Keeping Score

May 6, 2022

A blog about NOT keeping score? Who would have thought I’d be writing this?! But sometimes, emotional wellbeing in relationships relies on not tallying up rights and wrongs. 

 

I’ve never been a guy who hates keeping score. I believe that keeping score allows you to activate one’s competitive juices, enabling you to do incredible things. Sometimes you win, sometimes you “lose,” but if you’re using that competitiveness to keep you moving, to continually learn, to grow and become bigger, better, faster, stronger, then you’ll ALWAYS win.  

So why the heck am I writing an article about NOT keeping score? Well, in relationships, like the one I have with my wife, keeping score kills our relationship’s emotional wellbeing. Keeping score is a cancer to your relationships, yet is something almost all of us do. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in who’s doing more for the kids, who’s doing more housework, who’s bringing in more bacon, who planned the last date, who spends more money on themselves, and on and on and on. 

People get flat out consumed with trying to even the score. Whether it’s justifying spending money because your partner did, or letting the dishes pile up because you did them last time, in the moment it feels only fair that you get your turn to take a break.

But in reality, you’re killing the relationship. You dropped the ball, Probie. You split the team up. You’ve changed your mindset from “us” to “me.” And it’s worse than that, really. Once you start keeping score, in your mind it’s now your partner versus you.  You’ve forgotten that you chose this person to be on your team for a reason, and that hopefully includes having your best interests at heart. 

To combat these natural tendencies that only lead to failed expectations, resentment, and decay of both parties' wellbeing, my wife and I have something called Argument Agreements with one another. These Agreements help clarify some of the ambiguity of who should be doing what, and help to steer the relationship into a team format rather than a competitive one.

Here are our three main Argument Agreements that keep our emotional wellbeing, and relationship, intact:

  1. Arguments are going to happen, and when they do, in those moments let’s agree to:

  2. Take deep breaths when starting to feel heated, and choose words carefully rather than letting emotions take over and hurting each other.

  3. Give the other person space if it gets too heated to have a rational conversation. That person will do their best to remove themselves politely, and ask to continue when they’ve cooled down.

  4. No rehashing previous arguments or things that have happened previously to use against (and hurt) the other. 

  5. No cursing or hitting below the belt.

  6. No arguing in front of the kids.

  7. Once both parties have cooled down, listen to the entire viewpoint of the other person without interruption. Repeat back where they’re coming from and ask if that interpretation is correct.

  1. No complaining just to complain, but both parties are welcome to vent about a frustration in their life to use the other as a sounding board-- AS LONG as you offer your own possible solution first. Note that this encourages couples, and the kids who hear us, to both be in-control growth owners, versus victims who have no say in what happens to them.

  1. Bridges instead of walls. Approach the other with something important that one needs to say, but in a gentle tone-- recognize that the other may not like to hear it at first. Remove the word “you” from vocabulary when feeling wronged or hurt, and instead replace it with “I’m feeling … when this happens…and wanted to see how we can work together to solve this”. The other agrees not to immediately put walls up, but to listen without interrupting because they know it’s only being told in the interest of benefiting everyone!

At the end of the week, we give the other a grade on how they did.  This isn’t about competing, but instead helping hold one another accountable so that the things we’ve BOTH agreed on as vital to the success of our marriage and our individual emotional wellbeings are constantly at the forefront. 

Tip For Week

Get with your significant other this week and both write the top three things that you think could be improved about the relationship. Then get together, compare lists, and come up with agreements based on these moving forward. At the end of each week, put a reminder in your phone to give each other your weekly grade, have a discussion on how things went, and how you both can improve moving forward. 

Rather than focusing on only your happiness-- which won’t give you the results you’re after-- focus on how you BOTH can be as happy as possible in the relationships, and you’ll start seeing some incredible results. You can even add to your list as time goes by; the key is to keep it going until those new success habits start to replace the old failure habits, and your emotional wellbeing flourishes with good communication and set boundaries.

Will Moore is a gamification, habits and happiness expert.

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