RELATIONSHIPS Stop keeping score!
When it comes to our relationships, we have to stop tallying things up
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.baggagereclaim.com 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.