In this blog series, we’re going to focus in-depth on ten steps you can take together to help create a stronger relationship. Each of these tips is designed to tackle an issue that can lead to fights, resentment, and poor communication. By understanding how a behavior or habit can affect your relationship negatively or positively, you arm yourself with the knowledge needed to make better choices for your relationship.
Don’t Keep Score
Keeping score is a bad habit that is easy to fall into in a long-term relationship. Even in the happiest of marriages or partnerships, you’re sure to develop a long history of arguments, disappointments, and sometimes unsatisfactory compromises. What we mean when we say “keeping score” is that each partner mentally records each good thing they do (or each negative thing their partner does,) and gets frustrated or angry when their partner doesn’t return tit for tat. Here’s an example: A husband cooks dinner for his wife, but is angered when she asks him to clean up afterward, because he feels he’s already done his fair share. She, in turn, is angered because she cooks dinner and cleans the kitchen almost every night, and he rarely acknowledges her hard work. Thus, his nice gesture turns into a fight about who does more around the house, all because both of them are keeping score. It’s not hard to see why this kind of bad habit happens: you want to make sure that your partner is as committed as you are to the relationship. While it makes sense not to be taken advantage of, it isn’t logical to assume that the tasks of a relationship will break down 50/50, every time. To break this habit, there are a few things you can try:
First, look at the bigger picture of tasks in your relationship. Maybe, like in the example above, you feel like you do too much cooking and almost never get credit. Ask yourself, however, if your spouse does the lion’s share of work in a similar area. For instance, maybe you hate laundry, so your partner ends up doing most of it. If, in the bigger picture, the work breaks down fairly evenly, you may realize your frustration is misplaced. If it still seems unfair, however, you need to broach the issue with your partner when you are calm and able to spend some time hashing things out. If you keep quiet and let yourself seethe, you’ll only end up throwing the next nice thing your partner does for you back in your face. This can quickly turn into a huge fight, as your partner will see your anger as ungrateful.
Second, try not to think of any nice things or tasks you do as a means of building up credit that you deserve back. When you take on a task or plan a surprise, your goal should be to express your love for your partner and to make him or her happy, not to earn something or get something in return. By focusing on the positive impact of your actions instead of the return value, you’ll help avoid the trap of score keeping.