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How to really make marriage work

rings, marriage
(Photo: Unsplash/Zoriana Stakhniv)

I’m a score keeper. I’m competitive by nature. I like to win. Even if I’m playing “Go Fish” with my kids, I play to win. When I first got married 12 years ago, I liked to see an even playing field for everything. I’ll cook, he can clean. I’ll do laundry, he can do dry cleaning. When kids came into the picture, I’ll do baths on M/W/F, he can do baths on T/Th/S. I’ll wake up early with the kids on Saturday, he can wake up early on Sunday. Seems blissful, right? Seems like a great partnership, right? Wrong.

When you divide up all of the necessary “chores” of the day like this, resentment starts to seep its way in. This is when you start to keep score and this is when we become sore losers. If Jason and I make an agreement that it’s his turn to get up with the kids this Saturday, and he accidentally sleeps through the blood-curdling screams of the kids, then I will start to huff and puff. I’ll clear my throat loudly; I’ll pull the covers closer to me, and then finally I’ll wake him up and say, “Your turn!” By then, I’ve already resented him and he has no idea. This isn’t healthy for a marriage.

After 12 years of marriage, I finally get it. Well, I think I’m on the right track at least. I finally get this one concept so clearly; marriage was never designed to be 50/50. It needs to be 100/100.

Here are a few tips I’ve gained over the years to ensure that your marriage stays at 100/100:

1. I need to give this relationship everything I’ve got.

Not to receive something in return. Not because I know he would do the same thing for me. I simply need to do it because he is my best friend. The beauty of it is that Jason would do the same for me, and more often than not, he does. He truly understands this concept. It’s me who gets out the scoreboard on Saturday mornings when I really want to sleep in. I can be so petty sometimes simply because I want things to be “fair.” Yet Jason is happy to just complete tasks and get them done. No questions asked. No sly comments. He just does it.

Here’s my general rule that I try to follow: if I think of it, I do it. What does that mean? If I am getting myself a drink for dinner, and I think to myself, “I should probably get Jason a drink,” then I get Jason a drink. If I am going to bed and see that Jason’s cup that he uses in the morning is in the sink and think to myself, “It would be nice if I washed that for him so he doesn’t have to,” then I do it!  It’s that simple: if I think it, I do it.

2. Talk. Talk. Talk. Discuss what a 100/100 partnership looks like.

Jason had no idea that I was resenting him half the time for the first five years of marriage. He didn’t know he was involved in playing a game where the score was like a Division III basketball game, and he was losing by 90 points. I created the game and made him a starting point guard without his knowledge. This set him up for failure. By talking to your partner and deciding that you will both give this relationship your all, it allows room for more grace. This doesn’t mean that some roles aren’t divvied up.

3. Give your spouse a standing ovation. Often.

Whenever I see Jason doing laundry, giving baths, helping with ANY task, I thank him. And I mean it. This gig as a full-time working parent of four is no easy task. I have to show my appreciation. I want to show my appreciation. Saying “thank you” goes a long way. Not to mention it is good for your kids to see and hear you model gratitude. So suck it up and thank each other. Write him a thank you card. Surprise her with a “just because” gift and appreciate each other.

Practical Tip: There is nothing more attractive than a guy who does the dishes, helps clean up after dinner and helps the kids go to bed.  Guys, save yourself all the candles, roses and lingerie and do the dishes. You’ll be amazed at how much we thank you!

No marriage is perfect with the 100/100 rule. But we can all eliminate the idea of a 50/50 business partner. It’s a dangerous way to go into marriage, and not a good kind of dangerous. Let’s start each day and end each day doing all that we can to build our spouses up.

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