Keep Score

Tip #4: Keep Score

According to the 1 Corinthians 13:5, love is not self-seeking and keeps no record of wrongs.

The Highly Happy couples I interviewed for my book, Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, taught me, however, that the best marriages do actually keep score – just not in the way you might be thinking! You see, the couples who became the most happy – including many who had at one time been miserable — told me they subconsciously always were keeping track of what their spouses were giving. As a result, one spouse was so aware of what they owed the other, and that helped them to let go and not keep a record of their spouses’ wrongs.

These couples see how much their mates do for them and make an effort to compensate in some way. And this was particularly relevant during seasons when one spouse was having a particularly difficult go of it at work, or with the kids, or whatnot. It was almost a feeling of “Wow, he has been logging so many hours on the construction site, and these new project managers are causing him so much stress! How can I make things easier for him for the next two weeks until the project is done? Maybe I’ll bring him a dinner onsite every few days, so he doesn’t have to worry about getting home for dinner and can relax a bit.”

As a result of keeping score of what their spouse is giving, those “I’ll bring him dinner”-type actions were coming out of the heart instead of out of a sense of duty. And they certainly didn’t come with a sense of “aren’t I doing something so wonderful for him?” Because they originated from a sincere awareness of how much the other person was giving during that time.

A friend of mine refers to this give-and-take as the Canoe Theory of Marriage. Picture a husband and wife paddling across a lake. When one paddler is paddling so hard it tips the canoe to the right, the other paddler compensates by tipping more to the left… so they don’t tip over.

Sure, there are some spouses who are just 100% lazy and selfish, but those are by far the minority. In almost every marriage, there are things each partner is doing that are worth noticing and which will make you want to “give back” – once you do notice it! It turns out that keeping score in that way and paying that generosity forward will keep that healthy cycle going indefinitely.

It might take some practice, but that’s OK. I promise you this is one skill you will be grateful you learned!

Join us tomorrow to learn how to control your feelings, instead of letting THEM control YOU.

From Chapter 4 of The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, by Shaunti Feldhahn.

Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage. A Harvard-trained social researcher and speaker, her findings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Shaunti speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and corporate events. (Inquire about Shaunti speaking, or visit for more.)

Image credit: “Couple paddles a canoe with Morro Rock in the background” by Michael Baird is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Welcome to Marriage Month! From June 5 to July 4, join us here in the Christian Post Book Corner as I share my top findings on the little, eye-opening things that make a big difference in creating great marriages and relationships. Today’s post is one of a series on what makes happy marriages so happy, based on nationally-representative research with more than 1,000 couples.

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  1. I have and will always appreciate your messages and i have been teaching the couples at church,please continue.Zambia

  2. Thank you for writing this. It is such good thinking! Adding to the thought on spouses who don’t pull their weight. Laziness or self-centered thinking may seem to be the cause, but it could be feelings of inadequacy or failure. Self-focus and laziness can still be supporting/protecting the inadequacy. Either way, a heart turned to God that focuses on speaking and giving blessing may well be a much needed healing balm. Strength upon strength may be built up as our spouse finds we are not in a tizzy over a perceived issue but are calmly pressing into God. Easy, eventually it is much much easier. Self-preservation is ALWAYS a ton of work and doesn’t leave much room for unity.

    Again, thank you Shaunti! Praising God for you, your work, and the tools in our toolbox!

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