Do You Keep Score In Your Marriage?

You did the dishes, he should bathe the kids. He “worked hard all
day”, you should have dinner hot when he gets home. Even in the best of
marriages, it’s sometimes hard to avoid “keeping score” with one
another. He gave you a backrub, now it’s your

turn to reciprocate.

While a little give and take is never a bad thing, constantly reminding
your spouse that he or she “owes you” can lead to everyone feeling
bad. If your spouse doesn’t respond, you feel underappreciated. After all, you
put out all this effort–what has he done for you lately? On the other hand, if
your spouse is showering you with gifts and favors, you might start to feel
guilty and wonder what he wants from you in exchange. Either way, it’s a
We asked GALTime marriage and family therapist Jane Greer, Ph.D.
how to avoid keeping score in a marriage.
Whether it’s brought up verbally or not, most of us probably could admit
to “keeping score” –at least in some aspects of our marriage. (Kids,
money, household chores, etc.) What’s the danger in this?
Dr. Greer: Keeping score is the way people hold onto anger
and resentment and it rarely then gets communicated in a positive and
constructive manner. Instead, it builds up and can often lead to blow ups and
arguments that go nowhere because the score is too high and there’s just
“too much” resentment to sort through and work out.
We’ve all heard the expression “give and take.” What if you
feel like you’re the one doing all the giving?
Dr. Greer: You want to look at where you need to start
putting some limits in place for yourself and learn how to manage your feelings
of guilt. You may also need to deal with the fear that your partner may get
angry or upset if you don’t give in to all demands and expectations, some of
which may be unrealistic.
What if it’s your husband who’s feeling the resentment? How do you deal
with him thinking you’re slacking off when you’re actually working hard?
Dr. Greer: You want to empathize with him and ask him why he’s
feeling that you’re not “on it” and particularly what it is that he’s
feeling he’s not getting from you. If it’s your attention or time, then ask him
what he would like from you. Share with him what you have been doing and
explain to him if you feel like you’re on overload. Finally, ask him about
sharing some chores to make more room for you to focus on his needs and let him
know you’ll work at paying more attention to him. (Guys, this works for both
sides. We’re just writing it from the woman’s perspective in this instance.
This issue is a two-way street!)
How do you discuss these matters with one another without acting as if
you’ve been keeping score?
Dr. Greer: As soon as something occurs that upsets you, bring
it up for discussion and problem solving. You don’t have to wait to “make
your case,” which is what keeping score is all about. There’s the feeling
that if it’s happened once it will probably continue and only get worse. So let
him know you’d like to address a particular situation and figure out how to
handle it differently in the future so that it doesn’t lead to you holding a
grudge and feeling resentment toward him.
Do you or your spouse tend to keep score? If so, what are some of the
ways you work it out?

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