He’s Making a List and Checking it Twice

He’s Making a List and Checking it Twice

Everybody wants to have a sense of fairness in their relationship, and many people do this by what we call making lists and keeping score.

Maybe you take turns to make dinner, but sometimes your partner is busy and you have to double up, or they offer pizza in exchange for your elaborate feast.

Maybe you each have different tasks, but do not value each other’s contributions correctly. What is seen as the simple act of driving to school, picking Jane up and coming back is actually getting the car out of a tight parking spot, needing to get gas, running into road construction, finding Jane’s friend vomited on her backpack, and having mother call twice for help because her email isn’t working.

Measuring and comparing leads people to ignore the very differences that bring richness to the relationship in favor of some unified scale that seeks to put each partner on the same level in each activity. This brings a false picture of sameness and devalues the unique qualities each contributes.

When you measure fairness in your relationship this way, you are certain to find inequalities. You feel that your contributions are not valued enough, that your partner is failing in execution or being unnecessarily meticulous, and when this is brought up, a whole list of grievances bursts forth, and the best you can hope for is a better awareness and a renegotiation of contributions.

What’s underneath this need for fairness? A sense that you might get used, cheated, taken advantage of. It comes from the position that the two of you are together because there are certain areas of mutual benefit – sex, saving rent, or social status – but other areas where you are in conflict – possessions or parenting or personal space.

Making lists & keeping score can wreck your relationship It emphasizes separateness not union #quote Share on XThis is where core values come in. We have just written about the necessity of holding the same values as your partner, and goals are included in this, too. When this is the case, you can act in union, that is, as one; you can act as part of a team that has common aims.

When you begin measuring and comparing your actions to those of your partner, you are stepping outside the union. You are no longer viewing the relationship from the solid foundation of union, from which two separate individuals function together for mutual support and growth. You have stepped away from that and are looking at yourself and your mate as two individuals whose acts or lack thereof are not connected in union, but rather in a generally adversarial way, as though each is in it for themselves.

In successful relationships, the partners work from the deep understanding that they are on the same side and that they want the very best for each other and they know their partner feels the same way. Without the union being the platform from which all else is viewed, there are just two separate individuals making their way through life.


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4 Comments on “He’s Making a List and Checking it Twice

  1. Loved being jolted into the present in this video! Sometimes we try to avoid the work of dealing with the current issue a parter has put on the table, and so we try to deflect onto a past or future or other issue than the one on the table. But when we share the core value of being on the same side (our mutual happiness, the health of our relationship) then we can peacefully discuss the issue on the table without fear and guilt, and thereby keep the relationship flowing and growing!

  2. You wrote: “In successful relationships, the partners work from the deep understanding that they are on the same side and that they want the very best for each other and they know their partner feels the same way.” — I love this, but this takes “trust”! I would love to see future blog posts about trust, how to build it, how to earn it, and what it takes to develop trust in a relationship, perhaps with examples of how you came to trust each-other to always honor this ideal of keeping your mutual goal in mind when problem-solving.

    • Thanks Jinjee! We see trust as something that takes time. You can’t trust by what people say; it’s their actions that really count, so you need time to see them in different circumstances, see how they are under pressure, see how they are when “act nice on a date” wears off.
      You know about projection: habitual liars suspect you of hiding something and cheaters think you’re having an affair. It’s the same for you; if you’re trustworthy, you project that characteristic onto other people before they’re proved it to be so.

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