Relationships | 'Cos Marriage isn't 50/50

The day before I got married, a few of my girlfriends got together to throw me a small “last hurrah” luncheon. We got dressed up, ate egg salad and tuna fish, gobbled down a fair share of bread and sushi, and I listened while my friends offered well-wishes and advice for the new adventure on which I was about to embark.

My mum and sister were both in attendance, watching from the sidelines for a little while as my twenty and thirty-something friends were giving me their “expert” advice from their few years of marriage.

I don’t know why I didn’t expect my mum to have something to say – she usually does, and can voice her opinion and advice in a very articulate tone that leaves little to the imagination. So when she started to talk, I knew that I should listen.

“Everyone says that marriage is a partnership. But it isn’t 50/50. Some days, it’s 90/10. Some days, it’s 60/40. But the important thing is never who owes whom something; it’s never who’s putting in more where someone else is putting in less. The important thing is that you take care of one another; respect one another, and that the sum always equals 100%. Because a marriage that’s 80/10 or 40/30 will never work.”

Huh. I had never thought about it that way before. I had thought about marriage being an equal partnership, I’d also thought about it being a 100%/100% match where both parties have to be at their best selves for the relationship to flourish. But I was wrong on both counts, and my mum (with her 25 years of marriage behind her) was spot on.

Now that I’ve been married for a few years, I see very clearly how my mum’s advice applies to my relationship with Jonathan. We’ve even discussed the concept and use it to communicate with one another – I’ve been known to say “I’m only functioning at 30% today, I’m going to need your help,” and he’s been more than willing when he realizes it’s true.

He’s seen me at my worst, probably close to 1-3% when my grandfather died, and at my best, hosting parties and hiking cliffs at a whopping 90%. I’ve compensated for him when we’ve visited his father’s grave and I saw him crumble to a mere 10% before my eyes, and we both cried together. I’ve seen his silent strength as a pallbearer for funerals of our loved ones, and he’s seen me struggle (not so silently) through years of fertility treatments that wreaked havoc on my body and emotions.

We’ve learned to be proud of our strengths and to compensate for each other’s weaknesses, without viewing them as such. Giving to one another in emotional support, physical support, or just plain old love has become the essence of our marital equation. Sometimes, our marriage is 50/50, and sometimes it’s even 100/100. But one thing is certain – the sum of the whole always makes up more than the value of its parts. And for that, I can thank my mum for her knowledge and experience. There are no footsteps I’d rather follow.