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Stop Keeping Score in Relationships and Start Taking Care of Each Other

Loving Couple

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ~Desmond Tutu

I was recently at the grocery store, and not once, but twice, I encountered couples practically duking it out in the aisles. I mean, full on snit-fits happening here. One pair was so mad, the woman actually walked in the opposite direction down the aisle, her five- or six-year-old in tow.

Totally productive, right?

The other pair was fighting because the husband couldn't decide which milk to get. His wife was trying to hurry him up, and finally he said, in the most frustrated voice ever, “Can't I take a minute to decide??” Needless to say, she got upset, while he stood in front of the milk case, fuming.

This is what frequently happens in grocery stores.

I used to drag my husband to the store with me on the weekends, thinking that it was some sort of household couple karma—I wash the dishes/you pay the bills; I do the laundry/you feed the dog every day; we both hit the grocery store once a week. One for one. Tit for tat. A leveling of the scales, and, if I'm honest, a somewhat misdirected homage to feminism in the household.

But what I found is that not every chore is equal, and that's okay. What I feel to be a difficult chore may be easy for my husband, and what I find to be fun or at least tolerable, he would rather walk across hot coals than do. So it is with grocery shopping.

Every time we went together, it required hours of mental preparation:

“When do you want to go to the grocery store?” My mantra. Every weekend.

“Never.”

“That's not an option. How about in an hour?”

“Fine,” said in a somewhat snarky twelve-year-old voice.

Every time, this conversation. And every time, an hour would come and go, and I'd be waiting around, ready to go, while he was sitting on pins and needles waiting for me to come and nag about it.

Not pretty. Not good for our relationship. So I decided if he really doesn't want to go, then I really don't want to make him.

The grocery store is already a high stimulus environment—BUY THIS! LOW FAT! NATURAL! HONEST! The shelves are practically screaming and my synapses are firing on full-blast as I try to navigate between product displays and random children.

I'm already apologizing to people every time I almost run someone over turning the corner; do I need to be feeling bad about dragging my husband along as well?

To be fair, we never actually had a full-on fight in (or about) the grocery store—thank goodness. But it was never an easy, comfortable time. There was always mutual resentment, and who needs that?

Not me. Not my husband. Not anyone.

Besides, when he's not there, I get to linger. I spend time looking at the ingredient lists and nutrition labels. I come up with ideas, make plans, and buy special snacks. It becomes an adventure, not a chore.

Sometimes it isn't about equality. Sometimes it's about taking care of each other. I do what my husband doesn't like to do, and vice versa, so that when we're together, it's about us, and not about how many chores the other person has completed.

There's no scoreboard, only gratitude.

Divide and conquer. And save your marriage, relationship, friendship, or partnership. Serve the other by doing what they hate to do. Take out the trash. Go by the bank. Do the dishes.

It isn't a favor to cash in at a later date (though it's always nice when it's reciprocated). It's an honest-to-goodness foot-washing of the 21st century.

To be clear, I’m not advocating for you to do everything for your partner. That would be unfair. There should still be a feeling of balanced support in any relationship. But at the end of the day, caring for one another in a balanced way is not the same thing as keeping score.  

We want to feel that we can lean on our partners when we need to, as much as they can lean on us. And that makes for one powerful relationship.

Of course, if you and your partner love to shop together, by all means, keep it up! Even when it's just folding laundry, it feels good to do things together. Even though we no longer grocery shop as a couple, my husband and I do a lot of other chores together—not because we're made to, but because we want to.

And more power to every couple who can work side by side. Just remember that it's not the only way to get things done. I swear to all things delicious, I don't totally love going to the grocery store. I probably never will.

But I do love doing something kind for my husband every week. It's that simple.

Loving couple image via Shutterstock

About Valerie Nilson

Valerie Nilson is a writer, yogi, wife, and wanderer. You can read more of her writing at www.IntentionDaily.com. Valerie believes that everyone deserves to be wildly happy. To get a set of free writing prompts aimed at helping you find your bliss, click here.

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  • It’s so silly how sometimes takes us so long to figure out this!. But once we get it life becomes simpler!, although it’s not always easy Thanks for sharing!

  • @Penguin Life Hacks – So true! I always have this little ego-voice saying, “But…. if I have to do it, he should have to, too! It’s not fair!!” My ego is such a little brat sometimes. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  • Ángel

    Thanks for the advise, I really needed it.
    The people that post in tinybuddha.com
    You’re the real mvp.

  • @Angel, glad it helped!

  • Great post. We’ve also found that the grocery store is not a place that we should necessarily go together. We shop differently. He likes a complete list, and will get everything on it. I will take a list, but want to see what else I might “need” while I’m there, what food might inspire me. So, we finally compromised. He will go for me when I ask him to and give him a list; otherwise, I do most of the grocery shopping and I get to do it on my time and the way I like.

  • Thanks for sharing, @Julie Ryan! I think it’s so great when we can notice how our partners are different, and choose to act accordingly. Sounds like a great system you have there! =)

  • milworker

    Great article