Tuesday, January 15, 2013

50/50 Isn't Always 50/50

One of the most important things I’ve learned about being married is how to compromise. More accurately, one of the most important things I’ve learned about being married is that compromising doesn’t always mean a 50/50 split. In fact, it rarely means a 50/50 split, except in the aggregate.

Let me explain what I mean by that. Before I was married, I assumed that the best way to compromise in a marriage would be to always meet in the middle: You want Chinese food, I want Italian; we’ll get Mexican. You want to see an action flick, I want to see a foreign art film; we’ll see a romantic comedy. You want to go to Hawaii, I want to go to Quebec; we’ll go to Nantucket. And there’s nothing wrong with compromising that way every now and then. But the problem with these situations is that although nobody has to do something they really don’t want, nobody ever gets what they really do want, either. After nearly 5 years of marriage, I realize that compromise works better when it’s 100/0 sometimes and 0/100 other times.

Most good compromises in a marriage involve a solution that’s closer to a 100/0 split than a 50/50. My husband is great about doing chores around the house, so there are definitely periods of time when our housework split is 50/50. But then there are weeks when he is working long hours and has lots of commitments outside of work, and the housework ratio is closer to 90/10 for a while. And then along comes a week or two when I am overwhelmed and exhausted, and he steps in and makes it 10/90 for a while to give me a break. That’s a much better compromise than keeping it 50/50 all the time, in my opinion.

There are also certain things that are always, permanently, and forever going to be 100/0. We will never go out for Indian food together, even though I love it, because my husband hates it. I accept that, and that’s my 0. And we will never go downhill skiing together, even though my husband loves it, because it’s just not my thing. He accepts that; that’s his 0. Trash patrol? His, 100%. Packing the diaper bag? Mine, 100%. Squishing centipedes on the bathroom floor? His, 100%. Sitting with the kids teaching them their letters? Mine, 100%. But when you add it all together, it comes out to a nice, even, equitable 50/50.

I will admit that in certain moments it doesn’t feel so equitable. On days when I’ve just finished the 7th load of laundry and emptied the dishwasher for the second time, I feel a bit put upon. And on days when he’s spent the entire day shoveling the driveway and getting MY car inspected, my husband probably feels like he’s getting the short end of the stick. But when we look back at the big picture, we both agree that it’s pretty even and fair.

Maybe there are some people who are happier always getting their 50% share. Maybe some folks prefer never getting 100% in order to never end up with 0%. And if that works for you, that’s just fine. But for me, accepting 0 every now and then in order to get a 100 every once in a while gives me a marriage that works 100% of the time.
Not Indian food.


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