Score-keeping is a good thing if you are an athlete. Would anyone watch the Olympics if they couldn’t tell who was winning? Would anyone watch the NBA Final Four if no one was announced as the winner in the end? I doubt it.
Keeping score is a terrible thing in relationships, though, for exactly the same reason that they are good for sports. Most sports are about winning and losing, about pitting your skills against your opponent, and score-keeping helps you to know who is winning and who is losing. Relationships, on the other hand, are about working together, so having a winner and loser is completely senseless. I’m sure at some point you have seen (or maybe been on) a team where the players were competing against each other instead of against the other team. It’s not pretty, and it doesn’t work well. Same result in relationships.
This week’s strategy is all about letting go of your relationship scorecard. Carlson defines the relationship scorecard as keeping track “of all that you’re doing to contribute to the relationship, to make your partner’s life easier, and how much you sacrifice in the name of the relationship.” I doubt anyone escapes this tendency entirely, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fight it, especially because it hurts your relationship in so many ways.
Relationship Scorecards Hurt Relationships By:
1. Encouraging Competition
Relationships are about working together, and it is hard to work with someone when you view them as your enemy. You want to be on the same side as your partner, not fighting against them.
2. Discouraging Your Partner
Few things are more discouraging than trying your best and being criticized anyway. When you insinuate to your partner that they are not doing enough, you are belittling what they have already done, and they may be tempted to give up entirely.
3. Making You Blind to Your Partner’s Contributions
When you focus on what your partner isn’t doing, you lose sight of what they are doing.
4. Creating Resentment on Both Sides
You begin to feel resentful because you view yourself as a suffering martyr, while your partner feels resentful because their best is not good enough and you have a negative attitude toward them.
5. Encouraging Your Partner to Start a Scorecard
Possibly the scariest result of having a scorecard, though, is that your partner is likely to react by starting to keep track of everything that he contributes and you don’t. Suddenly, not only do you feel that your partner isn’t doing enough, but he is pointing out everything that you don’t do. Unless one of you puts down the scorecard, this is just a never-ending negative cycle waiting to happen.
Getting Rid of the Scorecard
Unfortunately, recognizing that scorecards harm your relationship doesn’t do much to help you fight them, and you may be surprised by how engrained they are in your relationship. I’d advise starting out by watching for issues that you tend to keep score on. In my relationship, the scorecard tends to revolve around our careers, and who is contributing more to the financial success of our family, which is really stressful right now because, um, I don’t have a job. I’m going to be watching for other topics and intentionally choosing to let go of the scorecard when I see it show up. Check back in on Wednesday for more ideas on how to fight the relationship scorecard.
By the way, if you haven’t already started reading “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love,” I really recommend it. Each weekly challenge on this blog comes from one of the strategies in the book, and the book adds more detail than I am able to include here, while still keeping each strategy short enough for a busy woman to read.