Are Scorecards Ruining Your Relationship?

 

At the beginning of a relationship, it is pretty common to keep scorecards.

  • “I call/text more than he/she does.”
  • “I said ‘I love you first.'”
  • “I break my plans more often to be with them.”
  • “I’m more committed to the relationship.”
  • “I initiate sex more often.”

But when the relationship becomes exclusive and it is clear that you are a couple, what happens if one partner or both continue to keep scorecards? Can it ruin a relationship?

I can honestly say that one of the reasons that my first marriage failed, was because of me always mentally keeping track of what I did and what he did, especially when it came to the household duties. It was really hard for me not to keep score and track all of the things that I did, like the laundry, clean the bathrooms, vacuum all the floors, make all the meals, wash the dishes, etc. And what is worse is that I wanted everyone to know it.

It’s not necessarily that I wanted help with all those things but I needed everyone to know I did it, notice I did it, appreciate I did it and praise I did it. That’s all. And eventually the score keeping went well beyond that.

  • “I make more money than you.”
  • “I’m smarter than you.”
  • “I’m out of your league.”

Sounds pretty shallow doesn’t it? But it happens. It actually creeps up on you. You don’t realize you are doing it till it is totally consuming all of your thoughts.

Was keeping scorecards the reason for my marriage breaking up? Probably to some extent but I also know that we were clearly not meant for each other either. And believe me, he kept as many scorecards as I did.

It took me a while in my second marriage to figure out that I had a problem. Essentially, keeping scorecards made my relationships like a competition. In a marriage, this means nobody wins.

It’s no secret that my current husband has bipolar. There have been a few times in our relationship, when he was really ill. During those times everything fell on my shoulders, working, paying bills, child rearing, his medical treatment, the house, the car, extended family, EVERYTHING. It was really hard but he eventually got better and things returned to normal.

This cycle, at first, made me really resentful. When he was well, I constantly reminded him of everything I did when he was sick. It was like I was poking him with a stick. The good times were never good times because I never let them be. I don’t know if it was immaturity or having to deal with an illness so soon into our relationship that made me do this.

After his second relapse and stabilization, something clicked. I could see in his eyes and hear in his voice how sorry he was and how guilty he felt. I felt awful for making him feel bad for something that was totally out of his control. I can see everyday that he works hard on his stability. Why was I cheating myself from embracing the good times? It was then that I decided to leave the past in the past. And I have to say that our relationship has grown exponentially because of it and it probably contributes to the fact that he hasn’t had any relapses since.

If you are finding yourself always keeping score in your relationship, ask yourself why. If you truly believe that you have found the “one”, you need to make a strong effort to stop. Scorecards make you resentful and your partner feel like they are never good enough.

Have you ever kept scorecards in a relationship? How did you learn how to stop?

Relationships can be like a see-saw. One carries more of the load then the other at varies times. But what if you are constantly keeping score?
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38 thoughts on “Are Scorecards Ruining Your Relationship?

  1. I’m always mindful of praising things that are positives in my relationship. That way, when I do have a criticism or problem it doesn’t eclipse the positives. Each person in a relationship has their strengths. It’s better to focus on these than on keeping score.

    Alicia

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  2. HI Elena,
    I don’t think you know this about me, but i use to be a relationship blogger. I blogged about relationships at my site and extensively at Lifehack.org.
    I still love the font in your graphic. I wish I knew what it was called.
    Regarding your post, I agree, “A Tit or a Tat” is wrong.
    #Midlifeluv.
    Janice

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    1. That’s interesting Janice. I think we all go through changes in our blogging niche. And someone made a template for me, so I am not sure about the name of the font.

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  3. Been there, done that. And it still occasionally rears its ugly head. But we’ve talked about it and now call each other out when it starts to happen. I try to always remember that it’s not a competition, that we’re on the same team. And if I want Hubs to do something, I just need to ask for what I want instead of feeling put upon because I think I do “more.” There will always be times when one of us is doing “more.” That’s the way marriage is. Great post, Elena!

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  4. Keeping score was definitely an issue in my first marriage – on both sides. I’m lucky in my second marriage that the only issue is that I have to try really hard to be as nice and hard working as he is. However, I’m so conscious of how harmful this can be that if something happened where I had to carry more of a load, I pray I would catch myself if I started doing it. I saw the damage that it caused before. Gretchen Rubin talks about something that goes along with score keeping: overclaiming – where you give yourself tons of credit for, say, emptying the dishwasher and denigrate the fact that your spouse took the garbage cans to the street. I’ll just be the first to raise my hand about that one.

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  5. I think every relationship has a little bit of this in it, whether it is conscious or not. I also think it is one of the quickest routes to problems, like you say. My husband is wonderful (beyond wonderful!), yet a very good friend chastised me one day because I was complaining about picking up socks on the floor. She pointed out to me some of his good qualities that I should be thankful for, and very gently but firmly reminded me that a good relationship is give and take, and sometimes there are things we just need to do and not complain/expect a return. I was humbled, convicted, and motivated to appreciate all the good — and to tell him how much I appreciated him. And now he almost always picks up his own socks. 🙂

    Thanks for hosting #MidLifeLuv!

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    1. It is really good of you to hear your friend out. A lot of people just get annoyed and disregard advice. You really do have to pick your fights and socks is not one that is worth it.

      You are very welcome and thank you for participating.

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  6. Ugh, yes! I never realized it, but yes, I do! In my head, and then the scorecard comes out when an argument arises. It’s completely unproductive, and truly not conducive to a relationship. Thanks for opening my eyes to this!

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    1. Ah yes, the scorecard weapon. I have used it myself, but only when he uses it first. Ok, maybe I went first. lol I only do it in jest now and he just laughs.

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  7. Although I have made equally unconstructive behavior choices, scorekeeping hasn’t been a big one for me since I’m not very competitive, by nature, but I’ve definitely seen how it affects others’. I think if I ever began to genuinely feel concern over the disparity between what my spouse and I each individually do to contribute to the overall good of our relationship, that I would want to have a conversation about what’s really behind that, rather than the tit for tat details of any individual day. Getting to the real root issue and dealing with it, to me, is a much more productive conversation that how many pairs of socks or underwear we each put away.

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  8. I think this behavior probably happens at some point in all marriages. I catch myself keeping score but usually immediately catch myself when I think of how hard my husband works to provides an amazing lifestyle for our family. I guess I sort of give myself a reality check every so often. We’re going on 25 years so I guess it works!

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  9. In my first marriage, once we had the kids, I had the job, the medical insurance and he had nothing, you bet I kept score. Then one day I stopped playing the game and the marriage ended. Now with my beloved 2nd hubby, we thank each other when one of us makes the coffee, fold the clothes or makes the bed. When we are happy, we just don’t notice the small stuff! Excellent post, my wise friend!

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  10. I did a ton and took a lot of responsibility within my marriage, but, honestly, I was too lazy with regards to keeping track. I had to keep track of so many more important things… but then I woke up one morning and…

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  11. Like Katie, I feel guilty that my husband does so much. Right now, he’s taking care of my ailing mother more than I can. But it wasn’t hard to keep score in my first marriage because keeping score was all I had, there was no real relationship because my ex-husband put his needs first even ahead of his own son.

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    1. It’s really hard when your partner does that Jennifer. I am so sorry you had to go through that but it sounds like you made a good choice the second time around.

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  12. It’s the reverse for me — I feel guilty that he does so much and I do so little (he cooks and folds the towels into perfect rectangles). I say thank you all the time and tell him I appreciate his tireless efforts but I still feel like I’m a hopeless girlfriend sometimes.

    He tells me it’s enough that I put up with him (and put out for him :D) I would do well to remember your sage words of advice.

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    1. I am much the same, Katie. I tended to feel guilty because my husband does so much. And he would get crazy when I keep thanking him! So now, I’ve learned to accept the situation just as he accepts me.

      Elena, we’ve had four bouts of malaria between us,three surgeries and a big house renovation in the first three years of marriage. That was enough to throw out the scorecards!

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      1. Sounds like you have been through it all together. I’m so glad you made it through and accept when you are on the receiving end. Acceptance is such a great place when you reach it in your marriage. Good for both of you.

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    1. The only thing you can do is try and catch yourself doing it. Then you have to make a strong commitment to try and stop every time you hear yourself do it. It will take a while to totally stop but if you can at least stop after the first few sentences, that’s a very good start.

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