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The Fifty-Fifty Conundrum

The Fifty-Fifty Conundrum

Marriage is not fifty-fifty,” I heard Dr. Phil announce on national television. “It’s one-hundred and one-hundred.”

When did Dr. Phil pick up on my idea? 

I really already knew that the idea was not mine alone. I thanked God for giving us the wisdom of it early in our marriage. I thought back to an office party several years ago:

I clenched my teeth and bit my tongue, shaking my head in disbelief at the selfish philosophies so permeating our culture. And all in the name of compromise.  

The office had thrown the bride-to-be a lovely shower. The gifts had been opened and the cake served. Tom hurled jokes meant in fun but left the poor girl quivering in her boots. Others inquired as to the bride and groom’s honeymoon plans. Still others gave unsolicited advice about the merits of compromise. “After all,” Sally said, “Marriage is a fifty-fifty proposition.”

At that point, like Job’s Job 32:2, my silence ended.

“I disagree,” I rebutted. I became aware of a hundred pair of accusatory eyes trained in my direction as if to ask, “How dare you dispute such time-honored wisdom?”

The blushing bride had an inquiring mind. “I’d like to know what you think.”

“I don’t believe in the fifty-fifty rule.  I believe in the hundred-hundred rule,” I said.

Of course, this event occurred years before Dr. Phil adopted my philosophy. Everyone merely assumed I had failed mathematics. “That’s impossible,” Randy quipped. 

I tried to explain. “The fifty-fifty rule means somebody is always giving up something. It seeds resentment and discontent. At the least, husbands and wives will keep score.  The husband thinks that since he sat through that boring romance movie, she should go with him to the monster truck rally. The wife thinks that because she spent the whole day cleaning the house, he should take her out to dinner.” 

“Well that sounds reasonable,” Jorge said.

This crowd would be difficult to convince. “The requests are valid but are spoken from selfish interests. The tone indicates a trade. Since I did something for you, you have to do something for me. On the surface, it seems fair and equitable.” 

“And wouldn’t it be?” Janice asked. 

I smiled. “Because somebody always has to sacrifice. Not so, with the hundred-hundred principle.”

The young bride asked, “How does it work, then?”  

I explained. “In the fifty-fifty formula, couples trade unpleasant or less desirable activities to satisfy a mate with the expectation an equal sacrifice will be made on their behalf. In the hundred-hundred formula, instead of distasteful tradeoffs, all decisions are based upon what is best for the marriage overall. When the marriage wins, everyone wins.” 

“I’m not quite sure what you mean,” said the bride.

I recited an example from my own experience. “A few years ago, my husband and I had both desired to further our education. It was not financially feasible for both of us to leave our current employment. Under the fifty-fifty expectation, a couple in this situation would flip a coin to decide who’d get the prize. The loser would wait for the next available opportunity. Using the hundred-hundred principle, we prayed for guidance. We decided that the marriage would be better off if my husband, the primary breadwinner, improved his professional standing. A few months later I ended up in the hospital with a protracted illness that would have interfered with studies. If I had won a coin toss, the money would have been wasted.  

“We have learned to ask God what is best for our marriage, not what is best for our personal interests. Sometimes it means one of us must surrender our personal desires. But we do not count it as sacrifice knowing the marriage is strengthened.”  

The bride squished her face together in contemplation. “Sounds like a good plan,” she said. 

“We think so, and we’ve been happily married for over twenty-five years.”

“Worth thinking about. Thanks.” And the bride waddled off to examine her treasures.

I don’t know how this bride and groom fared for she left our work place for bigger adventures. But, I do know that the formula has worked for us and continues to work as new challenges surface to threaten our union. With God’s grace, and the hundred-hundred guiding light, we will face these future storms with confidence.

linda rondeau is the author of america ii: the reformation (Trestle Press) and the other side of darkness (Pelican Ventures) which won the 2012 Selah Award for best debut novel. She is the editor of geezer guys and gals blog, a multi-author blog for and by seniors and also blogs at this daily grind.

Publication date: July 25, 2012