A common expression is “I’ll meet you halfway,” and we often take that attitude into our marriage. I hear frequent complaints from couples in trouble that their partner isn’t pulling their fair weight, that one is giving more than the other.
Whoever determined that life is a 50-50 proposition?
Some give more than others. Some take more than others. On every level of society from politics to business to social interactions, there are discrepancies of effort, economics, and emotions.
Going into a relationship with the expectation that contributions will be fairly shared is to court disaster. Over a span of time, a certain amount of evenness will develop through a process of give-and-take and ups-and-downs. But at any specific point, one may be giving while the other needs to just take for a while.
We all need to enter the most important relationship of our life with the foreknowledge and determined commitment to give 100%. Once we have internalized that concept, we can avoid the painful feelings we get when we think we are being cheated of our just rewards. If the relationship is healthy, and both partners are committed to the 100% investment, eventually it will work out somewhere in the middle -probably never 50-50 but somewhere in the broad bell curve of averages: 30% to 70%. At different times, the equation adjusts as careers, children, and other responsibilities change.
If you are the individual giving 70% and your other half is falling a little short, remember that you swore to give 100% so you are much better off than you expected.
Can you see how such thinking changes the framework of your marriage? You’re not getting cheated, you’re getting much more support than your original bargain called for!
You can use this new attitude in any aspect of your partnership. Many couples develop resentment over their relative monetary contributions. If you have the initial anticipation of being the sole breadwinner, then any contribution by the other, however small, is a great big bonus. If you enter the union with the expectation that you will handle all the cleaning and parenting chores required, then anything done by your partner is a plus.
If one of you handles your mutual social obligations, then the participation of your spouse, even if limited to just showing up and being there, is more than you expected. You may feel, as many of my patients do, that you are not getting the support and good strokes that you deserve. Reframe the sense of deprivation within the 100% concept and you find that even occasional support and positive feedback is an unexpected gift.
We all need to feel loved and appreciated and cherished. We also need to give love and appreciation to others. If we give more than we get, we can harbor anger at our being cheated or we can love and appreciate our own selves for having a greater capacity to give.
This one single change in your outlook towards your relationship can transform the hidden resentments that result in nagging, negativity, and verbal putdowns into a deep satisfaction that leads to overt affection, positive support, and mutual respect.