Brené Brown Explains Why Marriage Isn't Really 50/50 (& That It's Not Always Bad)

Well-known professor and author Brené Brown is loved for her insightful wisdom when it comes to relationships — and life, in general — so when this brilliant clip made its way around TikTok, viewers were, understandably, piling on the praise in regard to her unique take on what 50/50 in a marriage really means. While it's natural to assume that 50/50 means each person in a partnership takes on half of the effort, workload, and energy required to ensure the relationship thrives, Brown poses something different.


In the popular clip, she explains that some days your partner may be at a 20 in terms of energy — this could be due to stress, work, or poor sleep. So, on those days if you have extra investment, patience, and love to give to the marriage, kids, or housework, then putting forth a little more is what marriage is about. This, of course, goes vise-versa. Let's take a closer look at why marriage isn't really 50/50 and why that's not always a bad thing.

Stepping up when your partner is down

If you or your partner have a lot on your plate, it should go without saying that the other steps up to fill in the gaps. Perhaps you already split the chores and errands equally, but there are times when you pick up your partner's slack — and that's often how reciprocal relationships work. In a healthy, balanced marriage, this most likely happens intuitively. But having an open and intentional conversation about it can help everything flow more smoothly. If you need extra compassion and energy from your partner on days when you have a heavier workload, then having a transparent exchange about that specific need will hopefully set you both up for success.


Or maybe your partner has an upcoming medical procedure and will need more investment from you during the recovery. Prepping for this additional outsource of energy beforehand and asking how you can pick up the slack will greatly strengthen your bond and ensure that the tumultuous time passes with ease. While reaching a combined 100 in terms of energy and care in the household is the goal, rarely will both partners consistently be at a full 50 and that is what Brown is getting at.

When you can't reach a combined 100

When you're both depleted from challenging external circumstances or rough events and cannot find the physical or emotional energy to reach 100 together, then it's time to devise a plan, according to Brown. This is when a shift is made within the expectations of the relationship for the time being to weather the storm. Some might call it survival mode, but the key is to implement compassion and grace as best you can, remembering that while you may collectively be at a 40 for a while, better days are ahead.


If you both have energy and functioning levels that are less than optimal, it's okay to order the pizza and use the paper plates. Whatever will ease you through a stressful time and cushion the more important qualities of your marriage — that's what matters most. It's tricky not to keep a tally at times, but try to avoid doing so as it will likely break down the bond and make a mountain out of a molehill, so to speak.