The problem with keep score in a relationship
By: Jennifer Seip, LMFT
Have you ever lived with a partner? It’s a lot easier to spot troublesome thoughts and behaviors when you have to face the same person every day. Not only does time spent with that person usually increase, but now you have combined chores and duties. These are then accompanied by individual expectations about how they should be completed and by whom.
Enter keeping score.
This is a strings-attached form of giving that many couples fall into. Things like taking out the garbage, doing the dishes and driving the kids around, can all be at risk to be tallied and scored.
Why is keeping score an issue?
The problem with keeping score, “I emptied the dishwasher last week so you should be doing it this week,” is that your expectations can’t be met by your partner all of the time and inevitably you will either choose to become silently resentful or you’ll be the catalyst for a never ending argument.
“Couples who keep score damage their potential for healthy relationship maintenance because the very act of counting who does and who does not keep up their end of the bargain implies a lack of trust, rigidity, and negativity” (Krauss Whitbourne, 2016).
As humans we can never do things 50/50. If you begin to measure the state of your relationship based on who is doing what, how much, and when, you will set yourself up for disappointment and possibly the failure of your relationship. This is not to say that one person should be doing EVERYTHING, but if you feel like you are always looking for something that your partner isn’t doing, it might be time to evaluate why.
How to combat your internal referee
There are some questions that will evoke more positive feelings about your partner rather than negative ones that can come from keeping score. These include, what does my partner do more of that I do less of? How can I show appreciation for what they do help with? How can I trust that my partner has my best interest in mind? If this is something that is really bothering me, how can I approach my partner from a non-defensive stance verses a defensive one and have a conversation?
Furthermore, when in doubt you can always go back to basics and practice walking away first, processing your feelings second, and then having a conversation.
At the end of the day, keeping score is not the road to partnership bliss. You might not always be even but you can be happy.
Krauss Whitbourne, S. (2016, March 19). Do You Keep Score In Your Relationships? Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201603/do-you-keep-score-in-your-relationships
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