Striving For An Equal Marriage? That May Be Why It's Failing


Why keeping a scorecard is the worst thing for your marriage—and how to put it away.

I was born toward the tail end of the baby-boomer generation, which makes me part of the "me generation." Supposedly my generation was the first to put self-awareness and self-fulfillment ahead of work ethic and social responsibility. 

Although we got the self-centered moniker, subsequent generations (Gen-X, Gen-Y and Millennials) have each carried on the proud tradition, with self-absorption becoming normalized and institutionalized as a core value in our country. 5 Easy Steps to Self-Discovery

You hear it everywhere these days: Express yourself. Be yourself. Find yourself.   

A study of the millennials was recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, authored by Jean M. Twenge, a professor at San Diego State University; research associate Elise C. Freeman; and University of Georgia professor W. Keith Campbell. In the study, and her subsequent book, Ms. Twenge describes millennials as "generation me" for their increased level of self-focus and introspection. The book is subtitled Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before. How An Unhappy Marriage Can Damage Your Health

Although there isn't universal agreement on the study's conclusion, Ms. Tenge finds that young people today have "more focus on the self and less focus on the group, society, and community" even than their baby boomer counterparts. In her book she writes, "Young people have been consistently taught to put their own needs first and to focus on feeling good about themselves."

What is the fruit of half a century of self-absorption? Whereas Ms. Twenge points to issues such as a reduction in civic responsibility and community service, and a lack of concern over broader societal issues, I see implications for marriage… and they are that are not good.

The fallacy of fairness and equality

We hear a lot today about "fairness" and "equality," especially in discussing our country's various social and fiscal ills. I also hear these words tossed about a lot as important virtues in marriage. I don't buy it, and you shouldn't either. 2 Tips For Fighting Fair In Intimate Relationships

The problem with holding up fairness and equality as the main measuring sticks for a good marriage is that it turns what should be a partnership into a contest. Scorekeeping soon becomes the major pastime of the relationship. "If you get X, then I get Y. It's only fair." When you spend the majority of your time worrying about whether or not everything in the marriage comes out even (or, if you are honest, how you might come out ahead in the game), you are setting yourself up for a constant battle.

This fairness and equality notion is where the 50/50 marriage ideal comes from. It's a zero-sum, relational poverty mentality that causes couples to spend a lot of time and effort fighting for their rights, struggling for power, and striving to have their expectations met. It reduces marriage to whatever I can get out of the bargain. No Excuses! The 5 "Golden Rules" Of Fighting Fair With Your Spouse

Unfortunately, when you constantly fight for your part of the marital pie, pushing for your rights, agendas, fair share and expectations, you end up hurting your marriage. Even if you win, you actually lose. You lose intimacy in your relationship. You lose the joy of giving freely to another. You lose the delight found in simply delighting the one you love.  You lose the atmosphere of respect and honor in your marriage.

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