I wanted to make up something that looked like a mathematical equation, but was actually nonsense. My husband is useful in these situations, because he’s an aerospace engineer, whereas there may be a chicken at a County Fair somewhere that has better math skills than I do. When it comes to generating nonsense, however, then babe, I got you covered! This is an example of how we divide the load and benefit from each other’s strengths. This is to be distinguished from the idea of “50/50.” Fifty-fifty is an F grade for both parties.
Living with someone else can be hard work. Heck, even sitting next to someone else on a plane for a few hours can be hard work! Marriage means you get each other at all your most annoying moments. Irritable moods and tooth-grinding and snoring and blanket-hogging and the flu and it goes on and on and on and on. In some ways, you can be like siblings to each other, or parents. Who gets the last scoop of ice cream? Whose job is it to clean up the dog barf this time? Who has to answer the door when the magazine saleschildren show up? It can be so easy to fall into scorekeeping and the desire for quid pro quo. I did this, you do that. This time it’s my turn. Tit for tat.
That’s the problem with the idea of 50/50. If you each plan to do only 50%, eventually there will be a shortfall. If you each do 49%, suddenly there’s a missing 2% gap. Try sleeping under a blanket with a 2% threadbare stripe down the middle. If either of you gets sick or starts being stressed out by life circumstances, suddenly the threadbare piece is 10%. Or 20%. Once it starts unraveling, it’s amazing how quickly it comes apart.
You didn’t wash the dishes, so I’m not taking out the trash, and now we can both resent each other in a dirty smelly house. Yay. You splurged on something I didn’t think you should buy, so now I’m going to splurge on something I want, and now we can both judge each other, be broke, and not have the money to go on vacation. You hurt my feelings, and I hurt your feelings, and neither of us is going to initiate sex until the other apologizes first, so now we can suffer in silence and watch our chemical attraction fizzle and die. According to my calculations, you are not pulling your weight; therefore, I’m going to hold back and teach you a lesson. When we split up, we can each make a bulletproof case that we were the wronged party, we were the good guy, and we were the one who was let down. We failed. We failed because 50% is an F.
Fortunately, my husband and I are both alphas. We are competitive and ambitious. Whatever it takes to get the A grade, we’re going to do it, we’re going to show our work, we’re going to turn it in early, and we’re going to ask for extra credit. This morning, do you know what he did? He’s such a punk. He made us toaster waffles and he took the burnt one! I told him it was my ancestral right; that it’s noblesse oblige for the alpha woman in the house to eat the burnt toast, but he wouldn’t give it to me. He scraped off the scorched bits in the sink and snarfed it. You see what I have to deal with? Sheesh!
We believe that everyone has to bring 100%. The performance review system at his work designates Needs Improvement, Meets Expectations, Exceeds Expectations, and Highly Regarded. Highly Regarded is almost never given out. Both of us would see “Meets Expectations” as a devastating indictment of laziness and disengagement. Basically, 100% is meeting expectations. It’s doing the daily. 100% is being honest and reliable and supportive and getting the scutwork accomplished. An “Exceeds” would have to be something above and beyond the boring quotidian stuff, like when he installs new windshield wiper blades on my auntie’s car. The reason we rate each other as “Highly Regarded” is that we both work to facilitate the other’s best self and most outrageous dreams. He helps me map out routes for my marathon training and I pack him treats for his motorcycle trips. It’s not just about counting on each other, or doing little nice things for each other; it’s trying to find out whether you can grant each other’s deepest wishes. It’s the EPIC STUFF.
Even as I am writing this, I am questioning whether what I bring to him is quite as awesome as what he brings to me. Whenever I figure out a way to exceed his expectations, for me, that’s the new “meets.”
The difference between 50/50 and 100/100 is easy to illustrate. Imagine each of you has a blanket. Fifty-fifty is when you both lie next to each other, huddled under your own personal blanket, and shiver all night rather than speak up. When you both put in the 100%, it’s like snuggling under both blankets. Even if one of you rolls over and drags off part of the covers, there’s still plenty of overlap to keep you warm until you can make the bed again the next day. That’s the point of marriage, after all: to keep each other warm in a cold world.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.