Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

“Life and Relationships are Not Always Fifty-Fifty”

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One thing I have realized in my short time on this planet is that life is not always fair.

“Sometimes you are the pigeon. Sometimes you are the statue.”

“Sometimes you eat the bear and other times the bear eats you.”

In the final analysis things in life do balance out in some way or another a good deal of the time.  However, everything in life is not always a “fifty-fifty proposition.”

While taking a young couple through pre-marital counseling some years ago, a young man insisted that in order to be happy in his marriage, things always had to be fifty-fifty. He had a hard time adjusting to the prospects of men doing things formerly reserved exclusively for women like washing the dishes and changing the baby’s diapers. He was stuck in a  previous era where men simply don’t do what women do. He refused to adapt to the new roles for men, which had drastically changed since the 1950s where his father worked and his mother stayed home with the children. His dad never changed diapers or washed clothes. His mother washed clothes every day. Gender socialization at the time meant that certain duties were exclusive to men only and others to women only. Even then duties and responsibilities could not be divided evenly down the middle.

Today family life has changed. Many of the duties and responsibilities formerly done by women are now also shared by men like feeding the children and washing their clothes. The things that men did are now being done by women like taking out the trash or fixing a flat tire. Even with the new rules, roles and responsibilities not everything can be fifty-fifty.

During one session I could see the young man’s anger boiling because he still couldn’t reconcile himself with all these new rules. Jumping out of his chair and launching into one final furious tirade, he shouted ” I still believe some things are for men only and other things are for women only. In order for this marriage to work everything must be split down the middle. You pay fifty percent and I will pay fifty percent of everything. This includes the bills, the housework, taking care of the kids each day and everything else. You do fifty percent of your part and I will do fifty percent of my part. When we get to fifty-fifty for everything in this marriage, things will be fine,” he said hotly.

The marriage ended in Reno several years later because he just couldn’t understand why everything his marriage couldn’t be divided fifty-fifty including how much food he and his spouse consumed and the cost of groceries. He was not willing to adapt to new duties and responsibilities as a father or abandon his unrealistic insistence that all things be fifty-fifty.

Sometimes you got to go ‘dutch,” where the two of you “pay” your own part of the “bill” and there you have a sense of everybody doing his fair share. My bill is $25 and your bill is $35. We both achieve a sense of fifty-fifty in that we each cover our own costs, our own fair share without undue expense to the other.

On the other hand, how many times have we fallen short of our total costs and had to get help from the other person to pay our portion of the tab?

Part of life and relationships means that we each help pay the costs of the other. It means that whatever we do and share together, it should always be with one mind to help one another for the good of the whole. It also means that sometimes we must be willing to pay more than our “fair” share because it is the right and fair thing to do and in the end creates peace and harmony in the relationship.

But the problem may be our tendency to always keep score which gets us into trouble. Some days you give twenty-five percent in one area and the other person gives seventy-five percent in the same area to make up the difference. Some days you give more and other days the other person gives more.. The point is that in the end it should all balance out. Sometimes relationships are sixty-forty, twenty-five seventy-five but in the end it’s all good because caring for each other and covering one another is really what’s important.

Sometimes equality means not having exactly the same thing as the other but having enough to meet our needs.

Life is not always fifty-fifty which means it cannot be always reduced to equations and formulas which keep running tabs on what we do or don’t do in meeting our fair share.

There can be a sense of equity in things. Life has a way of fulfilling and harmoniously stabilizing itself when you are really trying to make things work. You think of me and give to me. I think of you and give to you. We both think of each other and give to each other. Such transactions should be mutually helpful and fulfilling in building strong relationships.

We come out feeling whole. That’s what life is about or should be about; feeling a sense of wholeness, wellness and justice that comes from being treated fairly and valued in the daily rounds of life, relationships and human experience. While life and relationships cannot always be  fifty-fifty, we can have a sense of being treated equitably and doing the same for others as we build our lives together.


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