How “Keeping Score” is Hurting Your Marriage

Sometime after the honeymoon phases ends, life seems to hit pretty hard. There are chores to be done, careers to maintain, and if you’ve got kids, then you know that they come with a whole separate laundry list of to-dos (pun intended). What starts to be a reality in many couples’ lives is that our to-do lists start to transform into a score sheet.

It may begin simply as a way to divide and conquer the things that need to get done. But slowly over time, it can become a weighted scale of resentment where your loving partnership starts to feel like a tally of give and take. With children in the mix it becomes even harder to get things done and also maintain a good balance of self care for Mom and Dad. So how can you go from a tally board to a more collaborative approach to your tasks- no strings attached? Here are a few ideas.   

  1. Maximize your strengths. We all procrastinate less when dealing with a task we enjoy. Talk with your spouse about what each other enjoys doing and what you feel you are good at. You can apply this with your kid oriented tasks as well by focusing on your parenting strengths. Maybe you are the kind of parent that enjoys reading to your kids at bedtime while your spouse prefers helping with bath time. Decide what you excel at and maximize on these strengths. This is guaranteed to make for happy kids as well as they sense when we aren’t stressed by time spent with them. 

  2. Let go of control. This is a hard one to do especially if you are the kind of person who runs for the hills when your house is a mess. But when life is unpredictable, flexibility is your friend. Life looks pretty perfect through the Instagram filter, but this isn’t reality. Houses get messy, kids get cranky, and work can sometimes go late. Adjust your priorities regularly and let the rest go. 

  3. Be in charge of yourself, not your spouse. It can be pretty easy to fall into a compare and contrast pattern with your spouse. But when this happens, your relationship actually moves from a team to opposing forces. Avoid ridiculing your partner, and instead place your energy on what you can do

  4. Be open about your self-care needs. We all operate better when we have had time to unwind. Have a conversation with your spouse on what keeps you both going. Commit to each other’s wellbeing and you can expect a more willing and able partner. 

  5. Change your perspective. This last one can take some time to reverse but it is well worth it. As time goes on, we can get into a sort of redundancy in which the To-Do list becomes a quid pro quo (i.e. “I’ll do the laundry if you let me go to the gym; “I put the kids to bed last night, so it’s only fair that it’s your turn”). This mindset can be dangerous in a relationship. You no longer do things for the good of the other person, but because it benefits you. Instead, start to look at these tasks in a spirit of service, with your partner’s happiness at the forefront. This mindset has a powerful ripple effect, and before long you’ll be mirroring one another with these efforts.

When everyday stressors and monotony begin to attack your relationship, remember that keeping score may create an environment of anxiety and bitterness. The tasks don’t need to bring you down when you work as a team for the common good of your family.