Thursday, January 9, 2014

I Keep Score In My Relationships, Do You?

I stood there after having just presented my year's Paypal earnings to my husband. 
"So... we owe X amount in church tithing for my income on Paypal." I said.

"Good." He said matter-of-factly.

.... "Look, I made X amount of money from such and such."

"That's good, baby." He said.

.... "And I made X amount of dollars from drawing portraits!"

"Yea, good work."

"I got a job... with a raise!"


And for a few seconds, there I stood... waiting. Finally I said "Babe, I'm contributing. I have skills. I'm a contributor." 

And then I saw it all click in his mind. Face lighting up he leapt from his chair,  gave me a hug, and said "I know baby! Good job! You are making money, that's really good. Look, how impressive!"
Like a parent doing to the happy dance for their child who just peed in their own little toilet for the first time; he knew the routine. He knows it by heart. He does it when I give him that look after I ask him if he liked the dinner I made. You know, the glazed-over eyed, creepy chesire smile, is that all? look. 

This is pretty close to what  it is. Subtle right?

It's the look I give him when tell him what I cleaned today, or when I show him the little knick knacks I spent hours sewing, or present a good score on a test. He's VERY well versed in this look and what it means. So much so, that sometimes when I stand somewhere in silence a little too long after saying something, he'll actually go into auto-pilot mode and praise me for nothing at all.

 "Have you tried the brownies at the school cafeteria? I tried one today, it was pretty good."
.... "huh? ... OH! Good job baby! That's awesome... that's really good."
"Babe, I just said I ate a brownie."
"Oh, sorry."

It's funny really. He's an amazing husband, and an excellent cheerleader, but an even better babysitter for my 5 year-old look what I did self.

When it comes to the way we act towards one another there are certain statements that often slither from my uninhibited mouth, such as:
"We don't say that in our marriage", 
"We don't treat each other they way that couple does, do we?", 
"In our marriage, we don't keep score."

They don't saunter about in any attempt to piously build myself up, but rather as a reminder to myself, like every "10 things you should NEVER do in your relationships" or "How be a better spouse" blog post that are popping up on Pinterest and Facebook these days.

And then I find myself right back there, giving my husband the look. Truth be told, Saturday night was the first time that I realized I had a look at all. Saturday night was the night I realize IT. After I asked my husband to throw in a load of laundry and felt that immediate pang of guilt, it was made clear to me. When I got irrationally upset after he said, "I'll make you a deal, I'll do the laundry tonight if tomorrow you do yaddy yadda..." and I said "It's not a score. We don't keep score in our marriage", I heard it loud and clear.
I keep score. 
I keep score all. the. time. 
It's not the score that everyone warns you about. In my opinion, it's much worse. You see, those articles trending on Pinterest, being reposted on Facebook, going viral on twitter, and airing on the up-to-the-minute news on Mars, all warn couples not to keep tally on what they do for each other. They remind us that a relationship is not a score board where I did the dishes, walked the dog, and squeezed husby's butt leaving me with 3 total points for the day, when he made breakfast, but did NOT hang up his bath towel leaving him with only one point total (really ruffling my feathers.)

I really don't struggle when it comes to that kind of score board.

The way I see it is this:
I did the dishes, walked the dog, and squeezed husby's butt leaving me with 3 total points for the day... but I also didn't make him breakfast, I slept in an hour later than him (lazy butt), I nagged him to pick up his bathroom towel, asked him to get me a glass of water, and made him watch what I wanted to watch on Netflix. After much contemplation and deciphering my maze of a mind, I have figured this: According to my score-keeping, I have -2 points for the day (positive points for things I did to improve his quality of life, negative points for things that inconvenienced him) resulting in the grand prize of getting to go to bed feeling like a failure of a wife. That is, if I don't find some reason to give my husband that look to which he will reassure me that I am good, I am useful, and I am kind.
Translation: I am worth something.

There is so much pressure on him that he may, or may not, even be aware is there, and a score board against myself that he couldn't possibly know I am keeping. (cough-Imapsycho-cough)

 I've realized that I see life represented in the image of a cup.

There is an opening on top, and a crack in the bottom. The liquid inside is the equivalent of the worth I bring to my marriage, my job, and essentially the lives of others. When I do something "right" or "good", a drop of water is put in the cup.

Yay me!

But when I do something wrong, or "bad", a drop drains from the crack in the bottom. This would make sense, right? With this logic, you would think "ok, so I take out the trash: 1 drop in my cup!" Which is true...
That logic would also mean that if my husband takes out the trash, or if I ask him to take out the trash and he does it, he gets a drop of water too! (Good job babe.)
My realization is however, that I don't see it logically. This is where the problem lies: If I do something "good" I get a drop of water, but in my mind if my husband does something that I should have done, or something that takes time out of his day in the service of me, I view it as a double whammy: one drop being sucked out of his cup (I draining it), and mutually, a drop draining from mine for wife-duty-failure. I suppose it's these instances where those nitty burdensome thoughts derive from. And, if you are human, these situations are everywhere.

Let me tell you, it is exhausting.

It's the reason I can do seemingly nothing one day only to hit the sheets tired, worn and depressed at night, and likewise the reason I can be really productive another day and go to bed feeling like a great asset to my husband's life, and the lives of others. It's probably why I try to (and enjoy) going "above and beyond" what is required in tasks I am given, and look for opportunities to serve others, take on extra duties and often "bite off more than I can chew".

Because I need the drops going into my cup, to exceed those dripping out!
Because it's worth it.
It's worth it to feel like you are contributing to something, more than taking from it.
It's worth it to not feel worth... nothing... right?

I've come to the conclusion that I'm not alone in this. I believe my theory (to someday be referenced in TED talks, quoted in psychology textbooks, and explained to confused husbands all over the world) is a complex epidemic that plagues a lot of us self-proclaimed perfectionists.

 It's the reason I hear a lot of moms say they feel like failures because they didn't have a chance to clean the house that day.

Or why a lot of wives go to bed devastated because the meal they prepared wasn't perfect.

Or the result of multiple students walking out of the testing center, considering dropping out of school all together, because they just couldn't figure this stuff out...

Or maybe, just maybe, I really am crazy and fishing for reassurance that I'm not a psychopath, because my husband is out of town and I have no one to give that look to. :)

In which case you could be thinking "Yea, that's just you sister."

You could be thinking "Well, I really don't do that in my marriage."

Or you could be thinking "You just need a prozac and Xanax cocktail, Lady."

And if that is so, I suppose I should have stuck with my gut and kept this thought to myself. I mean, how embarrassingly transparent amIright?!

Or is anyone thinking... yea... I do that too.

Who doesn't love to serve, improve, and be better? We are humans and by nature we want to excel, progress, and please others! But in all that, do you find yourself keeping a score for or against yourself as a whole? 
Sure, we go to the gym, prepare nutritious lunches, take extra shifts at work, finish the laundry, watch a friend's child so they can have a date night, study our scriptures, attend church, stay up late preparing that presentation that will KNOCK OUR BOSSES FREAKING SOCKS OFF, and that is great, makes us better people, and often times can ease another's load... but does a little piece of us do that just so we can feel better about ourselves? Is that how we are measuring our worth?
Not all the time, but I think I do find myself doing that pretty dang often. 

I cannot be the only person who keeps score, knowingly or not. Women are hard on themselves. SO hard on themselves. If they weren't, there would not be a market for self-help books, fitness and weight loss, and dare I say it? Anti-depressants. 
So, amongst the new years resolutions, self-improvement ads, weight-loss fads, and endless marriage/relationship/personal advice articles, I think I will commit to trying a little harder to be a little easier on myself.
Who's with me?! 

So, in leu of a long overdue merry Christmas and happy new year's post, what I'm trying to say is this: 
You are good, you are useful, and you are kind. 
Or as a sweet african american maid in modern day cinema-graphic entertainment once said: 
"you is kind, you is smart, you is important." 

Read it, believe it, look in the mirror and repeat it. (Or shoot your husband the look, if you are like me.)
Because with how easily we tend to discredit ourselves, it sure doesn't hurt to be reminded. 

1 comment:

Oh hey! You're awesome.