Nancy and I went to an NBA game last night. It was a great game. Players on both teams played hard and seemed to give everything they had to give. Forty-eight minutes of great basketball. What was the motivation? Why did they play so hard? Both teams wanted to win, and at the end of the game there was only one way to determine the winner: the scoreboard. The score told me that my team won! I can’t imagine two teams playing that hard for that long only to get to the end of the game to find out there is no winner and no loser. Keeping score works great in sports. It is the reason to play the game.
But keeping score wreaks havoc in a marriage. I have counseled couples that seemed to be playing basketball instead of building an Awesome Marriage. They both were keeping score. Each one could tell me everything wrong their spouse did for as far back as I let them go. Each thought the other was the one in the wrong or the one more in the wrong. Theirs was a marriage of fighting to win day after day. Then there are marriages where only one keeps score and the other spouse feels they can never do anything right. All the problems in the marriage are cast as their fault.
So, what if you are stuck playing the game? Is there a way out? The answer is yes. It starts with accepting something that may be very difficult for you at first. Step one is simply acknowledging the fact that both of you will make mistakes in your marriage. At some point you will probably hurt each other emotionally. Neither of you is perfect. This is just the reality of being human. We will never be perfect. It really does not matter who makes the most mistakes since you both will make them. My experience is that over time, for most couples, the mistakes will balance out.
Now for step two. This step may seem even harder. When you do something wrong or that hurts your spouse, be quick to genuinely say that you are sorry. That’s right. Apologize, and the sooner the better. What if both of you were at fault? Then it doesn’t matter who steps up and apologizes first. Just say it—and say it quick! Now that the process of forgiveness is at work, you can work together to resolve the problem and to understand each other’s position. Keeping score leads to divorce, while working together as a team will strengthen and build your Awesome Marriage!