One of the first memories I think of when I reflect back upon my childhood includes learning how to keep score at a baseball game. In the middle of all the sights and sounds of a major league baseball game and park, I remember sitting in our seats with one of my friends and his dad, learning how to keep score. I learned the ‘number’ of each position (i.e. 1 for pitcher, 5 for third base), how to mark in the scorebook the difference between a strike out and a fly out, and how to ‘fill in the diamond’ when my team scored a run.
The score of the game was on the big screen right in front of all of our eyes, yet there was something really cool about keeping score in my own program. It’s not that I didn’t trust the professional scorekeepers at the game or anything like that, but I enjoyed the process of keeping tabs on my team’s runs, hits, and errors.
In marriage, we also like to keep score. Except instead of scoring runs, hits, and errors, we tend to keep track of all the things we do well (hit a home run) and all the things our spouse does wrong (strike outs). In other words, we take note of the number of times we change the baby’s diaper or make dinner for the family. Perhaps we take notice of the number of times we choose to deny ourselves, while also noting the number of times our spouse indulges in a purchase outside of the budget.
We may not have an actual scorebook like we do at the ballpark, but we keep a running tally in our heads of the score of our marriage. Here are 3 reasons why scorekeeping is a bad practice in marriage
1. Keeping score in marriage never helps a married couple grow in oneness
In marriage, the husband and wife become one flesh. I don’t know exactly how the Lord does this, but in a mysterious way, the two become one (Ephesians 5:31-32). Therefore, what happens to one spouse affects the other. When we keep score, we think we gain the upper hand against our spouse, when in reality we cannot keep score without directly affecting ourselves. It is impossible to grow in oneness when we keep track of the wrongs of our spouse.
Solution: Take note of the times when your spouse serves you. Focus on the positive instead of keeping score of the negatives.
2. Keeping score in marriage never works because our vision is impaired. We’re not accurate in our scorekeeping.
We tend to be very effective in keeping track of our own successes, while ignoring or minimizing our failures. The opposite holds true with our spouse, where we minimize the wins and magnify where they mess up or fall short. We have a vision problem and cannot see the full picture clearly. Therefore, when we keep score, we make errors all over the scoresheet, and the score typically leans in our favor.
Often, we have a big plank sticking out of our eye that distorts our perception of the other person’s speck (Matthew 7:3-5). The plank prevents us from seeing things clearly.
Solution: Get your vision checked. Before you look for the negative in your spouse and in their behaviors, take an accurate look at your own tendencies and motives in marriage.
3. Keeping score in marriage is against the central message of the Gospel.
Many/all of us have heard Paul’s famous love passage in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (most often at weddings). Tucked in the middle of this passage in verse 5, Paul teaches us that love “keeps no record of wrongs.” In its original Greek form, this phrase literally means love does not think about or take notice of the wrongs someone else does.
In the same way, just as God in Christ does not ‘reckon our sins against us’ (2 Corinthians 5:19), the one who loves does not take notice of all the evil/wrong done by their spouse. In other words, the one who loves does not keep score. The Psalmist writes, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). As one who is forgiven in Christ, we are to forgive the sins of the other, meaning we don’t keep a record of their sins against us (Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:32).
Marriage calls us to sacrifice for the betterment of our spouse and for the sake of our marriage. We are challenged to put the other’s needs before our own (Philippians 2:3-4) and we have the opportunity to give up something we might even be entitled to for the sake of our marriage. When we keep score, we put our needs first as we think instead of how our spouse can give something up for our own betterment. We think in terms of reciprocity, taking turns, and ‘you scratch my back, then I’ll scratch yours.’ This mentality flies in the face of selfless, sacrificial, giving, agape love.
Solution: Remember the Gospel and the fact that through Jesus, your sins are paid for and are not held against you. Go and do likewise with your spouse.
I did a little bit of online research before writing this article. I found several articles from secular sites encouraging couples to keep track of the score to make sure you get what you deserve and your spouse gets what they deserve. And many of these sites had plenty of hits, shares, and affirming comments. A good reminder for me and you… make sure you take your wisdom from reliable sources. Make sure your counsel is grounded in God’s Word, not in worldy, popular advice. For what it’s worth, when you see my counsel on this site grounded in Scott’s opinion rather than rooted in God’s Word, please just close the window in your browser and move on… Be careful whose wisdom you follow.
How’s your vision? Do you see things accurately, or do you tend to elevate your good and minimize your bad, while minimizing the good of your spouse and elevating their bad?
Discuss with your spouse ‘scorekeeping.’ Ask how you can work together to grow your marriage instead of focusing on the areas where you each fall short.
Take note of the good things your spouse does for you. Let them know you see the good they’re doing.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons on Flickr, Adam Fagen.