My last piece was about a broad description of a healthy marriage. Today’s is about one of my top practical rules: Don’t Keep Score
Don’t keep score against other marriages. You have no idea what goes on in somebody else’s marriage, no matter what you think you know. Do their facebook photos look like a perfect family? Doesn’t mean a thing. Do they seem to bicker way more than you ever could? None of your business. This road can only lead to envy or pride.
Don’t keep score against your parents’ marriage. First, see above. You don’t know your parents marriage. You think you do because you lived in the house with them but you still don’t know what went on in private. For another thing, children are the most self centered people on the planet. They only notice things as they apply to them and from their own perspective. Think about the difference between road trips when you were in the back of the van and when you started sitting up front. As children we just all magically arrived at our destination after a more or less fun adventure with all the things we needed.
As a mom it’s days of laundry and organization before and after and the sound of shrill kid voices drilling into your brain on hour eight in the car. Getting four children in and out of a gas station bathroom solo: nightmare. Finally, your parents have decades more experience in marriage than you. You don’t know what their marriage looked like when they started out. They’ve put a lot of work in since then. You will too. Relax.
Don’t keep score against the marriage you imagined. I imagined getting up every morning with my spouse, sitting across the table staring deeply into each other’s eyes as we discussed the coming day, and then handing him a delicious homemade lunch in a paper sack. I did not imagine punching him in the arm after the third round of alarm/snooze to make sure he doesn’t miss getting to work. I didn’t imagine buying him a Keurig because any other coffee making device took too much time and brain power in the morning.*
I did not imagine losing all our Tupperware in the first month of marriage because I sent it to work with him, only to find he was really just as happy to eat from the squadron kitchens. Presumably Mike did not imagine needing to learn all about depression when he got married, or having a wife who turns mildly psychotic at 11 pm every night. Let it go. I didn’t imagine, I couldn’t have imagined, all the amazing things that make this work either. It’s better than anything I could have imagined. Messier, yes. Certainly more of a work in progress, but definitely better.
Most importantly, don’t keep score between spouses. Some days you feel like you are doing more than your fair share. Some days it feels like you aren’t pulling your weight. When we first got married we tried to make sure everything was even, equal, fair. Now we’ve embraced the idea that marriage is all about injustice and we’re both much happier. My husband is a terrible morning person. It doesn’t matter what time he wakes up, he will be a bear for at least an hour. Therefore, I do mornings. Barring some extreme circumstance I get up every weekend and holiday morning and get the kids situated, waking him an hour or two later. It’s really really unfair.
On the other hand, I accomplish anything I accomplish in the first half of the day. Many days, most days, Mike gets home from a long day’s work and finds I haven’t even come up with a dinner idea. He cheerfully gets down to cooking. It’s completely unfair.
One of the readings we chose for our wedding was Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, including the rather controversial “wives be subject to your husbands” line. Personally it has never bothered me one bit. In fact, I love it, along with the lines that follow it.
22 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.28 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; 33 however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
How did Christ love the church? By laying down his very life for her. By subjecting himself to scourging, crowning with thorns, being paraded through the streets in disgrace and being hung on cross and pierced by a spear all to open heaven to her. So if I am trying to be subject to someone who is trying to sacrifice everything for me, it becomes a race for the bottom instead of a competition to come out on top.** No point in score keeping then. We’re over it. As long as you’re ensuring everything works out evenly, there’ll be a chip on your shoulder or a cloud of guilt over your head. If you both decide to greet every injustice by embracing it and doing what you can, things do somehow balance in terms of the big picture. When you give up the quest for a tie, you both come out winners.
* When we completed our marriage counselling questionnaires before our wedding there was one thing the priest pointed out as a problem “It says here she is a morning person and he is a night person. This is going to cause trouble”. We laughed. We should not have laughed.
**Which really brings us straight back around to Marriage Part 1, which maybe should have been Part 2 then, but at least this way it’s in keeping with the circular theme.