What You’ll Learn Today:
- A new mindset for thinking about your relationship; instead of being on opposite sides, think of yourself as a shared resource
- The four ways keeping score in your relationship is setting you up to lose
- Tips for getting out of the competing mindset and into cooperation and connection
With so many things competing for your time and attention, people often end up looking to their partner to save the day, help out and “pull their weight.” You start watching everything they do and comparing it to what you do. In effect, you start keeping score in your relationship. This inevitably leads to feelings of resentment, anxiety, frustration and disappointment.
How do you stop it? Well, first you have to realize what you’re doing and why. There are basically four ways that keeping score in your relationship is setting you up to lose:
#1: Keeping Score Sets You Up on Opposite Sides
We say things like: “I drove Matt to baseball on Tuesday, so it’s your turn to take Sophie to soccer practice on Thursday.” Or, the one I hate the most: “It’s your TURN to put away the dishes.”
Do you hear yourself? It’s your turn?! Taking turns happens in games and sports. If you’re treating your relationship like a game – I can tell you right now – you’re going to lose! You want to know why? Because keeping score like this in your relationship puts you and your partner on opposite teams! Think about it: this sets one of you up to win, and one of you to lose. How do you expect to have a connected, loving relationship when there’s an underlying tension of someone losing?
I need you to get out of the keeping score mindset and, instead, think of you and your partner as being on the same team. This means you are one, shared resource. So, pulling energy from your partner, really means pulling energy from yourself.
What do you do to stop this behavior? My answer is to add resources instead of always looking to your partner to fill in the blanks or “pick up the slack.”
#2: Keeping Score Stops You from Listening and Connecting
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’ve set up the car pools for the kids for the week, you’ve shopped for and made dinner (and this was difficult because of little Jimmy’s recently diagnosed gluten allergy), you’ve emailed back and forth all day about some things you needed to do for a PTA meeting on Wednesday, you stopped and picked up your husband’s dry cleaning and you scheduled a guy to take down the big tree whose roots have made your driveway look like a skatepark. Then, your husband gets home and thinks it’s a good idea to sneak in some sex before you all have to go pick up the kids from their respective sports practices.
You’re exhausted already and still have a full night of kids, homework, baths and more emails and you’ve time managed yourself down to the second to get all this done. You did NOT factor in sex with your hubby. When you rebuff his advances he complains, “You never want to have sex anymore – you don’t make time for me!” You’re pissed and you quickly start to tick off your LONG list of all the things you’ve done today.
This is keeping score. You’ve got your scorecard (and it’s full) so you think you’re covered. Well, you’re not and, once again, this competition puts you in the loser’s seat. If it was up to your husband, he’d rather you all ordered in a pizza, the kids went to bed slightly stinky and he got a blow job! Your list means nothing to him. The things on your list are all about what you deem important and necessary. He’s right that you don’t prioritize and make time for him. Again, if a strong marriage is your goal, and your partner tells you he feels ignored in some way, then listing all the ways you don’t ignore him isn’t the answer! Instead, ask your partner what he would like to see more of in the relationship. What could you do to let him know you’re a priority? Reading off your list is about being you being “right” – it’s not about your partner (or you) being happy.
The next time you’re in an argument with your partner and he asks for something, instead of listing all the things you did do (so how could he possibly feel that way?) listen to what he’s saying and do that!
#3: Equal Time Doesn’t Mean Equal Value
The problem with looking at your relationship from a time perspective is that it doesn’t take into account the value of what’s being done, irrespective of time.
I call this the lions and hyenas effect. You know how in a pride of lions the females do the majority of the work? The lionesses hunt and care for the young which takes up a majority of their waking hours. Meanwhile, the males are sleeping and lying around. Seems unfair, no? Well, it’s really not. You see, those lions have a few very important jobs which are vital to the survival of the pride, but they just don’t take as much time as the jobs the lionesses have. The males are all about defending and fighting when those hyenas come around. This is a big job and it’s no less crucial than what the females do. The fact that they don’t have to do it as much as the females have to hunt is inconsequential.
Think of your own home. You and your partner both do things for the family, but it likely takes up very different amounts of time or energy. Regardless of the time you put in, both of your “jobs” are valuable.
#4: Being Happy for Your Partner Equals a Happy Marriage
When you keep score you set yourself up to be competing with your partner. By default, this means you won’t be happy when your partner shares good news. How can you be? If you’re competing and they do well, it means you’re losing!
Being there for your partner when the going gets rough is obviously important, but the research has shown that being there for your partner when the going goes right is actually more important for relationship satisfaction and happiness. So, make sure that you are your partner’s biggest support and cheerleader.
Be aware when your partner shares good news and show active interest in what they’re telling you; be their biggest support and source of excitement.
No matter what else you do, stop keeping score and start seeing you and your partner as one, shared resource!