The idea of being “equal partners” may not mean what you think it means.
“Whoever said Marriage is a 50-50 proposition laid the foundation for more divorce fees than any other short sentence in our language.” – Austin Elliot
In a romantic partnership or a business we tend to fall back on the idea that “equal partners” means both parties are contributing half of the resources – whether those resources are financial, conceptual, or emotional.
And that belief not only leads to heartbreak and divorce, it leads to the end of friendships and businesses.
Not because 50-50 isn’t possible. But because it isn’t possible unless you’re keeping score.
And keeping score is for poker games, not loving or working relationships.
If you’re focused on making your partnership a 50-50 proposition you’re focused on making sure you contribute your half, but you’re also focused on making sure your partner is contributing their half as well.
In a 50-50 relationship if your business partner works late on a project, you’re under an onus to match that contribution. If your life partner gives up a night out with friends to stay home with a sick child it creates an imbalance until the need arises for you to make a similar sacrifice.
As if the nagging notion that you might not be putting your fair share into the relationship isn’t stressful enough, worse is the fear that you’re getting the short end of the stick. Whether it’s to reassure ourselves that, yes, we’re doing our part and maybe more than our part, or whether we really suspect that our partner isn’t contributing their 50 percent, our focus soon turns to keeping track of what we receive. Are we giving more than the other person? Are we getting what we deserve?
And that focus almost always leads to the exact thing we’re trying to avoid; an imbalance.
Which of course leads to resentment, loss of trust, and ultimately an inability to share a business or a life.
So are the best relationships in love and business actually imbalanced in terms of commitment and contribution?
The (maybe surprising) truth is that the best relationships are really 100 – 100. Because when both parties are focused on giving it their all at any given time the relationship flourishes.
If your thoughts immediately went to “how do I get my partner to give 100 percent?” or “how can I possibly give my all to our partnership when I am already exhausted and over extended?” I’d hazard a guess that you already have a partnership at risk.
“When you base your relationships – in business or anywhere else in your life – on who owes who what, that’s not being a friend. That’s being a creditor.” – Sam, in The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea
My parents are the perfect example of this principle at work. What they give isn’t the same, they have different personalities, qualities, and gifts. But it’s equal because they both give the gift of putting the interests and happiness of the other person first. In fact, their nearly 60 years of joyous wedded bliss was the inspiration for the story John David Mann and I told in The Go-Giver to illustrate the “Law of Influence.”
I’ve also witnessed countless examples of this principle in business partnerships – whether it was co-owners of an enterprise or business people who were partnering on a project or teaming up to generate referrals. When the focus of both parties is “How can I help YOU?” it’s almost inevitable that both parties will indeed win – and win big. But when the focus is “How do we make this win-win?” then it’s just as inevitable that the scorecards will come out and the relationship will begin to feel the tension.
Of course you won’t always have the privilege of working with people who understand this principle. And yes, there are people in the world who keep score, not to make sure the scorecard is balanced evenly, but to make sure it’s balanced in their favor. But I’ve found that most people, if you demonstrate a focus of putting their win first, will respond by moving their focus to what you desire and need. It’s a theory that is always worth testing.
And if you’re in a relationship with someone who does NOT respond to your example by putting your interests first (and I have been in that position as well) it’s time to ask yourself if you can ever have a life or business partnership with that person. Because certainly there will be times you have to do business with someone who is coming from a 50-50 mindset, or even from the “Go-Taker” mindset of trying to get more out of the relationship than they are willing to contribute, but why would you take that person on as a partner? And if your focus is on keeping score, either to maintain balance or to get the best of someone else, why would they want to partner with you?
Ultimately any relationship that requires a scorecard also requires a contract – because it isn’t a relationship that is based on trust and mutual desire for meeting the other person’s needs and wants, it’s simply a transactional agreement for who is going to give, and get, what.
Would you like to help us shatter stereotypes about men?
Receive stories from The Good Men Project, delivered to your inbox daily or weekly.
Photo: Getty Images