Last night a reel with Brené Brown popped up on my Instagram feed.
I found myself nodding in agreement. I instantly sent it to my husband since we both know from experience that Brown’s words are 100 percent accurate. We’ve been there so many times and we know that something about the 50/50 rule in relationships is absolutely flawed.
Brown explains why this rule doesn’t work in marriages (or relationships), and it’s honestly the best definition I’ve ever heard on real, authentic love.
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“Everyone says marriage should be 50/50. It’s a biggest crap of bullsh*t I’ve ever heard. It’s never 50/50. Ever. And so what we do is we quantify where we are. So if Steve comes home and he’ll be like I got 20. ‘In terms of energies.’ Just energy, investment, kindness, patience…I’m at 20 and I’ll be like, I’ll cover you. I got you brother. Like I’ll pull the 80. Sometimes we come home which we’ve done a lot, my mom has been sick and I say I’ve got 10 and Steve like two days ago said I’m riding a solid 25. So we know that we’ve to sit down at the table anytime we have less than a 100 combined. And figure out a plan of kindness towards each other. Yeah because the thing is marriage is not something that’s 50/50. A partnership works when you can carry their 20 or they can carry your 20 and that when you both just have 20 you have a plan where you don’t hurt each other.”
Like most couples, when my husband and I started dating, we applied the 50/50 rule. It was reasonable and fair and we both believed that if we gave the same amount of ourselves, our relationship would thrive.
It didn’t. The 50/50 rule almost wrecked our relationship. We expected from each other appreciation, kindness, patience, and understanding every single day, but it was simply impossible. Especially when we both had a hard day, it was challenging to carry the relationship equally.
It took us many years to realize that the 50/50 rule is damaging because it shifts the attention from the relationship to ourselves, which, with time, harbors resentment and shame. When I constantly expect something in return from my husband, especially on the days when it feels hard to love himself, I’m only thinking about my own happiness.
When the relationship is our main priority, we naturally drop the need to want our partner to carry the same weight. We take it day by day. As Brown suggests, we figure out a plan where we don’t hurt each other and focus on communication.
We try our best to always be helpful and generous without measuring what we can or can’t give. When my husband can’t maintain his end of the bargain, it’s totally fine; tomorrow I may be the one who won’t be able to give fully.
The 50/50 method won’t save your marriage or relationship. So keep an open mind and an open heart and understand that empathy is more important than score-keeping.