A Good Marriage Isn’t a 50/50 Deal

50/50 Deal - AdobeStock_157504961 copyWhenever we enter into a contract agreement, we often feel good if by the end of those negotiations we’ve achieved a 50/50 compromise. We’ve met each other half way. While that may make good business sense, if we enter into marriage thinking all we need to do is put in a 50/50 effort we very well could set ourselves up for disaster.

Cindy and I (Steve) can speak from personal experience on this. When we first got married we believed if we each put in a 50% effort we would have a good marriage. We were wrong! And we found out the hard way. It’s a way that almost led to our divorce.

50/50 Deals in Marriage

What I’ve learned over the years is that if I put in only 50% effort to the happiness of Cindy and success of our marriage that leaves me with 50% room for selfishness. That leaves a lot of room for destructiveness to enter our relationship. Jesus Christ gave 100 per cent of Himself for us. I know in my heart that is what I am called to give to my wife. Cindy knows that is what she is to give to me. God asks of us no less. (This is true even if a spouse doesn’t make the same marital investment.)

Cindy and I totally agree with something that Dave Willis wrote. He says:

“Marriage is not 50/50. Divorce is 50/50. Marriage has to be 100/100. It isn’t dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got!”

So here’s the obvious question to ask: “What’s wrong with a 50/50 marriage?

A few thoughts to consider on 50/50 marriage agreement:

• “The 50/50 marriage concept creates unrealistic expectations. You’re going to be living with this person for years, decades even! The notion that every step along the way will be divided equally in half is unrealistic, at best. At some point along the way, your partner will fall. Maybe they’re sick or they’re depressed. Or maybe they’re just plain exhausted. For that reason they can’t maintain their end of the bargain. When you’re expecting that they also put in their half, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. This will translate into a rift in your marriage.

“…The 50/50 marriage concept paves the way to deeper marital issues down the road. Expecting 50% from your spouse, leads to an inevitable tallying system. I do A, B, and C, and they do X, Y, and Z. This sounds reasonable, of course. But the next step is I’m not doing A because they’re not doing X. They’re not holding up their end of the bargain, so why should you?! Well, because the marriage is not about you. It’s about making things work. That mindset puts you at a stalemate, whereby nothing is getting done. Tallying, score keeping, and blame have no place in a marriage. No one ever wins.” (Michelle, from Thegraciouswife.com article, “Marriage is Not 50/50”)

We believe the biggest take away from what Michelle said is “Tallying, score-keeping, and blame have no place in a marriage. No one ever wins.” That’s where Cindy and I spent a lot of wasted time in the early years of our marriage… and neither of us won. But we’ve learned to approach marriage differently since that time. Now we both are “winners.”

Some Winning Thoughts

To help you to “win” in your marriage here are a couple more thoughts that show a 50/50 marriage is not a good deal:

• “When we are focused on each doing only our own half we are centered on where my job ends and hers begins. But marriage is about teamwork, and what team ever got anywhere with the players only giving fifty percent? If we want to succeed in marriage, both sides have to give it their all, all the time.” (From the Iamhusband.com article, “Marriage is Not 50/50”)

Here’s something else to consider:

• “A 50/50 relationship may seem like a fair deal, but it can sell your relationship short. Giving 50% of your heart won’t cut it. If you put that little in, you’ll never recoup your investment. Scary as it sounds, to win at love you have to go ‘all in.’ Occasionally this reward structure doesn’t work. Someone takes advantage of our generosity or fails to honor an important debt. When that happens, it’s tempting to become miserly with our relationship assets.

“We may withhold compliments, assistance or affection. Generally, it’s not greed, but fear, that motivates this response. We’re afraid of losing, of getting taken for all we’re worth. In order to do a relationship well, however, you can’t think in terms of subtraction or division. Love operates instead by the laws of addition and multiplication: Two individuals, by each committing to the relationship with their whole heart, can produce something even greater.” (From the Twoofus.org article, “Are 50/50 Relationships Bad Math?”)

And then here’s an illustration as to why this is “Bad Math”:

• “The ’50/50 Plan’ says, ‘You do your part, and I’ll do mine.’ This concept sounds logical, but families who use it are destined for disappointment. Among the problems with ‘The 50/50 Plan’ is that giving is based on merit and performance. We focus more on what the other person is giving than on what we are doing. Love is withheld until the other person meets our expectations. Since this way of measuring out our love is subjective, the motivation for our actions is based merely on how we feel.” (Dennis Rainey, Crosswalk.com article, “The Trouble with the “50/50 Plan”)

The 100/100 Plan as Opposed to the 50/50 Agreement

Here’s where we turn an important corner. It isn’t enough for you to simply agree that the 50/50 Plan is bad; you also have to see what comprises God’s 100/100 Plan for our marriages that can lead to a lifetime of fulfillment.

“The 100/100 Plan allows for the inevitable trials and difficulties that any couple will encounter during the different seasons of life. It keeps a family going when one spouse is sick or injured, or working odd hours, and is therefore unable to contribute as much. It allows for the richness of a relationship in which each spouse complements the other because of differing strengths, personalities, and abilities. In short, it’s the plan that provides the best picture of a biblical marriage.” (Dave Boehi “Why the 50/50 Plan Won’t Work in Marriage”)

What it comes down to is we have to realize and accept that the 100/100 Plan is God’s plan.

God’s Plan

“Ultimately, the world’s plan, the 50/50 performance relationship, is destined to fail. That is because it is contrary to God’s plan. What a marriage needs is the Super Glue of Philippians 2:3. ‘Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.‘ It’s what we refer to as the 100/100 Plan. This requires a 100 percent effort from each of you to serve your spouse.

“The Bible describes this plan well in Matthew 22:39. ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.‘ There’s no closer neighbor than the one you wake up to each morning! And since most of us love ourselves passionately, we are well on the way to implementing the 100/100 Plan if we take a similar approach to loving our spouses.” (Dennis Rainey, from the Familylifetoday.com article, “Superglue Your Marriage”)

One of the greatest illustrations of this is something I found from a young woman, Olivia Spears, who wrote a BLOG about her experience in pre-marriage counseling. It’s there that she came to realize the 100/100 Plan is what she wanted for her marriage. I wish I had enough room here to include her entire BLOG but we provide a link to it.

Here are just a few of her observations:

“The lesson I learned that day is that the 100-100 Principle does not require us to be the greatest we’ve ever been in every moment of every day. Rather, it calls us to give 100% of ourselves, of everything we have and everything we are in each moment.

“Sometimes this will mean that we are super-spouse who has everything together and can’t seem to run out of patience and love. Other times, this will mean being willing to allow our spouse to be our Simon of Cyrene. Our spouse will bear our heavy crosses with us. In both scenarios, we are able to give 100% of ourselves with the grace of God.

“This is precisely how the 100-100 principle works in the reality of life and love. The Lord, in His goodness and wisdom and through the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, offers the spouses guidance through the ebb and flow of life. He presents each spouse with the ability to support and encourage the other. Plus, the spouse is to be supported and encouraged in return.

Therefore, may we never cease to turn to Jesus for this grace. It’s that type of grace that allows us to give of ourselves entirely and completely. We give it whether we are at our best or our worst. In this way, our marriages will bear the sweetest fruit of sanctity and fidelity, no matter what storms come our way. (Olivia Spears, from ” Marriage: The 100-100 Principle”)

In Closing:

Lets always remember what we’re told in God’s word:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.(1 Corinthians 10:31)

We’re told in Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” As bondservants of the Lord, and because of the love of the Lord given to us:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.(Colossians 3:23-24 ESV)

May we stay true to God’s Word and live accordingly!

Steve and Cindy Wright


We talk about this issue and so much more in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. Just click on the linked title or the “Now Available” picture below to do so:



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6 responses to “A Good Marriage Isn’t a 50/50 Deal

    1. Dr. O, It is Cindy and my privilege and honor to provide these weekly Marriage Insights; and it always blesses us when we hear from readers like yourself that tell us the Insight made such a positive impact in your life and marriage. Thank you!

  1. Amen! Amen! Amen! And it is so interesting that when we are invested and engaged in our marriage using the 100%/100% strategy that we discover it is really much easier and simpler than trying to make 50%/50% work for us. God’s plan is always that we be wholeheartedly (100%) invested in following Him. Life always is best for us that way.

    1. M., Cindy and I are so grateful for your words of affirmation about this week’s Marriage Insight. We were praying it would resonate with many . . . and bring positive changes in their relationships. Blessings, Brother!

  2. Thanks for the article, for sure 100/100 is the way to go genuine Christians. Each couple has to give the best and maximum for their marriage.