RE­LA­TION­SHIPS Stop keep­ing score!

When it comes to our re­la­tion­ships, we have to stop tal­ly­ing things up

In the Moment - - Contents - Words: Natalie Lue

Thanks to my pre­vi­ous lousy taste in re­la­tion­ships, I of­ten felt ne­glected and de­val­ued. When I even­tu­ally erupted in frus­tra­tion, my part­ner at the time was then sub­jected to a laun­dry list of “ev­ery­thing

I’ve done for you”. We’ve all been guilty of keep­ing score. But hav­ing a run­ning tally of ev­ery­thing we’ve done, and then ex­pect­ing like-for-like value re­turn, is cor­ro­sive – not just to our re­la­tion­ships, but also to our sense of self. No one wants to feel that we’re sav­ing re­ceipts so that we can make an ex­pense claim when we de­cide to voice our frus­tra­tion or try to get what we want.

Keep­ing score doesn’t have to be a re­sponse to be­ing un­der­val­ued by the other party. While we un­doubt­edly

nd our­selves notic­ing short­falls due to our un­met needs or some­one’s lack of e ort, we can ac­tu­ally cre­ate de cits by be­hav­ing like an over­com­pen­sat­ing En­er­gizer Bunny. We might be do­ing it be­cause we’ve en­tered into a sit­u­a­tion that we know isn’t right for us, and so we’re at­tempt­ing to make up the short­fall. Or, maybe we feel un­wor­thy, and so we over-give to feel wor­thy of re­ceiv­ing – for every one thing some­body does, we feel as if we have to dou­ble their e orts. And some­times, we’re so busy avoid­ing the in­ti­macy of feel­ing our feel­ings, we keep score to help us feel wor­thy. Of course, what we don’t of­ten recog­nise is that the other party can eas­ily as­sume that our giv­ing be­hav­iour re ects who we are, or that they are en­tirely un­aware of our agenda or ex­pec­ta­tions.

While keep­ing score might pacify us in the mo­ment, it of­ten leaves a shame han­gover. We might be­lieve, for ex­am­ple, that we’re a bad part­ner or friend for feel­ing as we do. This feel­ing of­ten lingers when we re­alise that in do­ing this, we’ve made our­selves feel low. And then the cy­cle con­tin­ues. It gets even worse if oth­ers be­come aware of our score-keep­ing. They feel un­der­val­ued and judged and, in some in­stances, ma­nip­u­lated, and then we go through that same shame spi­ral all over again. Keep­ing score it­self doesn’t make us a ‘bad’ per­son; it’s a call for us to be mind­ful and get grounded in who we are and the truth of our re­la­tion­ship(s). Be­ing aware of how we spend our days is vi­tal be­cause it adds up to how we live our life. Self-recog­ni­tion and ap­pre­ci­a­tion not only teaches us to value and know our­selves but al­lows us to prac­tise self-care. There’s a big di er­ence, how­ever, be­tween self-aware­ness and be­ing so busy mon­i­tor­ing ev­ery­one’s e orts that we can’t be present in our re­la­tion­ships and recog­nise and value what the other party is be­ing and do­ing. Recog­ni­tion that we’re keep­ing score can serve as the wake-up call that we need to opt out of an im­bal­anced re­la­tion­ship. But for our most trea­sured re­la­tion­ships, we can use catch­ing our­selves do­ing it to bring us back into in­tegrity; to re­alise what needs we have and to voice them to both our­selves and to our loved ones.

We can ask our­selves, ‘Why am I do­ing this?’ If it’s to be no­ticed or to get val­i­da­tion, to call at­ten­tion to a prob­lem, there are much more di­rect and mu­tu­ally bene cial ways of do­ing so. We can also ask: ‘What am I not notic­ing and valu­ing about the other per­son’s e orts?’ or ‘Where could I ad­mit that I need more help and sup­port?’ It may well be that we do need more a rma­tion, for in­stance, but it’s bet­ter to ad­mit this than use our tally to guilt oth­ers into giv­ing it to us. It might also be time to re­alise that we need to turn all that at­ten­tion back onto our­selves. It’s di cult to re­ceive what we want from oth­ers if we’re not be­ing and do­ing those things for us.

Ul­ti­mately, keep­ing score of our own self-care is so much bet­ter than keep­ing score of a part­ner’s be­hav­iour – once we are able to take care of our­selves, we can then take so much bet­ter care of our re­la­tion­ships.

NATALIE LUE has been writ­ing her blog www.bag­gagere­ for 13 years and is the au­thor of five books aimed at help­ing peo­ple-pleasers and over­achiev­ers to break

un­healthy re­la­tion­ship pat­terns and harm­ful habits. Fol­low her on In­sta @natlue.

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