Sarah and John were just starting out in their new relationship. It had been a while since they had both been in a relationship. John’s last relationship ended due to being ill-treated and made to feel like he was less than the man than he thought he was. Sarah had been cheated on by her ex-boyfriend.
The first 6 months were amazing! They realised they had so much in common and conversations would go on for hours between them. Then one day Sarah noticed that John would talk about a couple of women who he would have lunch with at work. She felt that maybe there was more going on than he was telling her and that maybe he was trying to say that he had feelings for one of these women. John was quick to let her know that both women were happily married and that they were just friends and after a bit of a discussion Sarah was satisfied that John really did like her and wanted to be with her.
Several weeks later John was struggling to move some boxes out of a cupboard for Sarah, to which Sarah would remark that maybe she ‘needed a stronger man for these kind of jobs’. This was not what John wanted to hear, as he had been in this situation before and he stormed off and left Sarah to sort out the boxes herself. Sarah apologised profusely. It was just a joke and she meant nothing of it. John had realised that he had over reacted and also apologised.
Over the following months, Sarah and John’s relationship grew stronger and they decided to move in together. Like all relationships they had their disagreements. John would sometimes mention other women that he had met at work. He tried to not tell Sarah about these meetings, as he knew that she was insecure about this and it may cause an argument between the two of them. Sarah also noticed from time to time that John would do things she thought should be simple to resolve for a man. However she didn’t want to comment on it as she knew John didn’t like this and would keep her comments to herself.
18 months into the relationship John had a particularly stressful day. He decided he needed to go for a drink to wind down before heading home to Sarah. He asked his female colleagues if they would join him. John texted Sarah to let her know that he would be late and she was happy as there was a series on TV that she wanted to watch that she knew John didn’t really like it. John arrived home about 8pm and was feeling in a good mood and a little tipsy and let Sarah know that his day was stressful and he just wanted to wind down before coming home, so decided to have a couple of drinks with his female colleagues.
This is when the relationship scorecards came out!
This was not what Sarah wanted to hear. She told John that he was obviously interested in one of the woman and that to be honest she was looking for someone who was more of a man than he was. She then happily reeled off all the times that he had not lived up to her expectations. This was not what John wanted to hear either and he too was ready to remind Sarah of all the times that she had talked about other guys and the times when she didn’t do the things a woman should do for her man if she really loved him.
This story is a very common one. See whether we are conscious of it or not we keep scorecards of the things that have annoyed us about our partners. When our own fears are triggered we bring out the scorecard in defence to remind the other person of their own fears…. which itself gives them the opportunity to reciprocate with their scorecard.
What often happens is that resolution is found in the short term, though the scoring continues until the next time and the next time. This then hits the point that scorecards are full and it’s time to walk away as we can only see all the things that have triggered our fears in the other person and they are to blame and we keep asking ourselves…Why do we keep meeting the same man or woman, why me?!
I worked with a woman once who was emotionally abused in most of her relationships and she could not understand why this was the case. I asked her what the common dominator was in all those relationships for this to happen. Her reply was that men thought that they could treat her like dirt, because she always treated them so well and did everything for them. My response was that maybe the common denominator was her and that she had created relationships that allowed her to be emotionally abused as she was emotionally abusing herself. This triggered her fears further and she was happy to let me know that I was like all the other men in her life who just wanted to blame her for their problems.
I gave her space to think about what we had spoken about and a couple of days later we spoke again. She had time to reflect and as painful as it was to admit it to herself, she had been bemoaning and putting herself down for years. This had become a normal pattern for her and she could not see how this was being reflected back at her in her relationship until our conversation.
Over the following months we worked together to empower her to realise that how she was treating herself was the consequences of how she was being treated by men in relationships. She took ownership of this and started to change how she felt about and treated herself. Within a year she had met a man she is now happily married to, with two beautiful children.
See when we keep scorecards, we are not scoring the other persons faults, only our own. Once we realise this, we can stop scoring the faults and start scoring the things that we are changing in ourselves. These positive changes will then be reflected back at us in our relationships.