We all like to feel appreciated.
Sometimes though, as you and your partner go about the banality of day-to-day life, you may begin to feel like your needs are going unmet.
Keisha recently lost her job, so she has been spending a lot of time at home.
Her girlfriend Clarissa works six long shifts a week, and her job sometimes spills over into her personal time.
Clarissa’s work schedule has put a strain on her relationship with Keisha.
They barely have any time to see each other, and Keisha is beginning to feel neglected.
Keisha recently came across our Communication Style Quiz and thought it would be an excellent first step for the couple to try and understand each other better.
If you’re in Keisha’s situation and your partner is the main breadwinner, you may be doing all the cooking, cleaning, and errands just to feel like you’re contributing.
Or maybe, like Clarissa, you feel your partner is lazy because they spend all their time at home instead of going out to look for a job.
It’s easy to start keeping score in a relationship.
It may feel as though you’re the one putting in all the work to support your partnership — and they’re just along for the ride.
Caught Up in the Point System
If you and your partner continuously find yourselves keeping score, it might be a sign your relationship is in trouble.
Through our research at the Gay Couples Institute, we’ve identified that couples who use the point system are almost always in an ailing relationship.
Keisha’s recent job loss has led to the couple keeping score.
Their most recent argument was about how many times Clarissa has been the one to pick a movie to watch.
“We’ve watched your movie the last five times we’ve stayed home,” Keisha yelled.
Keisha feels as though they only do things that make Clarissa happy because she’s the one paying all the bills.
If you’re in Keisha’s shoes, and you feel like your partner is calling all the shots, read on to find a solution.
For Keisha, a little empathy from Clarissa would mean the world to her.
Clarissa, tired and stressed from working all the hours God sends, may not be able to find it in her heart to empathize with Keisha’s plight at the moment.
It is essential for the couple to start communicating about their feelings.
Keisha should explain to Clarissa that having a partner’s support when she is at her lowest is an essential component of a relationship for her.
For most couples, taking care of an unwell partner or having their back when they are going through a tough time contributes to their emotional bank account.
Balancing the Value System
It can be challenging to balance the values you need in a partner against the compromises they’re will make to ensure you both lead happy, successful lives.
For instance, you may want a financially stable partner with a good, secure job. So, what happens if they lose that job?
In the seventies, psychologists regarded relationships as contracts. Partners had to give in order to get.
This theory has since been disproven.
From our work with thousands of successful couples, we’ve discovered that healthy relationships are all about giving — not keeping a tally of who’s giving the most.
When you and your partner give your all, you develop a healthy, trusting relationship.
The need to keep score evaporates, and you both give freely in the knowledge that your partner is sacrificing just as much, if not more than you.
Maintaining the Reciprocal Atmosphere Long-Term
When you build reciprocity as a couple, you create an atmosphere of giving without expecting something in return.
Here are some strategies to stop yourself from keeping score in your relationship.
- Take your partner’s temperature.
Successful couples touch base regularly.
Take a moment to check how things are going and what your partner needs from you.
- Make a ritual of it.
At the Gay Couples Institute, our most successful couples make it a weekly ritual to check in with one another. We created an exercise called State of the Union to help other couples implement this process in their relationship.
- Catch your partner doing something right.
It’s easy to focus on what’s going wrong. Happy couples emphasize the good at a ratio of five to one; for every one complaint, there are five things they appreciate.
When you ask your partner things like, “How can I be a better partner for you?” it inspires them to give you their best in return.
Giving without expecting something in return allows couples to create a solid foundation and gives the relationship structure to work around.
Most of the successful couples who have taken part in our program maintain this weekly conversation many years into their relationship.
If you want to see things improve in your relationship, tell us about it HERE.
Help us design our next course, created exactly for your situation.
If you could ask an expert in gay relationships any question, what would it be?
We’d love to hear from you!
Sam & Alapaki
ABOUT SAM GARANZINI, LMFT, LPCC, and ALAPAKI YEE, LMFT
Sam Garanzini and Alapaki Yee are Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapists and the co-founders of the Gay Couples Institute – the world’s only gay and lesbian couples counseling clinic. The Gay Couples Institute has locations in Northern California and Manhattan, as well as online counseling services available.
For more information about how the Gay Couples Institute can help you, please visit: www.gaycouplesinstitute.org