By Dillon Schupp
No kid enjoys cleaning their room. I know I didn’t. It may have been the chore that I disliked the most, not just because I didn’t like the process of cleaning, but because it never actually seemed to be “clean enough” to match the standard for which my mom would agree that it was clean.
In fairness to my mom, her point of view was right, and now that I have a son, I’m sure in the coming years I’ll have to help him understand that “clean” means more than just having a path free of Legos from the bed to the door so your foot doesn’t get spiked at night.
To make matters more difficult, as a kid my brother and I shared a room. That meant we had double the mess to clean up when it was time to clean our room.
But it also meant this: each of us (at least in our minds) was only responsible for “our half” of the room. Once I was done with “my half”, it didn’t matter how much of a wreck the rest of the room was. I was done and moving on to bigger and better things, while my brother slaved away in the much messier other half of the room.
Looking back on it, that’s pretty amusing, and chances are you can relate if you had siblings. If not in relation to cleaning a room, then to doing chores in general. You did your “half” and once you were done, you moved on, leaving your sibling or siblings to fend for themselves.
That’s not a big deal when we’re kids just trying to get our chores done so we can resume play.
However, the mindset of “I’ll do my half” becomes a tremendous threat when we carry it into marriage. And it’s the reason your current (or future marriage) is in danger of falling apart.
“Marriage is 50-50”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that idea. For what it’s worth, I’m positive those who have said that do not intend it in a negative way.
But intentions don’t make a great marriage. Actions do. And the actions of a 50-50 marriage lead to frustration, resentment, a cooling down of the love between spouses, and, if unchecked, to separation and divorce.
In a marriage, there are dozens of items we have to keep up with on a nearly daily basis: paying the bills, buying groceries, cleaning the house, taking out the trash, getting the kids to school, and so on. That’s on top of our jobs, hobbies, and involvement in church and other activities. Simply put: there’s a lot to do.
And that’s where a 50-50 marriage starts to come apart at the seams.
If I’m convinced the limits of my responsibilities in my marriage are “half” the work, here’s what will tend to happen: I’ll work as efficiently as I can to get my tasks completed so I can sit down and relax.
Inevitably, that’s going to lead to frequent times where my wife is still working while I’m sitting in my rocking chair.
Now just think about how you felt when your sibling was done with “their half” of the chores growing up. It didn’t generate warm, fuzzy feelings. It grated on your nerves as you muttered about how lazy your sibling was and how the current arrangement was not fair.
You can multiply that same feeling by probably a factor of 50 when it takes place in marriage.
There are few things that grate on a spouse’s nerves more than seeing the other spouse relaxing or going out and having fun while the one spouse is still doing things that need to be done. That doesn’t generate romance; it generates frustration, arguments, and leads to resentment.
Sure, maybe they “did their part.” And maybe they even agreed on the arrangement ahead of time. However, over the long haul, that arrangement is going to feel to one spouse as if they are being taken advantage of. And that kills a marriage.
This isn’t just about chores, by the way; it applies to any dynamic in marriage. We can approach conflict resolution, romantic pursuit, sex, who takes care of the kids, and more with a 50-50 mindset. And as we do so, we poison our marriages through a series of unspoken messages:
- “I’ve done my part and I’m not doing anything else.”
- “I’m entitled to go and have some fun- and you can’t stop me.”
- “Need help? Tough luck. That’s your job.”
We’d likely never say those things out loud. And yet a marriage that’s based on a 50-50 mindset communicates each and every one of those things.
It’s no wonder so many marriages fall apart.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Your marriage can survive and thrive. However, the way we approach marriage must change.
From “50-50” to “Whatever it takes.”
The Bible describes marriage as two people becoming “one flesh”. The idea here is that marriage is not so much two individuals as it is a singular unit; one body, so to speak.
That’s why Paul, speaking to husbands, makes the statement that “…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” (Ephesians 5:28-29).
Now think about the idea of a body: if your body parts decided to go 50-50, your life would become pretty messed up pretty quick.
For instance: much of my work involves me typing on a computer- which requires the use of my finger. Suppose my fingers decided halfway through writing this article, for instance, “We’re done! We’ve typed our half. Toes- your turn!”
It would take days to finish the rest of this, and it would be wildly frustrating.
That’s a bit of a silly illustration, but you get the point: a body doesn’t operate as 50-50. A body operates under the principle that every part works together to do what needs to be done- and the body as a whole doesn’t stop until everything is done.
A body isn’t 50-50. A body is “Whatever it takes.”
What if we applied that same principle to marriage?
What if we stopped thinking in terms of “doing my part” and started thinking in terms of “doing what needs to be done even when I’m already done”? What if we started thinking in terms of “We work together to move the ball down the field- and neither of us stops until the mission is accomplished”?
That can build a stronger marriage, because that’s a husband and wife working together for the benefit of each other and the entire family. We begin to focus less on our rights and more on our responsibilities. It starts to shift the focus from “me” to “we”.
And in the process we eliminate a tremendous amount of fertile ground for bitterness and resentment and replace it with caring and selflessness.
And that’s the type of marriage where love, respect, commitment- and even romance- can thrive.
One Final Thought
The objection here may be “I hear what you’re saying- but my spouse will never do that, and I don’t want to be taken advantage of.”
I hear you. That’s certainly a tension.
However, we have to understand that we can never control what our spouse does. We can only control what we do.
I’m not responsible for my spouse’s actions; but I am responsible for my own.
I can’t make my spouse move to “Whatever it takes”, but I can absolutely move myself there.
I think the best chance for our marriages is not waiting on our spouse to get on the same page with us before we implement this. The best chance for our marriages is for us as individuals to make the first move.
Does that guarantee your spouse will reciprocate? No.
But your marriage has a much greater chance to thrive when someone decides to step up and be all in than waiting on your spouse to “get with the program.”
And by the way- a “Whatever it takes” mindset starts with someone making the first move.
Let that person be you.
Give your marriage a chance. Don’t wait to make a change. In fact- be the change you want to see in your marriage- and I believe if we do that, our marriages won’t just survive.
They will thrive.