50/50 Marriages

I will write this week about marriages. Yes, I just returned from a weekend getaway called “A Weekend to Remember,” organized by Family Life, and I have a lot to share.

Something that just dawned on me. Imagine you were being interviewed for a job and were asked how much effort you were willing to put into your new job. Suppose you said, “I am willing to put my 50% as long as whoever is working with me is willing to put their 50%.” What are the chances you would get that job? Pretty slim, aren’t they? In fact, you would probably get laughed at all the way to the exit door, which would be politely shown to you… or not!

And yet, when it comes  to marriages, we expect this arrangement to work. We say, “As long as you keep your part of the bargain, I will keep mine. If you mess up, we’re history.”

Rarely will a marriage survive under this kind of arrangement. And why is that?

First, because couples bring a wide variety of expectations into a relationship and many of them are totally unrealistic. What did you expect from your marriage and did you get it? Did you expect your wife to be always in the mood for sex? Did you expect your husband to always give you his undivided attention? Did you expect your wife to stay trim and toned for the rest of her life? Did you expect your husband to keep opening the door for you like he used to do when you were dating?

And why not? Aren’t those perfectly reasonable expectations? They may be to you but not necessarily to the other person. So giving only 50/50 will not work because the expectations are varied and unrealistic.

But 50/50 doesn’t work for another reason: my tendency to focus on the other person’s faults and forget my own. Let’s face it: we all tend to be selfish, prideful, stubborn and resentful. If left unchecked, these bad traits will derail any relationship. Many marriages have been defeated already by nothing more than selfishness. Yours could be the next.

Christian marriages fail too, and at the same rate as non-Christian ones. But the reason is that we simply refuse to follow the manual. In Christian marriages we are supposed to give 100%. Just about now I can hear some say, “Of course, I give 100%, he gives 100%. I am game for that.”

But you are missing the point. In Christian marriages your are supposed to give 100% regardless of what percentage the other person gives. I know, it is a recipe for abuse. You say, “That’s insane!” And you would be right. You protest, “No one can possibly do that!” And you would be right.

Only the supernatural enabling of God in your life can allow you to give 100% even when the other person is not. It is a mystery of godliness. I am not saying it is easy, but easy street is usually a dead-end street. Don’t allow yourself to go there. Like Paul said to the Philippians, Don’t do anything for selfish purposes but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.” If everybody would live by this principle, we would drive the marriage counselors out of business.

In the vast majority of cases you will find that your actions contrary to nature will rub the right way on the other person. Soon you will be lying next to a “one hundred percenter” as well. And 50/50 will be a thing of the past.

Ivanildo C. Trindade