By Lori Freeland, Crosswalk.com
When I first tackled this question, I thought I knew where I wanted to go with it. But I was also curious about a big-picture view that went beyond my own experience of being married thirty years. I decided to take a poll of what other married couples thought. Most opinions I expected. A few surprised me. Either way, so much great advice was offered that I wished I’d asked the same question as a newlywed. Where I’ve quoted a few of the comments I received, I’ve paraphrased and tightened for word count, put an initial rather than a name, and added the number of years married if shared. All but three of my answers came from wives. I’ve noted which ones came from husbands. Let’s jump in. Should marriage be 50/50?
All in Favor, “AYE.” 17% Answered Yes
“Our marriage functions better when we split responsibilities.” ~K married 22 years
But they were some caveats. “Equal as in there’s a balance so that neither feels like they carry the brunt of the load or feel taken advantage of.” ~J. “The goal is 50-50, but the reality is that you have each other’s backs.” ~S married 23 years
All Those Against, Say, “NAY”
This isn’t so easy. The no’s fell into three categories. 32% believe marriage should be 100-100.
“It has to be 100% all the time because some days your 100% may barely get you out of bed, and you need your spouse to meet you where you are.” ~J married 19 years. “I want 100% of my husband. And I want to give him 100%.” ~P.
32% believe the total each partner gives should add up to 100%. “Marriage has seasons, and ideally, a couple weathers them by letting the scales go this way and that while each does the best they can.” ~J. “It swings back and forth.” ~T husband
I also got a few comments related to gender that I thought was interesting.
“The husband should try to do more because the wife often feels she’s doing it all.” ~P husband married 30 years. “Moms carry a heavy mental load that should be considered.” ~K
19% believe spouses shouldn’t keep score.
“50-50 can make a spouse keep score.” ~J. “If a person goes into marriage thinking it’s 50/50 or whatever, that implies keeping score and being upset if today or yesterday the other person didn’t pull their weight.” ~A, married 38 years. There’s a little bit in each of those statements that resonates with me and maybe you too. And while advice from other married couples can be extremely helpful, ultimately, we need to go directly to God. After all, He was the One who created marriage.
What Does God Say?
You won’t find a verse in the Bible that tells you what percentage to give to your marriage. I wish it were that easy. What you will find are passages of Scripture that speak to the uniqueness of that relationship, how it compares to God’s relationship with us, and the way He wants us to treat each other. As I read, I bolded the words that jumped out at me.
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24 NIV).
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31-32).
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—” (Ephesians 5:28-29).
1 Peter 3:7 also urges husbands to “be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect.”
Ephesians 33: However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
United. One flesh. Gave himself up for. Love. Care for. Considerate. Respect. Those are pretty solid words that don’t leave a lot of room for interpretation. You and your spouse unite as one in a relationship like that of Christ with the church that’s full of love, consideration, and respect.
“It’s always ALL in, equal parts to all seasons/jobs/chores/kids, team effort!” K married 31 years
“I think as long as you’re both giving what the other needs, you’re being selfless.” ~T
Beyond the marriage relationship, God has a lot to say about how we treat His people. Remember, your wife or your husband belongs to God first before they belong to you. The person you’re doing life with is God’s “people.”
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
Love. Kind. Compassionate. Forgiving. Devoted. Honor. More straightforward words for what to bring into our marriages. And here, we’re also told what to leave behind. We shouldn’t envy, boast, be proud, dishonor others, be self-seeking, or be easily angered. Imagine if we took the “marriage” passage of 1 Corinthians to heart and really lived it out.
“Both partners bring their best to the table.” ~R
I love Ecclesiastes 4:9. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up . . .”
“We are each other’s balance.” ~V
“We pick up each other’s slack in love.” ~E
That brings us back to keeping score. If we’re doing what God asks of us in the Scriptures above—regardless of how much percentage we’re each putting into the marriage at any given time—we’ll lose the tendency to keep score.
“Love doesn’t keep score.” ~D married 29 years
“It’s not about score. It’s about lifting each other up, working to always understand what both of you need, and being honest about it.” ~ J married 17 years
Earlier I mentioned that I thought I knew where I wanted to go with this question. But after reading these verses along with the comments on my poll, I’ve changed my mind. 50-50 sounds ideal if we lived in an ideal world. 100-100 is great advice but not very practical for the long haul. And what are we exactly supposed to add up to 100%? That day? That month? That season? Should marriage be 50-50 is the wrong question. We should be asking, what kind of marriage do we want to have? Do we want to support each other or tear each other down? Do we want our marriage to be built on respect, kindness, and love? If we answer yes, then we need to give those things. Be those things. Live out those things.
“There are times when one partner needs to shoulder more.” ~L married 28 years. L is right. But not in the way of who and when and how much. In the way of attitude. In the way of relationship goals. In the way of loving our spouse the way Christ loves us. In the way of becoming a team, however that looks.
“As long as a marriage works as a team, the amount of individual effort isn’t as important.” ~M married 31 years
“Marriage is a series of give and take.” ~W married 50 years. Leaving percentages out of the equation, I agree with W. Give and take are something you create together based on how God asks that you treat each other. Every marriage is different because every person is different. How we fit together as “one” with our strengths and weaknesses will be unique to our relationship. It’s when we don’t fit, when we don’t unite, that we have a problem.
“Been married 30 years and now separated, partly because we didn’t work as a team, or it didn’t feel like it. So 50-50 or 80-20 or 100-100, whatever it is, if you are not equally yoked, you won’t continue moving forward.” ~M
Your marriage will be what you make of it. It will be a combination of who you each are and what you bring to the table.
Let me end with this quote from L, married 28 years. Here’s the marriage advice she got from her dad on her wedding day. “Love is not an emotion. It’s a choice. There will be days you hate your spouse. Those are the days you choose to love them.” And all the spouses said, “Amen.”
Photo credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Ivanko_Brnjakovic
Lori Freeland, an encourager at heart, believes everyone has a story to tell and wants to help make those stories as strong as possible. An author, editor, and writing coach, she holds a BA in psychology from The University of Wisconsin and currently lives in the Dallas area. She’s presented multiple workshops at conferences across the country, has experience in developmental and copy edits in various genres, and writes nonfiction, novels, and everything in between. When she’s not curled up with her husband drinking too much coffee and worrying about her kids, she loves to mess with the lives of the imaginary people living in her head. You can find her inspirational blog and writing tips at lafreeland.com.