chores done too.”
At this point emotions are high and a 50/50 marriage only focuses on themselves. The focus becomes hurting the spouse more than the spouse is hurting you. It turns into a desire to win the fight. They forget that it also means their spouse has to lose.
That old saying for kids, sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me? It’s a terrible lie when it comes to marriages. Words from spouses hurt. Bad. We are talking about the person who has vowed to love you and cherish you.
It keeps no record of wrongs
Because of the wounds 50/50 marriages receive, they hold on to them. And unfortunately they fester and continually get brought up. Over and over.
Over the years of being a therapist I have heard so many stories of situations that have festered and corroded marriages. And I’m not talking about big situations like affairs, gambling, or substances.
I’m talking about truly insignificant situations that the spouse is just not willing to let go of. Leaving the toilet seat up. Not keeping a certain amount of gas in the vehicles. Chewing loudly. Stealing the covers. Taking part of the newspaper. Eating the last of the leftovers. I have had sessions where there was an actual argument about each of the above. With each situation the spouse reported being hurt because their spouse wasn’t thinking of them. My response back has always been, “Were you thinking of them?”
These marriages struggle to forgive because they lose focus on loving their spouse and strengthening their marriage. It turns into a selfish desire to receive love but forgets to focus on giving love. Unconditionally.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
50/50 marriages end up in a place of minimizing and justifying their own actions because of what their spouse is or is not doing. Now we’re talking about the big situations.
Lying – I wouldn’t have to lie if you didn’t freak out every time I talked to you.
Substances – I wouldn’t have to drink to enjoy myself if you weren’t so uptight.
Affairs – I wouldn’t have had to be with someone else if you would have given me the love I needed.
You get the picture.
The couples I have worked with who are in these current situations usually state, I don’t know how we got here. They got there because they lost sight of God’s design for love. They lost focus in loving their spouse not in spite of their flaws but because of them. These marriages allowed themselves to draw too firm of lines. They stopped focusing on caring for their spouse.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres
Marriages who have a 50/50 mindset can change but it is going to take a complete paradigm shift. The attention of the marriage will have to be a concerted effort in providing patience and kindness towards the spouse. When a spouse focuses on protecting and trusting their spouse they put them as a focus and a priority.
There are many Christian marriage books that can be beneficial to couples. Two books that I recommend to my married clients are Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and A Life Long Love by Gary Thomas .
Please also check out my post When You Put Your Marriage First the Whole Family Wins for greater understanding on God’s designed hierarchy of the family.
I pray that this post and the recommended books help you and your spouse work towards the love God has designed for you and your marriage.