Brené Brown's Insights: The Fallacy of 50/50 in Marriage and How to Navigate It

The advice often given regarding marriage is to divide relationships equally, with each partner contributing 50%. This idea suggests that both individuals should put in the same amount of effort, which could particularly benefit women who often shoulder more emotional and physical labor compared to their husbands. However, renowned psychology researcher and bestselling author Brené Brown rejects this conventional rule of marriage.

In a resurfaced podcast interview from "The Tim Ferriss Show" in 2020, Brown explained her stance on achieving a 50/50 balance. She believes that it is an unrealistic expectation and instead advocates for open communication and understanding between partners. Rather than focusing on equal splits, Brown suggests expressing energy levels, investment, kindness, and patience towards each other.

For example, if one partner is operating at 20% capacity while the other is at 80%, the partner with more energy takes on additional relationship responsibilities such as household chores or emotional support. This approach, according to Brown, fosters healthier communication and empathy within the relationship.

Isabelle Morley, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in couples therapy, agrees with Brown's perspective. She states that the 50/50 rule often leads to a cycle of keeping score, which is counterproductive and unrealistic. Morley suggests acknowledging that standards may temporarily fall during challenging times, such as when one partner needs more support due to illness or other circumstances.

Being honest about one's limitations promotes trust and empathy within the relationship. Brown and her husband sit down and develop a plan of kindness toward each other whenever their combined energy falls below 100. This approach requires a foundation of trust and security and allows partners to express their needs without triggering blame or concerns about uneven contributions.

Morley emphasizes that partners can use various ways to communicate their need for support, such as using phrases like "burned out" or any other expression that effectively conveys their situation. If the perception of imbalance persists, Morley recommends using "I" statements to express personal needs rather than making accusations or assumptions about the other person.

According to Brown, this system of communication and understanding has kept her marriage strong for three decades. It emphasizes the importance of supporting each other, even when one partner is at a lower energy level, and having a plan in place to ensure both partners are cared for when they are at their lowest.

4 Tips to Assess Your 1-100 Energy Levels With Your Spouse

  • Check-in conversations: Set aside regular time for check-in conversations with your spouse. During these conversations, openly discuss how you both are feeling, both physically and emotionally. Ask each other questions like "On a scale of 1-100, how would you rate your energy level today?" or "How much capacity do you have to take on additional responsibilities right now?" This can provide a snapshot of where each of you is at and allow for understanding and support.

  • Non-verbal cues: Pay attention to non-verbal cues from your spouse. Sometimes words may not be necessary to gauge each other's energy levels. Observe body language, facial expressions, and overall demeanor. Signs of fatigue, stress, or low energy can indicate when one partner may need more support. Similarly, signs of excitement, enthusiasm, or high energy can indicate when a partner has more capacity to contribute.

  • Emotional check-ins: Emotional states can significantly impact energy levels and capacity. Take time to check in with each other emotionally. Ask questions like "How are you feeling today?" or "Are there any emotional challenges you're currently facing?" By understanding each other's emotional well-being, you can better gauge how it might be impacting energy levels and adjust expectations accordingly.

  • Reflective journaling: Encourage both you and your spouse to keep reflective journals. This practice can help you individually assess your energy levels and capacity on a daily or weekly basis. Jotting down thoughts, emotions, and experiences can provide insights into your overall state and allow you to share relevant information with your partner during your check-in conversations.

Remember, the goal of determining where you and your spouse are at on the 1-100 scale is to foster understanding and empathy. It's important to approach these assessments with openness, honesty, and a willingness to support each other based on the current circumstances.

Supporting Your Spouse through Low Energy Times

When your spouse's energy is low, it's important to provide support and understanding. Here are three tips to help you support your partner during those times:

  • Offer empathy and validation: Start by acknowledging and validating your spouse's feelings and energy level. Let them know that you understand and empathize with their current state. Avoid dismissing or minimizing their experiences. Use phrases like "I can see that you're feeling drained" or "It sounds like you've had a tough day." Show genuine concern and create a safe space for them to express their emotions without judgment.

  • Share the load: Take on additional responsibilities to ease the burden on your spouse. Offer to help with household chores, childcare, or any tasks that may be overwhelming for them at the moment. Take the initiative to lighten their load without waiting for them to ask. This gesture shows your support and willingness to step in when needed. Remember, the goal is not to keep score but to provide assistance and demonstrate solidarity.

  • Provide emotional support: Low energy levels can often be accompanied by emotional exhaustion or stress. Be a compassionate listener and lend an ear when your spouse needs to vent or talk about their challenges. Allow them to express their emotions without judgment or offering immediate solutions. Sometimes, just being present and providing a listening ear can make a significant difference. Offer words of encouragement and reassurance, letting them know that you believe in their abilities and that you're there for them.

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