The art of avoiding scorekeeping can be challenging to embrace. This will likely sound so obvious to some of you, but it’s important not to keep score.
It’s a good rule for life in general… unless you’re a professional athlete or play an intramural sport.
When it comes to the relationship with your partner, however, keeping score will drive you bonkers. It’s imperative that you stop adding numbers and applying arbitrary meaning to little moments.
What is scorekeeping?
Scorekeeping can look like noting surface-level activities like chores, childcare, and who picks up the tab at dinner. It can also apply to deeper level connections, like which partner initiates sex.
Some of us keep score of how much time is spent alone versus together, or which partner’s friends and family members we’ve seen more often.
Why is it problematic?
Keeping score is typically associated with ego-based thinking and communication. If you are doing something because you think you can get something out of it, you aren’t seeing the bigger picture. It means that you aren’t considering your partner’s point of view.
Scorekeeping sets you up to believe in sweeping statements (I always, they never… etc.). You could find you’re quick to respond in defense mode when you keep score. If they express a dislike, your arsenal will be loaded with your latest task, ready for your rebuttal. This defensiveness shuts down the conversation—or worse, escalates it into a conflict. And at its very core, you won’t hear your partner’s concern and request.
With this type of thinking and behavior, you’ll feel misunderstood, resentful, and frustrated. It’s a “me” centered way of operating, but your relationship is a mutual space. Scorekeeping elevates one of you out of your shared space.
If your score is up, then your partner’s score is down, and neither of you can win. Your relationship certainly isn’t winning.
Practice Counter Thought Processes
If you find yourself stuck in score-keeping or negative thinking, there are ways to course-correct.
Make it a goal to rebuttal each ‘tally’ with something positive your partner has done. For example, if you find you’re constantly emptying the clean dishwasher, consider another task they do regularly, like taking the trash to the curb.
Relationships aren’t 50/50 all of the time. If you’re drained because of family stress, work stress, or anything else, check-in with yourself and share it with your partner.
Think of your mental capacity as a phone battery. If you can’t help out in the way you usually do, tell your partner what they can do to help you recharge. Where are you on a scale of 100?
This may sound like, ‘Hey, I’m feeling depleted, around 12/100. Do you think you could do the grocery shopping on your way home?’ And if you think your partner is slacking, consider asking them where their energy level is. Maybe they’re trying to keep work stress at the office, and this is how it’s slipping through.
You both deserve to be supported in your partnership, which requires checking in with yourself and direct communication with your partner.
If You Can’t Do Something Graciously, Don’t Do It.
You’ve heard me say it before, and you’ll likely hear me say it again and again: ‘If you can’t do something graciously, don’t do it.’ It requires being honest with yourself and knowing when you need to say ‘no.’
When score-keeping becomes toxic, it develops into a habitual pattern that causes perpetual negative thinking. You’ll start to recognize confirmation bias, and instead of forgiving your partner for mistakes, it may become more challenging to separate the individual from a simple blunder.
Knowing when you have the energy to do or not to do something requires you to be honest with yourself. What makes you feel most in tune with yourself? Maybe it’s taking the dog for a walk or a soak in the tub, whatever it is that helps you get in touch with your needs and helps you re-energize.
When you do have the energy to give, embrace altruistic giving. You are giving for the joy of giving, not because you’re trying to get something in return.
Give because you’re feeding your mutual relationship garden. In your shared space, you both have inputs that tend to healthy growth. Give when you have the energy and simply because you notice a task needs to be done. Give because it makes your relationship happier, healthier, and more fulfilling for all.
Be honest with yourself and your needs. Communication and compromise are the water and sun of your relationship garden.
Understand your habits and take a deep dive into finding alternative patterns. Our priorities are for you to love yourself better, improve your relationship with your spouse, and empower you in your role as a stepparent.
P.S. Looking for other ideas on how to reset your body and mind? Check out You Can’t Afford NOT