Written by Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott
This article is courtesy of HomeLife.
Q. My husband and I work hard to share everything equally as husband
and wife. We try to split household chores and make sure if one of
us buys something new, the other one is next. We've been married two
years, though, and our fifty-fifty plan is no longer holding up. Any
A. Scorekeeping is for athletic contests, not marriages. Yet many
couples, deciding that marriage should ideally be a fifty-fifty
proposition, fall into the habit of tallying up each other's
contributions to the marriage. They split resources, weigh portions,
and count privileges. They believe that keeping track of who gets
what, does what, and has what will help them achieve a more balanced
partnership and a more fair share in the costs and benefits of
running a home.
But in reality, scorekeeping destroys emotional intimacy because
it's a subtle way of drawing marital battle lines. You may decide
that you want to be equal in all things, but you'll end up being
unhappy marital accountants, more concerned with being ripped off
than growing together. Instead of "sweet nothings," you'll hear
things like, "You got to choose last time," "It's only fair that
… ," and "I thought we had a deal." These are not the sounds of a
loving marriage. The longer this fifty-fifty game is played, the
more complex it gets as each of you discovers different expectations
and measures contributions by different standards.
Regardless of how it starts, scorekeeping in marriage isn't just a
division of labor; it's about power, a need for love and
appreciation, and other emotional issues.
When marriage is built on a fifty-fifty proposition, both partners
eventually feel they're being cheated of their presumed rights. It's
far better to give each other the benefit of the doubt when you can
and to talk openly about what you're feeling and needing. If your
husband is spending more money than you are, talk about it. There
may be a good reason.
And if there isn't, your discussion can serve as the impetus for
reining in the spending. The point is that you can build a happier
marriage by putting away your score cards and talking about your
feelings and needs.
Try these steps for breaking free from scorekeeping:
First, have a calm, frank discussion with your husband about your expectations and
disappointments. Talk honestly about the situations where you're
most tempted to keep score. Be clear about your feelings so that he
knows what matters most to you.
Then, release your desire to have your husband meet all your needs.
It's not possible. No person can meet all your needs, no matter how
strategic, compromising, or egalitarian. Ultimately, only God can
meet your needs.
Finally, work on submitting your needs to your husband instead of
looking out only for yourself. This takes effort, but it's the only
way to build a true partnership.
Only you can set the criteria for what's important in your marriage.
You may see other couples who measure everything in more-equal
shares, but don't let that influence your desire to work as one.
Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are co-directors of the Center for
Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University and the
authors of many best-selling books, including Saving Your Marriage
Before It Starts and Love Talk. Visit their Web site to find their
national speaking schedule and their online marriage assessment at