We've all been there. Your partner has put you off, let you down or totally messed up so many times, you have a running tally going and it only fuels your irritation and anger. One woman posted on Reddit a spreadsheet her husband actually created and sent to her that listed off every excuse she'd given him over the past month for not having sex. He included the date, whether or not they had sex and the excuse she gave. He even provided follow up. When she told him, "I need a shower," he recorded that she didn't actually shower until the next day. Obviously, this couple's relationship is in trouble. It's clear that there's something bugging both of them, and it's probably not only the fact that they're not having sex as often as the man would like.
We get it. Whether it's feeling rejected when your partner (once again) says "no" to making love with you or the fact that your spouse missed another anniversary or anything else, when you are continually disappointed, you notice. Maybe you've tried to talk about your gripes in productive ways, but nothing has improved. Your partner is keeping up this unwanted behavior and you've had it. To prove your point and justify how you feel and what you want to change, you start keeping score. Whether it's literally on a spreadsheet or recorded in your mind, you make note of the many ways your partner turns you down or messes up. Your plan may be to present your list to your partner at some point and demand a change. Or, maybe you feel some small consolation that you don't make the same mistakes.
The results are the same. Keeping score leaves you furious and feeling like a victim, and the situation isn't going to improve — it will probably get worse as you pull away in resentment and your partner gets defensive. Making excuses to avoid sex is a worrisome sign in a relationship. We don't know why this man chose to document it all in a spreadsheet, and we don't know why she wasn't interested in having sex with him more of the time or why she felt like she couldn't be honest. What we do know is that keeping score is a habit that will hurt you and your relationship. Try these 5 alternatives instead:
- Be Solution-Oriented: When you want your partner to change a behavior, be specific about what you do want. Instead of, "You never want to have sex with me" or even "You always make excuses," say, "I'd like to make love more often with you." Find out what's turning her (or him) off and work out a solution together. Ask for what you want instead of griping about what you don't want.
- Be Clear: As you shift focus to a possible solution, get clear with yourself first. Make sure that what you keep arguing for is what you really want. Too often, people put more emphasis on "winning" an argument or "getting their way" and less on the actual question or issue. Continue to check in with yourself to see what is truly in alignment with your ethics, values and goals (for yourself and your relationship). Talk about and advocate for those things.
- Acknowledge: Take into consideration what you know to be true about your partner's current situation. It could be that a crisis or extra stress related to work, physical or mental health problems, or issues with his or her family or friends is contributing to whatever is going on. This isn't about making excuses or letting your partner "off the hook." It's about acknowledging the bigger picture, which may help you understand your partner's actions (or lack thereof).
- Own Up: Remember the spreadsheet couple? Although this guy chose to communicate his feelings in a horrible way that pushed his wife away more (and made it even less likely that she'll want to have sex with him in the future), he probably has a valid point. When one partner consistently makes up excuses to avoid sex, something is off and that could partly be due to what the man is doing (or not doing). Take responsibility for your share in the dynamic that's developed in your relationship. How have you contributed to your partner's bad habits persisting? This might be an uncomfortable exploration, but when you know what you're doing to prolong an unwanted situation, you can start changing your behaviors and responses and promote positive change instead of more of the same.
- Be Honest: As you take a second (and deeper) look at whatever is bugging you about your partner or your relationship as it currently is, be very honest with yourself. Is this a problem that's beyond repair? Have trust and your connection been damaged to the extent that it's unhealthy for you to stay in the relationship? It's time to stop making spreadsheets of all of the ways your partner has let you down or is making you furious and start asking yourself what is in your best interests. Is it smart for you to stay and be an active participant in making things better or is it time to leave the relationship?
Whether it's setting boundaries, creating agreements or simply speaking your truth, effective communication can feel impossible!
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