Do you find that your generosity toward your partner is directly tied into what he or she has recently done for you?
If so, then you’re in the business of keeping score.
This post is based on the assumption that you’re interested in maintaining your relationship, and you’re willing to reset the relationship score back to 0-0.
Resetting the score would mean that your partner’s past deeds will have nothing to do with what you’re willing to offer in the present. Rather, your commitment to your partner’s happiness and the health of the relationship serves as your motivation for giving.
If you’re leaning toward breaking up, then keep the scoring system going. Eventually, your relationship will be spoiled beyond reconciliation and devoid of closeness and healthy communication.
Solving Your Relationship Problems Starts With You
Many relationship problems stem from the fact that one or more partners is limiting acts of giving and kindness based on what has been received.
People who keep score have developed bitterness and resentment toward their partner that guides their decisions.
This in and of itself is a problem because resentment will kill you. It eats away at your insides and shortens your life. Why do this to yourself when you can make a few changes and stop this inner rotting?
Above anything else, accept that you’re taking a stand for your relationship regardless of what your partner is doing for you. It has to start somewhere.
This responsibility is the essential ingredient for resetting the score in your relationship.
How to Reset the Relationship Score Back to 0-0
Here are five steps for shifting your relationship toward a place where you’ll both be willing to invest more freely in each other’s happiness:
1. Begin by giving your partner the kind of love you know he or she wants from you. I’m talking about small acts of love—not the giant ones. Think about what’s been asked of you that you’ve refused in the past. Stay in this giving mode for at least a week or two before moving forward. You are basically setting the tone for a more sharing and giving in the relationship.
2. Build up the courage to declare that you want to have a conversation with your partner about making the relationship better. Set a time to talk when you’re both alert with your phones turned off. Begin by sharing how aware you are that you haven’t been satisfying your partner’s needs and outline some examples.
You’re essentially taking responsibility for your part. This sets the stage for your partner to do the same, but accept that it has to start with you. Get veeeeeery concrete about what’s not working in your relationship. Does your partner actually know what your resentments are about?
Make sure that by the end of this conversation you have both identified three behaviors that you want from each other. Each behavior needs to represent a goal for the other to work on that represents a form of love you’re looking for in the relationship.
Be specific about what you’re asking for. For example, don’t just say you want him to listen more to your needs. Instead, explain that when the night is winding down and you’re both on the couch, you’d like him to put his phone in another room, look at your face and repeat back to you what he heard you say after you’ve shared something heartfelt. (This is a loose version of the mirroring technique used in couples therapy.)
You both must leave this conversation with a full understanding of three goals to strive for (three target behaviors your partner wants you to work on that satisfy his or her needs in the relationship.)
3. Make a joint decision to have a weekly state of the union check-in. That’s right! Once a week, you and your partner have a non-negotiable discussion about how each of you is doing with the targeted behaviors outlined in Step Two.
Essentially, you each speak for 10 minutes UNINTERRUPTED and you listen to your partner talk as though your lives depend on hearing what he or she has to say.
The goal of your 10 minute monologue is to (a) share feedback with how your partner did with his or her commitment to the goals (be sure to reward the hell out of him or her for any success in getting what you asked for), (b) make adjustments to what you’ve requested from your partner, and (c) share what it was like to give your partner what he or she asked for.
After you both share, have a 10 minute joint conversation about the commitments (goals) and then DROP IT until next check-in. Seriously! If you can’t let it go for a week, then only couples therapy will help you.
See my post on this Check-in Ritual for more details on how to do this.
4. Commit to jointly reading at least three books on forgiveness and improving relationship problems. You can literally read the books to each other or have your own mini book club. Make sure you come up with a weekly time to talk about the books and set deadlines based on pages or chapters. Here’s some great recommendations to start with:
5. Practice the art of giving before receiving in as many arenas of your life as possible. This is a key to long-term success in relationships. If you feel like the world owes you something, then this commitment to giving before receiving needs to be upgraded to urgent.
Here are two harsh truths you must accept:
a. No one owes you anything.
b. You’ve trained everyone, including your partner, how to relate to you, so take responsibility for the ways you’ve created or contributed to emotional strain and distance with people you care (or once cared) about.
Once you embrace the mentality and practice of giving before receiving, you’ll feel different about your relationships, the world and life in general.
Please let me know how it goes by commenting below. I welcome your feedback.