60 + 40 = 120

Finding Joy in Everyday Relationships

By Glenn Van Ekeren
Reprinted with permission

In my senior year of college I took a class entitled “Marriage and the Family.” I wasn’t even dating anyone at the time but I figured why not prepare myself for future possibilities. The professor was an entertaining person and offered ample personal examples from his marriage to liven up the lecture. At the time, I questioned the validity of his stories but now that I’ve been married 25 years I understand how even the most outlandish ones could be true.

He began his lecture one day with this bold statement: “The secret of a successful marriage is this: Marriage is not a 50-50 proposition. A 50-50 proposition is one where nobody is giving anything.

“Rather, the secret of a happy marriage is 60-40. The husband gives in 60 percent of the time and expects his wife to give in 40 percent of the time. The wife gives in 60 percent of the time and expects her husband to give in 40 percent of the time. In a 60-40 proposition, you don’t clash in the middle and say ‘Now, it’s your turn.’ Instead, you intersect and overlap, because you’re each giving 60 percent.”

I walked out of the classroom, along with 75 other students, and never thought of the 60-40 proposition again, except of course when it appeared on the final exam. I’m not sure there is any magic formula for a successful marriage, but I remain intrigued by the concept of always giving a little more than the other person. There is some truth to the saying that “marriage is an empty box. It remains empty unless you put more in than you take out.”

There are no doubt a multitude of attitudes, abilities and opinions about what makes a marriage work. In fact, I’ve pulled together a few tidbits of marriage wisdom. I thought you might enjoy a wide spectrum of perspectives on the joys of tying the knot. Some of the ideas reflect marvelous wisdom while others are intended to offer a bit of levity.


The difference between a successful marriage and a mediocre one consists of leaving about three things a day unsaid. – Michelle Gelman

The failure of modern marriage is, in large measure, accounted for by our failure to employ humor in the process of marital adjustment. – Julius Gordon, Only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy.

First is to let her think she’s having her own way. Second is to let her have it. – Lady Bird Johnson

Marriage is not just spiritual communion, and passionate embraces; marriage is also three meals a day and remembering to carry out the trash. – Dr. Joyce Brothers

A happy wife sometimes has the best husband, but more often makes the best of the husband she has. – Mark Beltaire

It takes a loose rein to keep a marriage tight. – John Stevenson

Marriage is popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity. – George Bernard Shaw

Marriage resembles a pair of shears so joined that they cannot be separated. Often moving in opposite directions yet always punishing anyone who comes between them. – Sidney Smith

Marriage should be a duet – when one sings the other claps. – Joe Murray

Marriage is a lot like taking vitamins. It’s a process that involves the supplementation of each other’s minimum daily requirements. – Paul Newman

Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then. – Katherine Hepburn

One of the reasons I made the most important decision of my life – to marry George Bush – is because he made me laugh. It’s true, sometimes we laugh through our tears, but that shared laughter has been one of our strongest bonds. – Barbara Bush

There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.
– Martin Luther

People are always asking couples whose marriage has endured at least a quarter of a century for their secret for success. Actually, it is no secret at all. I am a forgiving woman. Long ago I forgave my husband for not being Paul Newman. – Erma Bombeck

Lots of people have asked me what Gracie and I did to make our marriage work. It’s simple – we didn’t do anything. I think the trouble with a lot of people is that they work too hard at staying married. They make a business out of it. When you work too hard at a business, you get tired; and when you get tired, you get grouchy; and when you get grouchy, you start fighting; and when you start fighting, you’re out of business.
– George Burns

An archaeologist is the best husband any woman can have. The older she gets, the more he is interested in her! – Agatha Christie

Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week, a little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays. I go Fridays. – Henny Youngman

We have a picture of the perfect partner, but we marry an imperfect person. Then we have two options. Tear up the picture and accept the person, or tear up the person and accept the picture. – J. Grant Howard, Jr.

It destroys one’s nerves to be amiable every day to the same human being. – Benjamin Disraeli

Familiarity breeds contempt – and children. – Mark Twain

The most important thing a father can do for his children is love their mother. – Rev. Theodore Hesburgh

More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse. – Doug Larson

After winning an argument with his wife, the wisest thing a man can do is apologize. – Ann Landers

We sleep in separate rooms; we have dinner apart; we take separate vacations – we’re doing everything we can to keep our marriage together. – Rodney Dangerfield

In marrying, you vow to love one another. Would it not be better for your happiness if you also vowed to please one another. – Stanislaus Leszcynski, King of Poland, 1763