Can Marriage Really be 50/50? Should It Be?

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Contrary to pop culture and motivational posters, everything in life involves compromise. This goes double for marriage. Perhaps it’s more like triple. It’s give and take, ebb and flow. The goal, of course, is to get things to 50/50. Right? Well,… that premise is yet another thing best relegated to romantic comedies and stand-up routines. Marriages are far more fluid than any ratio can measure.

Putting 50/50 to the Test

Let’s say your partner just learned the results of their mother’s medical test. It’s not good. In fact, it’s really bad news. She hangs up her phone just as you walk in the door after work. Your commute home was a nightmare and you were planning to let out a few gripes before forgetting about it. As you open your mouth to complain, your wife collapses into your arms and starts weeping uncontrollably.

What is the proper marital ratio for this situation?

Do you need even 10 percent to talk about highway traffic? Probably not. You shift into a 99/1 mode and do whatever you can to be present for your despondent spouse. In addition, you begin to process that the next few weeks or months may be dominated by your mother-in-law’s illness. In a healthy relationship, you know, without much thought, that this will be an ongoing 95/5 situation. You also know that you feel good about stepping into the role of temporary caregiver and being a reliable source of comfort and support.

So, Should Marriage Never Be 50/50?

It’s not easy to know the answer to this one. Life is fluid. Relationships never stop shifting. Therefore, all aspects of your married life are in flux. You may be 50/50 in one arena, say, housework. Meanwhile, you’re 60/40 in child care, 14/86 in cooking and 72/28 in household earning. The list goes on.

Aiming for 50/50 sounds fair and progressive. However, by doing so, you may be setting false expectations which inevitably lead to resentment. Marriage is not any of the following:

  • A competition

  • Contractual or a business deal

  • A scorecard

  • Static, rigid. It is a fluid process

Marriage is closer to an art form than a science in the sense that personal expression is so influential.

Sure, you may agree that segments of your connection support a 50/50 split. Finances are a common area in which more definitive splits exist. Elsewhere, it can be detrimental to keep score. This can and will weaken trust, breed resentment, and spawn stress.

How to “Split” Marital Life


This is where and how it all begins and how it’s all maintained. Always keep all lines open for IRL, face-to-face, radically honest communication.

Reject the Transactional Mindset

I did this so now you must do that. This mindset runs contrary to the nuances of romantic partnership. Of course, responsibilities are to be taken seriously but you are not running a business. Look for ways to please and serve each other for mutual satisfaction.

Seek Rhythm Above Ratio

The actual ratio within your marriage will change daily — maybe even hourly. But when it feels right for both of you, it’s not about math equations. You’ll feel in sync and feed off the rhythm.

Remain Open to Change

By now, you probably get the point that marriage dynamics are not carved in stone. Accepting this reality empowers you to more smoothly roll with the inevitable twists and turns.

There’s One Place Where 50/50 is Easier

Couples counseling is an ideal setting for spouses to contemplate the sometimes mysterious world of marital dynamics. In this safe space, couples can aim for 50/50 equality in terms of talking time and focus on solutions. Having an unbiased, professional mediator is super helpful for making sure all thoughts are heard and validated. Counseling can be an ideal practice space for exploring your joint rhythms, needs, and preferences. Please reach out for a consultation today.