Question: Can you help me to stop being a scorekeeper with my partner?
First, let’s try to understand why you feel the need to keep score. Below are some possibilities:
✓ feel unappreciated or taken for granted. This can happen in a relationship as time goes on. We get “used to” each other. So whereas 3 years ago Joe might have kissed Sue and said, “You are too good to me,” every time she made him a nice meal, now he just sits down to eat. But sometimes people feel unappreciated because they don’t value themselves enough. Do we really need to receive credit every time we behave well, or fail to behave badly?
✓ be unempowered or feel victimized. It is much easier for someone to fall into the victim mentality when he or she does not feel empowered. Related to the above (feeling unappreciated), feeling like a victim in the relationship reinforces all kinds of imbalances that are not healthy and can lead to scorekeeping. Step back and ask yourself if you are a victim indeed or if you simply perceive reality through the victim lens.
✓ need to get even for past hurts or betrayal. If you or your partner has been deeply hurt in the relationship, by disloyalty, infidelity, dishonesty, the need to even the score may be at work behind the scenes, whether you are aware of it or not. The hurt party may begin holding back, keeping score, weighing and measuring every action and word. To heal this rift will take time and relationship coaching.
✓ have learned scorekeeping from parents and other role models. The power early relationship models have over us is profound. Unlearning those lessons is often necessary to have the relationship you want and deserve. So if you or your partner grew up thinking that keeping score was part of love—have a conversation and try to let go of those paradigms.
✓ require validation, recognition, or credit. Without external “proof” that they are okay, some people feel self-doubt, and possibly even resentment toward others who seem more secure. They are at risk of becoming scorekeepers. Working on an inner sense of self, confidence, and self-love will help this kind of scorekeeper feel valid and meaningful in the world without needing to be given credit by anyone else. (Don’t get me wrong—we all need to hear we are doing well now and then, from our bosses, friends, lovers—but if we don’t get that approval, we want to still be okay.)
✓ fall prey to unhealthy negative thinking. People caught in the cycle of negative thoughts become almost helpless in the face of them. If you or the person you love is trapped by negative thinking, you may become a scorekeeper in your relationship because you have trouble seeing the good for the bad. As I’ve written before, our thoughts create our emotions and beliefs, which inform all our actions. This cycle can change, because people can reframe their thoughts and beliefs. (For some more in-depth information about this read my blog about re-framing, The Art of Re-framing Your Beliefs)
✓ feel trapped in a power struggle or competition with the person they really just want to love. This is a sad state of affairs, but not uncommon. Ask yourself, what would happen if you gave up control in this relationship, or this situation? How would it feel to let go? Is it important that you feel like you are “winning” in your relationship? Do you want to feel that you hold more cards and thus feel secure? Does it scare you to love without any guarantees?
Here’s how to stop keeping score with your partner:
♥ Communicate. Tell your partner what you are feeling. Remember that what your partner does is about him/her, not you, so speak your truth without criticism or blame.
♥ Ask. Throw the scorecard away and simply ask for what you need. And return the favor by finding out what your partner needs from you.
♥ Acknowledge. What is your contribution to the dysfunction? Are you an enabler? Are your expectations unrealistic? Have you looked inward to see why you keep score?
♥ Work together. Rather than competing and acting in opposition, look for solutions together.
♥ See the good. What is great about your partner and your relationship? Focus on that. Re-framing negative thoughts can work miracles!
♥ Plan. In partnership, create a plan for making changes in the relationship. Ask to be seen and heard. If both of you have good intentions and want the other to be happy, no one will need to keep score. Set a date for checking in with each other to see how the plan is working.
In healthy relationships you share, grow, and benefit together from the partnership. There is no need for score keeping. When we give unconditionally, out of love and the sheer joy of giving, the entire relationship grows and becomes bigger and better than we could be on our own.
Contact me for a complimentary session to talk more about scorekeeping.