Marriage means giving what your spouse can’t and hitting 100 percent together

This editorial column by Maria McCoy was published in the most recent print edition of The GRIP.

I hear people say it all the time – marriage is 50/50. I used to get really irritated and say to them, “No. Marriage is 100/100.” I was wrong, y’all.

So incredibly wrong, and I apologize for leading you all astray earlier this year when I said as much in another article. Marriage is not 100/100. It is also not 50/50. Here is the reality of it, the cold hard truth, if you will.

Sometimes, and here lately it has been a lotta times, marriage is more like 70/30. (Here is where I add a general disclaimer – please do not use this as an excuse or as carte blanche to only give half the effort all the time).

In a perfect world, we would all give 100 percent to our marriage all the time. In this world, there are abundant rainbows and free ice cream and movie theaters that only charge a dollar for any type of candy you want. And in this world, kittens remain kittens, and people spay and neuter their pets; kids skip down the road; and adults sit on their porches drinking lemonade.

This is the ideal world, the perfect world, and it flat out doesn’t exist, because there are days when you will only put in a quarter of the work it takes to make a marriage succeed. I had this conversation with my husband the other day because I overheard him telling our kids that marriage is really 100/100.

Jokingly, I said, “Not this week. This week it’s 75/25 and you’re going to have to pick up my slack.”

And then it hit me like a train you guys. Like a bolt of lightning. Of course, I was right. I really was (I know what you’re all thinking – how is that different from any other day? It’s not, but I digress…)

Some days my husband will be on top of it all. He’ll get the kids home and make dinner and even do laundry. And there are other days when he comes home and crashes. I am the same. And THAT, dear readers, is why marriage cannot, and will not ever be, 100 percent all the time.

Hey, you can pretend you reach that goal, but you’re not fooling me or anybody else.

There are days when I can only manage to put 30 percent into my marriage, and there are days when I recognize that my husband is only going to be able to put that much in, as well, so if I wake up and see that he isn’t giving me full effort, guess what? I must make up that effort because if nobody is making the effort, the marriage no longer exists.

That is what it takes to make a marriage work. The perfect formula also includes communication, respect and love, but generally, effort carries a much heavier weight, and we pretend that our spouse is the problem if he or she isn’t putting in 100 percent effort all the time.

Ask yourselves if you spend every hour working on your marriage. You don’t and neither do I because that isn’t realistic. We have expectations that the maximum effort will be expended on us and when our spouse fails to meet that expectation, marital problems ensue.

That isn’t fair to your spouse and it isn’t fair to your marriage.

Now, I know without a shadow of a doubt, I will have naysayers. There are people who will always claim that you must put in 100 percent or the marriage will not last. These same people have the highest expectations and most likely exert the least amount of effort.

All I can say is that I’ve been married seventeen years, and while it has never been easy, it has also never been 100 percent on either part, so my argument stands.

Now, that isn’t to say we do not love each other and that we do not want our marriage to last. Of course, we do, but our vows asserted our commitment in sickness and in health. The very nature of wedding vows indicates an inherent understanding that there will be times when I cannot fully give to my marriage and to my husband the effort that is needed.

He vowed to stand by me during those times, which can be inferred that his effort must –absolutely MUST – exceed mine at some point, and vice versa. Getting sick, or stressed or tired is a natural, human reaction to life, so I tell you it is how we handle life together that matters.

Sure, we can do our best to not allow the world to get in the way of our happiness, of our marriage. That’s just not the reality, though, because every day stress creeps in regardless of how often we try to keep it out. You will have days when you can barely function as a human, much less a spouse.

That is okay. I promise it is okay. Just make sure you’re paired with someone who can pick up the slack on the days when you cannot. More importantly, make sure you pick up their slack when they are having a similar day.

The most important part of any type of relationship is that you work together to reach the end goal, so, no, I say again, marriage is not 50/50 most of the time and it’s also not 100/100.

You can decide what balance your marriage will have, but rest assured, you are not alone in this. Stop feeling like you aren’t a perfect spouse, or more importantly, stop feeling like your spouse isn’t a perfect spouse.

We are all struggling, so have your day where you give it all you’ve got, and if all you’ve got that day is half the effort you normally have, pray for a spouse that can make up the difference, Pray, too, that you are strong enough to make up the difference when it is needed of you. All that really matters in the end is that we reach 100 percent together.



  1. For me it doesn’t matter what percentage you are in. Its a matter of complement. Give and take situation.
    “pick up the slack on the days when you cannot. More importantly, make sure you pick up their slack when they are having a similar day”

  2. Reckon it is 50/50 but if you shoulder nintety % effort that actually is 50/50

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