I love baseball. It’s different than most team sports because even though you win and lose as a team, the players must perform independently every time they get the ball. The spotlight is on them, and every pop up they should catch, pitch they should throw for a strike, or swing they should take has the potential to make them the hero–or the goat.
In baseball, the scorekeeper decides on what is considered an error and what is not. If a ball goes through the legs of an infielder, it’s usually an error. Throwing the ball over your teammate’s head is too. Some plays aren’t as cut and dried, and often the scorekeeper will give the fielder the benefit of the doubt and not label the play as an error.
If a play results in an error, the number pops up on the box score, right after the numbers of runs and hits. It’s there for everyone to see and to pass judgment. If the scorekeeper considered it an error, then the fans will too.
Keeping Score in Marriage
Are you the scorekeeper in your marriage? Do you consider it your job to determine if what your spouse does is an “error” or not? Do you keep track of those errors and let them determine your partners worth as a spouse? Do you sometimes display those errors for all to see?
Marriage is like baseball. It’s a team sport where the individual actions of each player affect the outcome for the team. It just a matter of how we react to the errors of our teammate that makes the difference.
In baseball, the reaction of the guilty party’s teammates is usually quite restrained. Most errors on their own are not going to result in a loss of a game all by themselves. It was just a small blip on the larger picture of the game as a whole. Besides, the players know that the next error made could be theirs.
In marriage, we sometimes forget that the next error could be ours, and we only look at the mistakes our spouse has made instead of the significant contributions they make to the relationship. When errors occur, we can choose to either keep track of those errors or let them go and look at the bigger picture.
Scorekeeping Hurts Your Marriage
Keeping score in marriage allows pride to creep in and make you feel superior to your spouse, putting space between the two of you. Those prideful feelings can spell disaster for marriage because it requires the work of both people to make it successful.
Pride precedes a disaster, and an arrogant attitude precedes a fall. Proverbs 16:18 (NOG)
You begin to resent everything that they do and the things they don’t. Even the smallest things that may not have bothered you in the beginning of your marriage seem like insurmountable issues that you cannot overcome.
It makes you competitive. You forget that you are one flesh and one team that wins or loses together.
So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:6
Keeping score leads to misunderstanding. If you are always looking for the bad, you will see it everywhere! Even when it’s not really there.
When you keep track of what your spouse is lacking, it makes you want to “balance the books.” You retaliate for every error with something that will annoy them.
When you try to balance the books in your marriage, scorekeeping can turn into snowballing. If your spouse feels like you are keeping score, they may begin to do so as well. This mutual desire for payback can lead to a snowball of resentment as each of you tries to come out ahead.
Recognizing When You Are Keeping Score
It’s easier than you may think to fall into the trap of keeping score in your marriage. How can you tell if you are doing it? Ask yourself some of these questions, and if you notice that you are answering “yes” a lot, you may need to take a look at your behavior.
Are you gathering evidence, either mentally or in actual written form, that proves that you are winning in your marriage and your spouse is the loser?
Do you ever find yourself thinking (or saying), “You owe me,” because you did something for them you thought they should have done themselves–like folding their laundry?
Do you find yourself giving something of yourself to your spouse only because you know you’ll want something from them later?
Do you allow the tit-for-tat to continue when your spouse does something that annoys you instead of letting it go?
If your spouse isn’t doing the things in the relationship that you expect them to do, do you find yourself brooding about it?
Do you overgeneralize your spouse’s actions by using words like “always” or “never” to describe their bad behavior?
Do you zoom in on all the errors they make and ignore the good things they do every day?
A Better Way
Look at your marriage as a whole picture. What do you want to focus on, the beautiful picture you are trying to create or the one missing piece?
To stop keeping score and grow a strong and healthy marriage, the first thing you should do is pray and ask God to give you the grace of forgetfulness. Ask Him to help you forget the errors your spouse makes and to fill those spaces in your mind with optimistic thoughts about your spouse.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15
Then remember the grace God has given you. Jesus has forgiven you of much more than leaving dirty socks on the floor or forgetting to wash the dishes. Cut your spouse some slack because they’re human, just like you.
Make a point of appreciating the things that your spouse does contribute to your marriage. What do they do on a regular basis that you have stopped noticing? Thank them for it.
Instead of keeping score and noting all of the errors they make, keep track of the good things they do and say. You may need to write them down in a little “good stuff” notebook and reread it every once in a while to remember and improve your mindset about them.
Even when your spouse does make an error, show respect in the way you approach it.
Tips for Eliminating Scorekeeping
Instead of keeping that mental note about what happened, decide to communicate about it right away. Don’t make mean comments and throw around passive aggressive digs. As we tell whiny toddlers when they are throwing a fit, “Use your words.” It will get you to a better place much more quickly.
Take a break when needed, and use that time to pray and fill your mind with the things you love and appreciate about your spouse.
Stop comparing what you do with what they do. Marriage is not a competition. It’s a team sport. If one of you wins, you both win. When one of you loses in the marriage, you both lose. Keeping score and holding on to those grudges just hurts the team in the long run.
Create a new mindset that thinks the best of your spouse. Be optimistic about them. Believe in them, compliment them, and don’t forget to say I love you. After all, you are on the same team.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. Ecclesiastes 4:9
Keep an eye on the bigger picture. What are your goals and dreams for your marriage? What do you want your relationship to be like? Does keeping score of everyday errors get you closer to those objectives?
Be an adult. Do what needs to be done as much as you are able. And if it’s something you can’t do, be polite and ask your spouse to do it. A little kindness goes a long way.
Imagine what it would be like to have a marriage where both of you give 100%. Instead of worrying about what the other person has done or not done, just do it. No rules, roles, or boundaries. Fill your marriage with grace and love. Throw the scorecard away.
Even professional ball players make errors. Some years, a lot of errors. But each error usually doesn’t determine the outcome of a season, and one mistake from your spouse shouldn’t determine the outcome of your marriage.
- What new positive mindset should you create to replace your score-keeping habit?
- Name five good things your spouse brings to the marriage that you often forget about?
- What will happen if you stop keeping score in your marriage?
If you struggle with the effects of scorekeeping on your marriage, there is a way to eliminate this habit and put your marriage on a path to restoration. Send us a message using the form below, and we’ll get back to you with some ideas that could help!