Why 50-50 Relationships Don’t Last and Won’t Make You Happy

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A 50-50 relationship sounds fair, but actually builds walls against true intimacy.It’s a myth that healthy relationships should be 50-50 partnerships.

Does that surprise you?

At first glance, the 50-50 idea looks like the best way keep things fair and equitable. It sets up rules for our relationship like, “I will do these two chores and you’ll do those two. Three days a week I get to pick what we eat, three days you get to pick, and the seventh day… well, um…”

See, that’s the problem. Life isn’t a neat little pizza with the equal amounts of pepperoni on every slice. It’s awkward, unpredictable, and uneven. We’ll become anxious and obsessive trying to treat it otherwise. Soon we’ll become so focused on making sure each one of us gives and gets exactly the same amount that we forget to enjoy each other.

We’re too busy keeping score.

The Danger of 50-50 Thinking

Most of us approach relationships with a certain amount of fear. Maybe we fear being taken advantage of because someone exploited us in the past. Maybe we fear we will not be able to “hold up our side of the bargain” because we were once made to feel inadequate.

Thinking our relationship must be a 50-50 deal only plays up those fears. Either we will withhold some of our possessions or efforts or love so as not to lose them, or we will work feverishly to feel like we measure up. In either case, our relationship will suffer from a lack of trust.

Too much fear and not enough trust build up walls that keep out true intimacy.

NOTE: If you are part of a destructive relationship in which one partner is emotionally, physically, and/or verbally abusive toward another, click here for a quiz to gain perspective on your situation and to find steps you can take for your wellbeing.

In 50-50 thinking, rather than trying to create a loving, joyful relationship, we just try to play it safe. We will only meet our partner halfway. We give 50%. No more, no less.

But isn’t that like a quarterback who will only carry the football to the 50-yard line? Nobody wins that way.

Well then, if a 50-50 relationship won’t make us happy, what will?

Stop Keeping Score

We can’t build a healthy relationship until we stop keeping score.

Instead of trying to win at keeping the score even, we must focus on winning the heart of our partner.

Let’s look at three steps we can take to shift our focus.

  1. Pay attention to our partner’s needs and desires. When making their eyes light up is our greatest reward, being generous to them feels like fun.
  2. Nurture gratitude. When we thank our partner for the things they do within our relationship, they feel appreciated and respected. And when we take time to notice all the good that comes our way, we feel happier.
  3. Invest 100%—not 50%—in the relationship. No one plants half a seed, waters it half the time, and expects it will flourish. Wholehearted loving makes a relationship grow.

Keep in mind that loving wholeheartedly doesn’t mean we ask nothing for ourselves. In a healthy relationship, we can express our own needs and desires just like our partner does.

Healthy Relationship: Worth the Risk

The kind of partner-focused generosity and trust we’re talking about can feel very risky. That’s because they are. We cannot guarantee the outcome of wholeheartedly loving another person.

But if both partners choose to try this approach—meeting each other’s needs, nurturing gratitude toward one another, and giving 100%—they are likely to find themselves more in love with each other as time goes by.

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We’re Choices Pregnancy Center,
helping couples build healthy relationships since 1993.