This is not a blog post that endorses the politically correct version of children’s sports. Regardless of how many times I tried to tell my son we were just playing t-ball for fun, he still wanted to know “who won?” after every game. But if I don’t depart from this introduction, I will wind up on my soap box.
This is a blog about a fatal flaw in an approach to motivating your spouse in marriage. Too often we resort to keeping score: how many times we had sex this month, how many more chores I do than you do, how many times we’ve gone on a date recently, how many times you’ve said “I love you” lately, or how few letters you’ve written me.
Marital neglect is a serious issue (not addressed here), but this motivational structure is used in marriages that are far from significant neglect. In this post, I would like to point out one major reason (there are many others) why this approach does not work.
That reason is our self-centeredness (do not read this as selfishness). We experience life from within our own body and consciousness. I am aware of everything I do and all the time, energy, and thought I put into those activities. I notice every unseen thing I do for my wife. I hear every unspoken fond thought I think about my wife.
Simply put, I score a lot of points my wife never knows I score. You can ask the deep philosophical questions “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” or “If a husband loves his wife in imperceptible ways, does it count?” if you like. But the point is, on MY scoreboard I should be winning. If I’m not winning on my scoreboard, then I am REALLY losing.
But my self-centeredness disrupts the process even further. When I am doing all of my perceptible and imperceptible nice things, I am generally in a good mood which positively influences my memory. However, when I am comparing my score with my wife’s (only perceptible to the degree that I am paying attention) score, I can often be in a disappointed mood which negatively influences my memory. Again, advantage me!
But there is more to my self-centeredness. In the midst of the already inequitable system, I will give more emotional credit to the things I like best. Personally, that means that a creative meal gets more points than an organized kitchen and a kiss-like-you-mean-it gets more points than my lunch being fixed every day.
There is a name for that – arbitrary, unequal scales. These things are merely my personal preference. Do I want my wife to understand my preferences and display love by putting forth effort at the things that are important to me? Sure. Do I have the right to grade my wife, her effort, and our marriage based upon a system that is defined exclusively by my preferences? Not really.
So what is the point of this little rant? The point is that we should be humble as we recognize how self-centeredly we experience and evaluate life. It is not an attack on personal preferences. It is merely a warning against allowing our preferences to become the definition of love. If we do this we will create such a “home field advantage” in our marriage that it will be difficult for us to ever experience contentment with our spouse.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Marriage” post which address other facets of this subject.