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Sam Dobson Writes: Keeping Score In Your Relationship

Monday, October 6, 2014

Keeping Score In Your Relationship

Last week my puppy came down with a nasty bout of diarrhea. Unfortunately, I was not made aware until I woke up at 4am needing to pee. I rose sleepily, swung both feet onto the ground and made my way to the bathroom. I was almost at the toilet when I felt a terrorizing squish beneath my right foot. Instantly that all too familiar smell rose to my nostrils and I knew I had just stepped in poop. I hopped over to the light switch and started huffing and puffing for Blake to wake up. Now wide awake, I explained in an unnecessarily hysterical fashion that one of the dogs had diarrhea, it was all over the floor and now in between my toes. He looked at me confused, said a few angry remarks about the damn puppy, and rolled over to fall back asleep. Needless to say, I was rather ticked off. When I had washed off my foot and finally cleaned every poop mark off the floor, I crawled back into bed and gave Blake a bit of verbal lashing that he most likely slept through.

Now, Blake and I pride ourselves on being a couple who doesn't "keep score". We all know those couples, even have a few in our circles, the ones who count every penny and keep mental notes of every argument for future ammo. Personally I find this quality very annoying when it comes to any relationship. My girlfriends and I don't keep score either. I can't tell you who bought the last round of drinks or made the last coffee run and there's a reason for that. It just doesn't matter to us. The phrase "you owe me" doesn't exist in any of my friendships or my marriage. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a moocher or a free-loader. If I have to borrow money from my mom in a bind, she never has to worry about getting paid back. There's a difference between a debt that must be repaid and a relationship that's constantly keeping score.

Let me pause for a quick disclaimer: I understand that every relationship is different and what may work for mine won't work for others and so forth. This is just my own opinion, formed from my own personal experience and the observation of many other relationships.

I find that in equal marriages or relationships (I mean those where both partner is considered an equal to the other) keeping score is not only unnecessary but it's a cancer. I am aware that many marriages are formed on certain notions such as "the man makes the money, the woman is keeper of the house". If both partners are happy with this sort of relationship, then there is no issue. However, for most relationships in the 21st century, this dichotomy does not exist. There are no boundaries limiting women to the kitchen and men to the office. Without assigned roles, it's common to have both parties contributing financially and domestically. This is where score-keeping can sneak it's way into the relationship.

I have friends who have sat down and figured out exactly who will pay for what. For example, rent or mortgage is split 50/50, cable is paid for by the partner that can't live without it, and extra spending comes out of the shopper's pocket only. This arrangement has it's perks, organization and clarity among them, and seems to suit many couples just fine. The problem is when one or both partners start to literally count pennies. For example, the wife comes home from running errands with a carload of groceries and tells her spouse that he now owes her $72.44, half of the total cost. Soon, this sort of thinking makes it's way into every little expenditure. Perhaps they are hosting her family for Thanksgiving, will she be responsible for all the costs involved? I think you can see where I am going with this.

It's not just about money. The same can go for household chores or taking care of the kids. We all know those 1950s style marriages in which wifey never leaves the house, cooks every meal, and takes care of every kid-related task. Perhaps the stay at home mom attempts to pawn the kids off on the workaholic dad the second he steps through the front door at the end of the day. Naturally, a long argument ensues about who works harder, who is more deserving of a night out or weekend away, and so on. These arguments are kept bookmarked in the minds of both partners, stored as ammo to be used in the next fight.

Rewind to my midnight shit-fest 2014 in which I got absolutely no help from my spouse. Yes, I threw it in his face later, do as I say not as I do. I apologized to him later the next day and do you know why? Because somewhere down the line he has pulled more weight (or will in the future) than I have. He has washed and folded the laundry while I sat on the couch just typing away plenty of times. Yes, there are a few things we have sort of fallen into routine with. For example, I primarily do the dishes (even though I hate doing dishes) but once in a while he will load or unload the dishwasher just because. For the most part, everything is a shared responsibility as it should be. This is a marriage, not a competition. We are a team, not opponents. I literally promised Blake that I would be his teammate in our wedding vows. I also promised to never keep score, because that's how important that is to me.

keeping score in your relationship


This is real life, not a freaking fairy tale. We aren't perfect and we do break this promise from time to time, when we are really frustrated or at our wits end. But on these rare occasions, we always apologize and make up, then our relationship goes back to even-keel. It works for us because we understand the importance of give and take. We would give each other our last dollar no matter what it was for without question. I don't always get the massages I try to weasel out of him but when I suffer from period back pain he always rubs my back.

Many relationships don't possess this natural balance, we don't have this completely nailed down either. I would urge you to talk it out with your partner if you feel the scales are tipping too heavily on one side. "But Sam, I thought you were saying it's bad to keep score?" I'm not telling you to keep score, on the contrary, I am telling you to communicate so that you won't feel you have to keep score. Confused? Let me better explain. Let's say you have come to realize that you always get stuck making dinner and would like a change. Instead of keeping this to yourself and letting it boil up inside you, just festering in your mind until you explode and use it as a weapon in your next fight, communicate with your partner. Make dinner as usual, pour two glasses of wine, and have a nice talk, free of finger-pointing or blame. Explain to your hubby that although you enjoy or at least don't mind doing the majority of the cooking, that it would be nice if he could bust out his culinary skills once in a while for you.

If you feel that there are some serious inequalities in your relationship, attempt to discuss it with your spouse. Chances are, they never really thought about or realized that you wanted help in the kitchen. Seriously, guys can be dense. By no means would I ever be able to be with someone who wasn't willing to share everything. I hate keeping score and counting pennies, it's just not my style, but that doesn't mean I would be okay with someone taking complete advantage of my kindness and generosity. This whole "not keeping score" thing only works if both parties in a relationship are willing to share everything; the good and the bad, the riches and the struggles. If you see each other as equals, if you are willing to help each other out (be it with household chores or a family crisis), and if you see your assets as a community pot, you won't need to keep score. Sometimes we ask each other to "borrow" a few bucks when we are short, it's a ridiculous concept since it all comes from the same pot. What I give him for gas, he returns later for bills and so on. There's just no need to keep score.

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