Yes, Keep Score

Posted on January 3, 2013 by

Anyone who has been married  more than a decade can appreciate that even the worst marriages have good years and the best marriages have crap years. Life is far less linear and far more messy than we often allow for in Internet discussions.

In my marriage, 2012 was as close to a golden year as any we’ve experienced in our nearly 19 years of matrimony. That isn’t to say that there were no conflicts or disagreements. No, we had those. The difference was one of keeping score. I learned nearly 8 years ago the value of keeping score in my marriage, and it has made all the difference. I frequently encourage other wives to keep a score card as well.

Because 1 Corinthians 13 admonishes us that love keeps no record of wrongs, we have become accustomed to viewing keeping score in a relationship as in inherent negative. I challenge you to reconsider that idea. If you can keep a record of wrongs, does it not follow that you can keep a record of what is right?

Conventional wisdom dictates that over time the spark of a new relationship must give way to the mundane existence that comes with being very familiar with one another. I don’t deny the truth of this. A long term marriage does not have the same level of excitement and infatuation that comes with the discovery which characterizes a new relationship.

However, this shift is not what causes marriages to die. It’s our ingrained tendency to take for granted those things and people closest to us. We are perpetual malcontents and the only way to avoid allowing this evil trait to infect our relationships is to actively fight against it. This conscious action will revolutionize almost any marriage. Living intentionally is work however, so commit to vanquishing the comfort of mental and physical laziness.

The great thing about this exercise is that it’s easy once you get the hang of it. You already love your husband, you married him, and you can easily think of several of his most complimentary features; physically, relationally, and practically. The problem isn’t that he has no great qualities*. The problem is that you’ve become mentally and emotionally lazy, not to mention selfish.

Lazy, self-centered minds find faultfinding easy to do. The path of least resistance almost always takes us exactly where we do not need to go. In this case, it takes us to a stale marriage. In the most extreme case, it cause wives to assume a perfectly good marriage is broken because they’ve spent years rehearsing their husband’s faults to the exclusion of all else. As Christians, we are called to a higher standard:

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8

Unequivocally: It is sinful to rehearse as a matter of habit, those things that are untrue, ignoble, unjust, impure, ugly, or of bad report. To meditate solely on that which is sinful or unworthy of praise, particularly with regard to the man we have vowed to help, submit and do good all the days of our life is a violation of Scripture.

So how do you do it? Easy. Pay attention. I was surprised at how much attention I wasn’t paying to my husband several years ago. I took for granted his good looks because I’d grown accustomed to looking at his face. I’m ashamed to admit this, but it was actually a cashier at a grocery store who reminded me as I left the store after my husband, who had walked ahead. “Is that your husband? He’s really handsome”, she said. How had I forgotten that?

I forgot it the same way I’d forgotten how rare it is  today to meet a man like mine, who can fix just about anything he puts his hand to. I have written here about my appreciation for men who build engines, tackle their own plumbing jobs, and know the difference between a monkey wrench, a box wrench, and a pipe wrench. You’d be surprised at the numbers of men who don’t. So when my husband put a new transmission in his car, I helped however I could and took care to note how sexy it is that he can do that.

I have even learned to appreciate the blessing it is to be told “no”, when I’d rather hear “yes”. To be thankful that my husband cares enough about me and our family to stop me from doing foolish things. That one doesn’t usually kick in immediately. Like anyone, I want to have my way, but after I get my bearings and think through his reasons for the decision he made, I almost always feel grateful rather than angry.

Everywhere we turn, we are being bombarded with the message that something is missing. If our feelings are in anyway restless or discomforted, we’re told we need to blame something or someone. If we’re married, 9 times out of 10 we’re encouraged subtly and not so subtly to blame our husbands. Blame them for not giving us what we need. Blame them for not giving us what we want. Blame them because we are simply ungrateful and vile so even that must be their fault.
Our “friends” and family members perpetuate the nonsense.

Misery lives company and there’s no money to be made from contentment, so consider the source when you seek advice diagnosing “problems” in your relationship. Better yet, consult Scripture and practice keeping score using Philippians 4:8 as your scorecard. It’s the best prescription for reinvigorating a marriage that I have ever run across.

As a (wo)man thinketh…

*gratuitous caveat: Even if a husband had no good qualities, which is very highly unlikely, the obligation to obey Scripture regarding our vows and behavior is not negated. My thoughts on that should go without saying but you can’t be too careful around these parts.