If you're playing to win, you've already lost.
One of biggest differences I see between people who have created happy relationships and those who haven’t is the act of keeping score.
If you’re keeping score you may come out on top of your partner, but the relationship will come out on the bottom.
In other words, if you’re playing to win in your relationship, you’ve already lost.
When you’re keeping score or playing to win, you’re like a prosecuting attorney. You’re constantly putting your partner on trial and building your case against them.
To build your case, you have to be chronically tuned into to what’s wrong instead of what’s right. And when you’re looking for what’s wrong, you’re going to find something because that’s how the brain works—it concocts stories and spins the facts that are consistent with what you’re looking for.
So who are these score-keepers? And why would they devote so much energy to indicting the people they love?
Score-keepers aren’t selfish, or unkind, or egotistical. They’re just hurting and afraid. They’re afraid of the vulnerability that comes hand-in-hand with close relationships, and rightfully so.
They’re always on the lookout for where they might have been wronged; always on the defense. They desperately want to trust and appreciate their partner, but they find it much more difficult than the average person. They’re skeptical because they’re afraid of being hurt.
Score-keepers are not bad people; they’re just operating from full-on self-protection.
Score-keepers often rely on their partner or their relationship to make them feel good. When that relationship is the primary source of their sense of love and belonging, there’s a lot to lose. So score-keepers police their partners as a way of trying to ensure their own happiness.
Except that doesn’t actually work.
In case you’re a score-keeper and you’re not sure how else to be, let’s contrast score-keepers with people who don’t constantly keep score.
These people assume the best about others. They’re trusting, not skeptical. They don’t go looking for problems and because they’re not looking, they very rarely find problems.
They don’t feel driven to stay vigilant to the offenses against them because they have a deeper sense of self-worth that’s not tied to their partner. Or maybe they were never told, “You can’t trust anyone but yourself” so they don’t espouse that untruth.
They can let go and trust that things will be fine because they actually believe that. Sure, they have fears and insecurities like all humans, but deep down they know they’ll be fine no matter what happens. There’s just no reason to keep score.
If You’re a Score-Keeper
If the description of a score-keeper sounds familiar to you, don’t worry. You can change your ways and dramatically improve your relationship by simply being aware when you find yourself building your case against your partner.
Recognize when you feel yourself shift into prosecutor mode and simply ease up a little. Whatever it is that has offended you, practice letting it go.
Remember that noticing and punishing these wrongdoings is just a habit you’ve come to adopt out of fear, but that it really doesn’t protect you at all. Just the opposite, actually. This behavior is not who you are; its simply a set of actions you take. There’s a huge difference.
Remind yourself that All is Well. Even if you don’t believe it at first, practice saying it anyway. All is Well. There is nothing you have to do in order to stay safe. You’re always safe; the fear you feel is human and we all feel it at times, but it’s not real.
Keep in mind that even though keeping-score feels like it’s keeping you safe, it’s actually safer to let go and trust.
By acknowledging your fear and trusting anyway, you give your relationship its best chance at survival.
Amy Johnson, Ph.D. is a psychologist and master certified coach. She writes a popular blog full of down-to-earth, achievable steps to living a happier, more enlightened life at www.DrAmyJohnson.com. Grab her FREE ebook on getting out of your own way to create the life you want.