If you’re keeping score in your marriage, you’re in trouble.
by Dave Boehi
Direct Link to Article on FamilyLife: The 50/50 Myth
Whether we realize it or not, most of our friendships operate according to a
50/50 plan: “You do your part, and I’ll do mine.” If the friendship is
lopsided—if one person is giving far more effort to it than the other—the
relationship probably won’t last long. Would you want to spend time with someone
who doesn’t show the same interest in you?
And I suppose it’s natural to apply this 50/50 plan to a marriage. On the
surface it seems to make sense: Would you want to stay married to someone who
isn’t putting the same amount of time and effort into the relationship?
The problem is that marriage is different from a friendship. You make a vow
to God that you will remain committed to each other, no matter what. And if
you try to keep a relationship like that going with the 50/50 plan, it doesn’t
This is one of the key points at our Weekend to
Remember® getaways, and I was interested recently when I saw the theme pop
up in an online article, “The Secret to Marriage? Don’t Keep Score!” The piece
originally appeared on the website for The Legacy Project, and was later picked
up by The Huffington Post. The Legacy Project, sponsored by Cornell
University, has conducted more than 1,500 interviews with older Americans who
offer practical advice on many topics, including marriage.
Alvin, married 63 years, said, “Don’t consider a marriage a 50/50 affair!
Consider it a 100 percent affair. The only way you can make a marriage work is
to have both parties give a hundred percent every time.”
And Kay, married 54 years, said, “… anybody that goes into marriage saying,
‘Oh, this is going to be 50/50,’ it doesn’t happen. You can’t live in the same
house with the same person all those years and always divide it down the
Think of marriage as a 100/100 relationship, with each person willing to do
whatever it takes to make the marriage and family work. This philosophy is
based on Philippians 2:3-4, which tells us to “Do nothing from selfish ambition
or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let
each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of
Another key passage is Matthew 22:36-40, where Jesus says the greatest
commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with
all your soul and with all your mind,” but the second greatest commandment is,
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
For a marriage to thrive, both spouses need to put aside their own desires
and seek to serve the other.
For example, think of the wedding vow to remain together “in sickness and in
health.” Anyone who has been married long realizes there are times when one
person is ill or injured, and the healthy spouse needs to step up and take
responsibility for whatever needs to be done in the family. On those days (or
weeks or months), marriage feels pretty unbalanced.
So The Legacy Project’s interviews with elderly Americans provide real-life
illustrations of an important scriptural truth. Antoinette, married 60 years,
said that each spouse needs to bring an unselfish attitude into each day: “When
you wake up in the morning, think, What can I do to make her day or his day
just a little happier? You need to turn toward each other, and if you focus
on the other person even just for that five minutes when you first wake up, it’s
going to make a big difference in your relationship. That’s likely to really
work for many years. So start each day thinking about what you can give that
special person in your life.”
Karl Pillemer, director of the project, summarized that in marriage, “The
attitude has to be one of giving freely. And according to the elders, if you
start keeping score you’re already in deep trouble. For long-term success,
couples have to orient themselves to giving more than they get. Both individuals
are contributing to a relationship, the benefits of which transcend immediate
interests on a given day.”
Copyright © 2012 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.