If Marriage Is Always Fifty/Fifty, We’re Both Screwed

I went to a wedding this weekend (I was not in it. yet they still had a beautiful wedding. SHOCKING.)

The pastor. Or reverend. I’m not sure because the church was one of those NAME CHURCH. Like Richmond Church. Or Late Enough Church. No affiliation stated. Okay, I knew that it was probably Christian. And I could pretty much GUARANTEE it was conservative. But when the pastor walked down the aisle, she was a SHE. So I was hopeful. Misguidedly hopeful.

But because I’m so OPEN-MINDED, I heard a line that struck a chord. And I even just gave the woman who believed that a primary purpose of marriage is to make the babies, credit. I’m like a tolerance guru. Like buying this T-shirt from Walt. Even though my politics tries to beat up his politics on a daily basis, we are like totally bloggy buds.

Anyway so the pastor/reverend/youregoingtohellforbirthcontrol person says:

A marriage isn’t always 50/50. Sometimes a partner can’t give 50% and you have to learn how to give more than 50.

Wait? The 50/50 idea is great, right? I mean whether I stay-at-home or work, it’s not all ME. My work. My dishes. My kids. WE SHARE. EVERYTHING. FAIR FAIR FAIR

But sometimes Scott is tired or sad or lazy. WTH!

I cook. He does the dishes. THAT’S THAT DEAL. So why does my sink look like this?

I also can't find one of my cats. But if she's in the sink, she'll have plenty of food.

My first thought: Is he saying that I’m not doing enough? (yes, my thoughts go to THAT crazy)

But then I decide: Scott’s NOT PULLING HIS WEIGHT. He’s taking ADVANTAGE of me.

And I get MAD! Well, if he’s not doing dishes, then I’m not making dinner! Instead, I’m on Twitter. Where people APPRECIATE ME. (Although none of y’all have EVER done my dishes. Seriously.)

This upcoming week, Scott scheduled not one but TWO “Scott times.” (We each give each other time to do our own thing. Whether it’s hang with a friend, write (although my writing is shifting to more work-y but that will be NEXT MONDAY’s announcement), run, shop, whatever. Just go GET A LIFE. And then come back and be the awesome parent and spouse that you are.)

Scott: I’m taking Wednesday night as Scott time.
Me: But you already have a race on Saturday morning.
Scott: That doesn’t count.
Me: What do you MEAN that doesn’t count? Isn’t running one of your YOU times?
Scott: That belongs in a different category. Not me time or work time or family time.
Me: WHAT? There ARE no other categories.

So I get off the phone in a HUFF.

And I sit there. Clutching that 50%. Miserable.

Then I write this email (as we know, I’m a much better writer than anything other social interactions):

I feel this push & pull for time between so I want you to know that you deserve Scott time. Even twice in one week.
Maybe I’d do better if we planned over email.
Love
Alex

Because my first reaction is to make my marriage a game. Keep score. And that’s what 50% does for me. Who did what when and why aren’t I getting MINE! (which is why I’d also do better over email. more time to think and breathe. more time to remember to be the person i want to be.)

My marriage is about helping my husband to be the best person he can be. Period. Is this easier when he’s doing the same for me? Yes. And most of the time he does.

Don’t start thinking that I’m the wifely martyr either. (stop laughing.) Doing EVERYTHING for someone else is just as selfish (unless they’re like a BABY. then it’s ok.) Not only would it allow me to sit around in self-pity, but it’s just me trying to control the outcomes of the situation. Because I don’t allow the other person to BE AN ADULT.

So I give to Scott for the sake of giving to Scott. Not at the detriment of myself, but as an opportunity to love him. In a tangible way. But also with our clothes on.

I may even feel good about this. I’ll let you know on Wednesday. And Saturday.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

26 thoughts to “If Marriage Is Always Fifty/Fifty, We’re Both Screwed”

  1. Crap. My husband’s a wiz at percentages, now he’s going to realize that I’m usually in it, like, 40%…sometimes 34%, it really depends on my mood. He doesn’t do his share of the dishes either. We do have an extra cat though, you know, if you’re in the market.

  2. I go through the exact same thoughts. Except I start to think like I’m the martyr- oh look at me washing the dishes and folding the laundry and even dealing the socks (so totally not in my part of our marital agreement)- and then I stop. Usually. Or I get huffy.

    Relationships are not games. And life doesn’t quite run on 50/50. And if we get all caught up in a who does what when tit for tat, we lose. And then sadly, no one gets screwed.

  3. Oh, and here I figured I could happily watch my husband go out extra because that gives *me* even more leave to get away. But I am in the trenches of infant care again, so I’m in a selfish place that comes from the >50% part of parenting.

  4. A VERY WISE PERSON ( on Star Trek) said….”If winning isn’t everything, why keep score?” Having been married for twenty years (in two enlistments) I can have some authority on the subject. Once you start keeping score someone is going to lose and in marriage that means BOTH of you lose every time one person loses. So give until it hurts and see what comes back. Like in bowling, when you’re standing there waiting for your ball to come back.

  5. Feeling good about it might be the correct choice. Because the others (resentment, anger, futility) aren’t very helpful.

    But cracking your hubby over the skull with HIS 50% might also be a viable solution.

  6. So, when David does stuff like this, it’s not that he’s taking the time that bothers me. It’s his making up of extraneous categories. I can’t play by the rules of this game if you’re constantly making more rules, dude!

  7. Here’s how we’ve managed to stay married for 17 and one-half years:

    When I was first married, I told him, “I don’t do trash. I’m a feminist & all but I think if there’s a man in the house, he should take out the trash.”
    I thought we were all agreed on this point but week after week, I’d find my kitchen trash to be overflowing.

    And I’d get SO MAD.

    Finally, FINALLY, I just decided I could do one of two things: 1) I could live with the overflowing trash, or 2) I could take it out my damn self. And I started taking out the trash. (Spoiler: It didn’t kill me.)

    Fast-forward about 16 and one-half years and guess what? He takes the trash out now. Sometimes when I pointedly ask him but a lot of times just all on his own.

    So now you have it: the secret to a long marriage. Remember, his parents lasted 68 years.

  8. Honestly though, I’d bet on a longer time span average, it might equal out to about 50%. Because I bet there are times when you need the 51-85% fluctuation in your favor too. At least that’s how it is with my wife. There are times when each of us are carrying the heavier load… but that’s what is reassuring. That you’ve got someone else to carry that load if need be from time to time 🙂

    1. Oh I definitely think it evens out. A friend told me that she’d be thinking about when her two days were going to happen, and I responded: I’m pretty sure I already had my two days in one week.

      The good news is that I don’t have to WORRY about when those two days will be. Because in a healthy marriage it should all even out (like you said) without me having to FIGHT for it.

  9. i would just like to point out that I did do your dishes once – in medical school – before your wedding =)
    seriously though – great topic i think about this sometimes too… there are definitely some weeks where it is 70/30 and those are a little more difficult…but i also know i’ve had weeks where is is 30/70 so l think if you look at it over the life of the relationship it’s 50/50
    hope we connect soon!

  10. I love this topic because it is such a perfect way to explain marriage. It is the one solid piece and only piece of advice I ever offer, well that isn’t entirely true. I found this out 4 months before my wedding 9 years ago we had been together for 2 years prior to that and I had a 6 year old at that time and I had been a single parent for 5 years. I worked full time, I had a nervous breakdown like for real took short term disability from work couldn’t get out of my bed couldn’t get my daughter ready or to the bus stop couldn’t pick her up from daycare or feed her dinner or anything. I was thinking I needed to break off this wedding and let this guy get a normal life. Well I don’t ever remember an exact moment where he said how can I help he just did everything and I mean everything 110% and I learned through that awful experience that if you truly love your spouse it doesn’t matter how much you put it matters that you put in what you can whether it be 0% or 100%. The other piece of advice that I think is totally awesome advice came from out pastor during premarital counseling. He asked us each to say one thing we couldn’t stand about the other and one thing we adored about the other and I thought for sure this was some sort of trap . . . but we said our things which were no surprise to each other but his next statement was a surprise, he said “All the things that really bother you now will really bother you 20 years from now and the things you love will help you give grace to one another for the things that still really bother you.” Wow it took us the first 5 years to get a good handle on that concept. Whew but now it is so much easier for me to watch him go behind me to move dishes around in the dishwasher and for him to realize I can’t load the dishwasher the way he would like, years ago we could argue that one for hours LOL! He still leaves wood utensils in the sink soaking in a pot of water and I just take them out and wash them right away and since he ruins them I just buy more he like to cook with wood! We love each other and had a tough time getting there but now it is almost comical!

    Have a great day and I hope S enjoys his “me time” twice this week!

  11. Very nice, Alex. I do much better by email or text, too. More time to think things through instead of getting all defensive and blurting out the wrong thing! I hope Scott enjoys his Scott Time and you still feel good about it later. I hope you get some Alex Time soon, too.

    And what’s this about making us wait a WHOLE WEEK to announce some money-making writing gig you seem to have found?! I want to know!

    Thanks for showing us your messy sink. Keep being awesome. xo

  12. I think a marriage is 100% / 100%. When we’re both giving 100% then the balance works out. Does that mean we don’t get “me” time. Absolutely not.

    Ann

  13. I think it is easier to count your % (even if you don’t want or mean to) when you stay at home. Because your life 24/7 is kids and you need breaks from that. It’s easier when both of you are there to fend them off (I mean love and care for them).
    I had “me time” this weekend. Yes I went somewhere Saturday night with friends, but most of my “me time” was on Sunday while I was lying around trying to recover from Saturday’s “me time”.

  14. I have a very crazy neighbor who once said something brilliant to me. Marriage isn’t about giving equally. Sometimes you have to give/do more to help the other person out. That has stuck in my head since I first heard it, 5 years ago.

    That isn’t to say that I always remember those words. On a daily basis I’m keeping score of who did what, who did more, and why I’m always the one doing more. It’s hard to let that go and just give more. While never being a doormat of course.

  15. Oh does this ever strike a chord…!

    We’re still trying to figure this one out ourselves… and I TOTALLY tend toward the equate-o-holic firstborn-self-centered mindset which sucks the love songs right out of the marital harmony department.

    What’s with this stupid urge to keep score and play fair and equal and balanced even when it’s totally impossible AND totally not what marriage is all about???

    Have I been hanging out with small children too much?

    Do I need to throw a tantrum and just get it all out??? (shhh, pretend I don’t already do that on a regular basis…)

    In our grumpiest, most selfish, most childish, marital moments, we are ALL ABOUT pointing out the imbalances.
    Truth be told, I don’t even know how to quantify this stuff – it’s impossible, I mean really now:
    does my break = your break?
    do we quantify with hours? nights of the week? new grey hairs?
    can we go head to head on this?
    my exhausting poop filled day versus your quiet day at the office?
    my getting up eight times in the night and feeding our infant child WITH MY BOOBS versus your tiredness from a busy day at work?
    is this all more challenging and mind-boggling to pretend there’s a quantifyable balance of personal time needs when one parent is home w/ the kids and on duty around the house around the clock? (I tend towawrd yes)

    I totally still need to take YOUR age old advice and just get the heck out of the house (hereby declaring a personal Alex night) every week whether i really have actual plans or not. Lest I end up bitter and grumpy and all fussy about imbalance which is silly and irrational and dumb.

    And I need to throw out my legalistic scales – becuase have the feeling that this whole 50/50 or 10/90 or 99/01 thing is really about a whole lifetime of BALANCE together, not about daily or weekly tallies, but about that whole lifetime of being there for each other, through ALL the crap and amazing parts alike. And I need to take a step back and think about everything I jsut typed way more often…

  16. Just had this conversation! Hubby watched football all day on Sat, and asked if I’d mind if he went to a friend’s house to watch it all day on Sunday. Sure, I don’t mind…I love staying home with the kids with no time for me 7 days straight. But that’s not what I said. I said “Sure, go ahead – I’m keeping track and you’re gonna owe me”.

    I think your outlook and the way you handled it was better 😉

  17. I have a theory. Actually, I have several, but for right now, we’ll concentrate on what I like to call “The Theory of Dishes”. (Patent Pending)

    Now, let me preface by saying that “dishes” applies to a multitude of chores, not just your sink full. (Don’t you just love how stuffy I sound?)

    Whenever I’ve lived with someone – whether through force (my sisters), financial reasons (my crazy roommates) or choice (my husband), there comes a time when someone will say, “But I ALWAYS do the dishes.”

    That’s when the theory comes into play:

    One always thinks one does the dishes because one is not aware of the dishes being done unless one is elbow deep in soapy water and dried on food while one’s housemate is watching “Dancing With the Stars”.

    Now watch how I bring this around…

    Whenever I think that our marriage is veering towards the 95% me, 5% him, I remember that I’m probably not noticing that he’s doing the dishes too.

    At least that’s what I remind myself after I pout for a good hour over the fact that I’m WORKING and COOKING and CLEANING. And all he’s doing is writing a measly little paper.

  18. I have a 100/100 position – that way, if I fail, the marriage still operates with all four wheels. So to speak. That said, sometimes I scream. Or, in my worse moments, pout. Then, we just don’t have a spare.
    Also, I’m more likely to do your dishes than to Tweet my love. (Though I’m up to, like, 20 tweets! Or 16.) I think it’s just the kind of person I am.

  19. I know I’m WAY late in posting a comment on this one, but hey…I’m trying to catch up a bit.

    This is a truly great post. It’s especially pertinent in my life (uhm, full time student, quit my really-good-paying job, 3 kids at home, still have to clean stuff and nag The Man Friend to pick up his damned socks and dishes).

    I was wondering if, perhaps, you’ve read “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands” by Dr. Laura? I know it sounds like a ridiculous how-to by some 50’s-esqe Good Wife, but (while she does go overboard is some areas) there are many, many excellent points which have really helped me to keep my head on straight in my relationship. You know, not making it all about ME ME MEEEEEEE (you mean…it’s not?).

    Anyhoo…great post (crap, I said that already. Now what?)

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