Love in the Mountains: The trouble with keeping score |

Love in the Mountains: The trouble with keeping score

Jessica Heaney
Love in the Mountains
Jessica Heaney Love in the Mountains

Football season is full on and I live in a divided house — me a Green Bay Packer fan and my husband a Minnesota Viking’s fan. Lucky for us, the last time our teams played each other, they tied. But in relationships, it often doesn’t work out this way.

Distressed couples usually find themselves keeping score against one another; gathering tallies of what they did well and how their partner fell short. The scoreboard seems to always favor the one tracking the points, and yes, usually each partner carries their own scoreboard. Making accurate scorekeeping an impossible task.

The problem with keeping score is that it immediately puts you and your loved one on opposing teams. Creating a me-against-you mindset. Couples soon find themselves in positions of offense and defense, triggering a play-by-play of circulating blame. The one certain truth when couples end up on opposite teams? No one ends up a winner; it is the relationship that ultimately loses.

Wedge between partners

Keeping score drives a wedge between partners, preventing connection from being possible. It racks up points and penalties, creating an inherit bias towards the negative. Like a referee, we end up looking for the ways our partner has fallen short, eager to blow the whistle when they’ve made the wrong the move. We then stop looking for the ways they snag points for the relationship by perhaps being supportive, caring or loving. Remember: what we focus on, we get more of.

Couples who engage in keeping score end up being far more emotionally disconnected than couples who continue to play on the same team. They are often more stressed, unfulfilled and have a sense of being isolated, even lonely. By keeping score against one another, the disconnection becomes fueled, leaving one partner stuck in believing they’re never enough and another partner trapped by resentments of not being appreciated. It’s a strong pattern that takes hold and honestly, can be tough to disrupt, especially in the Vail Valley, where we tend to be more competitive than most. Clients sometimes tell me, “I just get so caught up by being right. I end up losing sight of our relationship.”

When we keep score against each other, it literally shuts down our ability to emotionally connect and empathize. So, we drift apart as our misunderstandings of each other become greater, but what couples need most in relationships is a deep sense of being understood by their partner.

Pay attention to whether you’re keeping score against your partner or if you’re gathering points toward your relationship. If you notice the attack/defend pattern creeping in, slow down, pause, recalibrate. Work to widen the view and remember, you both are actually wearing the same jersey, playing for the same team.

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