Your relationship isn't a sports game. And yet, many people find themselves keeping score with their spouses, "building grudges and holding onto them," says Jane Greer, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. You might know for a fact that you washed the dishes six times last week, while your partner picked up the sponge just once. Perhaps you're acutely aware that your spouse hijacked the car stereo on almost every drive in your recent memory, forcing you to listen to his hard rock when you prefer R&B.
"You name it, you can keep score of it," says Greer. "You'll use [that score] against your partner to prove a point or get your way in a particular instance." Of course, keeping score can come from a good place. Some couples simply start keeping score as a way to make their relationships feel equal. But, "keeping score just adds fuel to your fire of anger and resentment," warns Greer. Even if you attempt to rectify what you see as an unfair situation, "by the time you talk to your partner about it, you're more than likely going to blame them and address the conversation in angry manner," she says. "They will then react in anger back at you."
In that case, everyone loses. "The biggest consequence is you're not going to actually get your point across in these discussions," says Greer. "You won't resolve issues, and if things aren't fair in the relationship, you won't feel considered and you'll wind up becoming more and more resentful toward your partner."
If you keep score, Greer says, you have to keep it to yourself. That means no tossing out the number of times you took out the trash while your partner watched TV. Instead, Greer recommends you set up a discussion—inspired by your score keeping—in a very different way. She suggests asking when they last took out the trash. "If they say they don't know, then comment, 'I don't remember either. You ought to know because it should be recent, and it's not. That's my point.'"
Be sure to tell your partner that you want him or her to be happy, but that you want to be happy, too. "Acknowledge that you're doing this and bringing this up out of love for your partner," Greer says. Don't be surprised if your partner has a few concerns of his or her own. "Remember to stay calm and address their concerns in a constructive way," she adds. "If they think that you're choosing dinner too often, ask what they would like to eat and let them know you didn't know they were upset by your choices. They may have been afraid to tell you before."