Do You Keep Score In Your Marriage?



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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 lose-lose.
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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