Elisabeth Strillacci: Love is not a 50/50 equation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 16, 2024

By Elisabeth Strillacci

For most of my years as a parent, I have tried to teach, and show, our children that marriage, indeed any relationship, is a partnership. Both sides have to give and get to keep the balance.

But I’ve realized that maybe I haven’t explained it as fully as I should.

Because so many times now I hear young adults talk about marriage being a 50/50 proposition, and I disagree.

No relationship, especially the one in the center of someone’s life, is ever equally balanced. Perhaps on a rare occasion you hit that absolute balance, but when I say rare I mean nearly unheard of.

We humans are a mass of emotions, reactions, intentions, hopes, dreams, sorrows, wins and losses, and we must then take the emotions we are dealing with on our own and contribute to the emotional well being of another human, who is also a mass of emotions. It’s nearly as convoluted as that last sentence.

Relationships, particularly marriage, are partnerships in which each party understands there are going to be times when one carries more weight than the other. And it shifts — or it should.

Neither party should always have to carry more than the other. It’s truly an ongoing shift.

There is also the fact that each party has their own strengths and weaknesses. They should each know those, so that in particular moments, the strengths can shine. And so the two can lean on one another fairly and confidently.

But this all requires two people to be honest with one another, and to trust that each will recognize when the other is in need of support.

Some days, I know I have to recognize that I’m bringing 30 percent to the table, and I need my husband to cover the other 70 percent. Thankfully, he does, and when the tables are turned, I am happy to carry the extra percentage.

But if you don’t talk to each other, if you don’t trust one another enough to say you need a bit of backup sometimes, it leads to misunderstandings, disappointments, hurt and inevitably, arguments.

I’m revising what I have told our children, to include a clearer picture of what I think a partnership means, then.

And I think it applies to friendships, as well. Friends who care and trust one another often recognize when one is down, struggling, and in need of a bit of help, and they provide it. Friends who never seem to know when you’re in need, or who aren’t willing to reach out to you when they need a bit of help are, in my book, acquaintances. You’ll have pleasant interactions when you see one another, but expecting more is asking for hurt.

It’s a lot to put that much into a friendship, I know. Perhaps that is why I have always had a small circle of people I call friends. Because I am committed to putting that full effort into our relationship. And I’ve also learned to be OK with backing away from people who can’t or won’t put in the same effort. Nothing wrong with them, mind you, but my care and effort is worth expecting the same in return.

These days we are all online so much, and so busy with all we have to do just to keep our lives moving forward, that it can be easy to forget to look up and out. It can be easy to forget to look at your partner’s eyes, body language, listen to their voice for signs that something is amiss. Easy to miss the cues that today, they are on the low end of percentage they can bring, and in need of your support.

It is beyond important to talk to each other and to really listen. To give your partner, or friend, all of your attention for at least a few moments, so you can see where they are, especially if they have a hard time saying it out loud.

Mind you, there are those days when both of you are low, and even together your efforts won’t make 100 percent. On those days, it is critical that you talk to each other and have a plan for how to get through the day, how you can help each other get through until at least one of you is stronger.

Yes, marriage is a partnership, but it’s not 50/50. It’s a constantly fluctuating balance, but as long as you are reaching 100 percent together, or prepared to soldier through shoulder to shoulder, it will work.

Love is not easy. It requires constant work, but it is beyond worth it.

Elisabeth Strillacci is former editor of the Salisbury Post.