Michele Armani and Sally Meisenheimer
Dear Style & Substance:
I had a recent realization that my wife keeps score on everything, from who worked the most hours to who took care of the kids the most. It seems like our relationship has become a mad game of winning versus losing. When I said something about this to her, she blew up and accused me of not caring. I don’t see how this all matters and how I can ever be considered a winner in her mind. Please help.
People keep all kinds of “scores” from home front chores to recognition in the work place to who gets loved the most of the siblings. Despite our best efforts, we can end up on the losing side. It matters because for a “score keeper”; your participation or lack thereof indicates your level of commitment, trust and respect.
There are a couple of ways to approach this; by either playing the game or sitting the bench. With clear communication, you can experience both options.
In playing the game we mean to acknowledge that this is the way she measures what is fair and not fair on the home front. It means to her that you accepted the rules at the start of the marriage and now you are unwilling to follow them. If you play the game, it simply means that you are interpreting what is important to her, and out of love and respect, you are giving her what she needs. It doesn’t mean that you become a doormat but that you rearrange what might normally be your priorities. It may mean that you tend to some of the things that make her feel loved and appreciated earlier in the day and this way boosting your “credit”.
By sitting the bench, we mean that you are choosing not to use a scoring system, but possibly communicating more clearly about what you can do better, and possibly what you can’t do better. It is kind of like saying, “I hear, understand and respect you, however, it is not what works best for me”. This does not give you a pass, but it gives both of you the chance to talk about alternatives. There still must be a sense of fairness in managing the daily operations of a busy household.
Ultimately, we are all seeking balance not ultimatums.
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