Do you keep a love scorecard? Or does someone you are in a relationship with, or a friend keeping score of what you are doing right, what you are doing wrong, what they did for you, and what you didn’t do for them? Are they measuring how much attention you gave them, versus how much affection or time they got in return? Do they demand you repay them for every kind word, or a seemingly thoughtful act? Is that person you?
I am not going to stamp a label on people like that. We all know that kind of loving is wrong, and it’s not love at all. Love is based on freedom, and free expression of our own level of love for all people. It is about allowing the other person to show us how they love. It is feeling free to love on our own terms without pressure to conform to the other person’s expectations.
I bought you an expensive birthday gift, now you owe me some respect. I forgave you last week, so now you owe me some cuddle time. I took care of you when you were sick, now you owe me a get-out-of-jail-free card. Tit for tat. I give you, you pay me back. That kind of arrangement (because it is not a healthy relationship) is a trap. It is about others serving our needs and rewarding them with tokens. Except, how can we measure other people’s attention, affection or time?
You will never have your needs met by a person whose job you think it is to love you how you see fit, and vice versa. Expressions of love are an act of kindness, not a duty or an obligation. The minute you make it the other person’s obligation to relate to you on your terms they will disappoint you. Those kinds of relationships are exhausting for all of us, and they bring misery and very little joy to people who know they can love much better. They are primitive, immature, contrived.
My ex used to measure every one of my transgressions silently, but very methodically. Each time he did something nice for me, like spend time with my friends, he expected that I pay him with a never-agreed-upon sum that only he could accurately calculate in his own head. The sum of what I owe him was always a mystery to me. There was never an agreement that if he spends time with my friends, I would owe him something, if there was such a discussion, I would never have incurred the debt. I would have easily left him at home and enjoyed a night out on my own. I didn’t even know that the night with my friends was unpleasant for him, yet days later, I would find out that I haven’t adequately compensated him for the favor. One day I would get the silent treatment, so I’d leave him alone. The next day, more silent treatment, so I would leave him alone. I know when someone is being passive aggressive and when I am about to be manipulated into something, so I disconnect. I don’t chase, I don’t pester to find out how can I please you? If you want to shut me out, go for it. Finally, five days later he would explode and demand to know why I am not concerned that he is not talking to me. Dude, you are a grown up, you know how to speak up and communicate like an adult. If something is bothering you, it is on you to communicate it. And then the drama would start. You didn’t call me. You didn’t spend time with me. I did everything for you but you did nothing for me. What did you do for me? I spent time with your friends.
Don’t fall into that trap. Doing nice things for people, then demanding emotional compensation is manipulation. We shouldn’t have to compensate people for kindness nor for being in a relationship with us. Kindness comes out of the goodness of our hearts, and willingness to share ourselves with others. There is no price tag for kindness.
If someone is billing you for good behavior, kindness, affection, or time, run! Anyone who is keeping a relationship scorecard is simply weighing every gram of flesh you are willing to sacrifice for them. You shouldn’t have to pay with your soul just to be in a relationship.
Friendships can be just as toxic as love. Since to most people friendships are less urgent, they waste more energy trying to maintain romantic relationships. So when a friend is keeping score, we dismiss it as annoying. Recently, a friend asked within our group if anyone would be willing to lend him a spare car for a couple of weeks. He was moving out of the country, selling off all his stuff, and needed some wheels while he closed out his life. A mutual friend offered him her car and asked for nothing in return. There was no money exchanged. Imagine his surprise to start receiving texts from her a week later, listing all her grievances. You don’t hang out with me, you never call, you could have invited me to that NYE party. Huh? He didn’t realize that borrowing her car meant he would be her escort. He promptly returned the car, not wanting to cause drama. But the drama continued. She kept insisting he could still have the car, all she wanted was some time, and consideration from him. This is how we fall into situational traps where one person does something nice for the other, then demands whatever payback that can temporarily fulfill them.
Relationship scorekeepers are a drain. You will never do enough for them to make them feel warm, fuzzy or satisfied. They are empty people with gaping holes in their lives, and instead of filling those holes themselves they get you to do it for them. The signature phrase all relationship score keepers use is “You owe me”. The sum of what you owe them is never reasonable, it is always above and beyond what you are willing to do for them. Relationships with scorekeepers feel like a burden. They don’t feel good, nor equal, nor loving, because the scorekeeper is always weighing how many grams of flesh you are willing to slice off for them. Eventually, you’ll be missing a limb, there simply will never be enough of you to keep them from starving. Run.
My advice is if you keep a relationship scorecard with anyone, learn to let people off the hook. It is wrong to give for the sake of getting something in return, just give as much as feels good to you. If other people don’t return in equal measure, appreciate them anyway. Allow people to be who they are, and give to you what feels good to them. Honor what they gave you, no matter how little. Treat their time, their attention, and their gifts as a treasure. Cure yourself or train yourself from keeping a love and relationship scorecard. You’ll see, your relationships will be much healthier once you give people a break.