Everyone keeps score in relationships. I absolutely hate it. Everyone I’ve ever been in a relationship with, from casual dating to long term relationships, does it.
I try not to do it. But I know I do. I’m talking about everything from:
“I called him the last 3 times. I’m going to wait until he calls me.”
“Honey if you’ll get up with the kids and let me sleep in tomorrow morning I’ll have sex with you tonight.”
The implied message in both scenarios is that our loving actions need to be reciprocated. The paradox is that loving relationships really are just that…reciprocated love. Yet when our caring gestures become bargaining chips or level-of-interest tests the whole thing is going to fall apart sooner or later.
I don’t read a lot of relationship advice but I bet they advise against keeping score. How do you get to that point? Our inner love barometer seems to know when affection and actions have tilted to one side and remain uneven.
I’ve got a crush on some guy right now who can be hot/cold with me within a 24 hour period. It’s to the point where I’m frustrated with myself for even having feelings for the guy. He can be affectionate and flirty one day, during which times I reciprocate and get all excited. The next day we can be like friends or acquaintances where hardly a touch passes between us …and I reciprocate THAT too….and then end up feeling devastated and emotionally frustrated with myself for just not just allowing myself to forge ahead with how I really feel to test the whole score keeping once and for all. Instead, it gets drawn out into this hesitant, “I will if you will” dance.
The worse part of keeping score is that the doer of a good deed and the receiver always have different rankings. Giving a compliment takes little effort (maybe a 2 or 3 on a 10 point scale of effort). Receiving a compliment from someone you care about, however, is huge (more like a 7 or 8). Someone touching me will almost certainly rank higher than the effort it took that person to show that affection.
It gets even more complicated when you consider the ways you can show kindness by not doing something hurtful.
In my marriage I often felt that my ex was ungrateful because she failed to put a notch in her point system for things I DIDN’T do, which of course she couldn’t because such a thing is invisible. For example I didn’t tell her what I really thought of her mother; HUGE effort on my part..zero points from her. I didn’t throw up on the little crafty toll-painted objects she created and displayed in the house. I didn’t even complain about them because they brought her pleasure. Still, large effort on my part, zero points from her.
Take also the relationship between religion and homosexuals. Religious people will pat themselves on the back for NOT doing some of the things the real nasty religious people do. But as a gay men, the fact that you are refraining from sneering doesn’t really put you up on a pedestal on my scorecard.
The truth is I’m happier when I’m able to set the scorecard aside and live from a place of abundance. By that I mean that I lose nothing by giving and loving at a point that matches my true level of affection and love regardless of what the other person does; and that there’s enough love to go around. I’m also happier if I disregard any hope or need for the other person to do the same. I aspire to live as Greg Shake described on his blog.
Your book of life is not meant to be an accounting ledger. Accounting has its purpose, but when it becomes the means by which life is lived, it is overreaching its purpose. Your book of life is meant to be a living record of the blessings you have sown while here on earth. Each blessing given goes out, interacts with the world around you and eventually makes its way back, albeit in a different and often unrecognizable form.
I’ve known many people who became ungrateful because the blessings they put forth did not come back to them in the timing or the form they had anticipated. Such a reaction gives evidence of an underlying limiting assumption, namely, that true giving is conditional. This basic assumption has created more sad and unfortunate endings than just about any other out there.
Sure there is ample evidence of the abuse of blessings and favors out there, but that is not reason to withhold your own. In fact, it should compel you to give more, in an effort to break the cycle of abuse. Withholding, withdrawing and shutting down in reaction to a perceived injustice only perpetuates the cycle of abuse.
Scan your world for a moment. Consider your relationships with those around you, whether they be close or distant. How do you think about them? Is there any indication that you have been keeping notations in a ledger book as to who owes whom what? If so, ask yourself “am I willing to let this book be thrown into the fire of my love for all people, great and small?” Are you willing to cook the books, once and for all?