I was recently scrolling through posts in a Facebook group for one of my favorite podcasts, Forever 35 (if you’re not already listening to Kate and Doree every week — you should be. They’re your go-to for all things self-care.) And, on this particular day, one of the group members posed the question, “I’m moving in with my significant other this week. What’s the one piece of advice you offer to someone living with a partner for the first time?”
Never one to miss a chance to give relationship advice (hey, that’s why I’m here, right?!), I chimed in with my top piece of advice for anyone who lives with a partner — or even a roommate (seriously, almost all of this advice could also apply to a roommate dynamic!).
Stop Keeping Score
I knew it resonated when, the next day, I saw a new post from a different member. Married for many years and with two children, she referenced my comment directly. She said, “I read a comment on a post yesterday advising us to ‘stop keeping score.’ But, I’ve been keeping score for 15 years. How do I stop?!”
Well, she’s already got the first step down: realizing that you are keeping score. It’s a slippery slope in relationships. You took the trash out last Saturday. Your partner cleaned the bathroom — again. You booked the flights for that trip home to see his parents. Before you know it, you’re keeping a mental log of one point for me, one point for him, three more points for me — and meanwhile, you’re both growing increasingly resentful, feeling as if you’re the only one putting in 100 percent of the work.
Put Down the Scorebook and Remember, You’re a Team
So, how do you get past this cycle of letting resentment build? It takes effort and shifting your mindset. You put away the old habits of keeping track of who did what and you remind yourself, you’re a team.
Why did you and your partner get together in the first place? Mutual attraction, a similar sense of humor, but there was also probably a sense of “we complement each other.” You both bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table. That’s why you work, and that’s why a relationship will likely never be a 50/50 split.
Focus on Your Individual Strengths
You each have areas where you excel and where you care more. Schedules change and evolve and you may not always have time to put in the same level of effort as your partner, and vice versa. You adjust accordingly and focus on each other’s individual strengths for the benefit of the team, rather than nitpicking over who did what last.
I know that I’m an absolute neat freak. My husband is tidy, but if I expect him to put in the exact same level of attention to cleaning that I do, I’m going to end up disappointed and resentful. He’s far better at project management than I am, so he plans travel logistics and coordinates home repairs and maintenance. I work later into the evening, so he ends up cooking most nights. It’s all about give and take — without obsessing over whether it’s a perfectly even split.
Say Thank You
Realizing that relationships aren’t always 50/50 isn’t the end game here. Once you’ve stopped keeping score, remember to say thank you. Let your partner know that you see what they’re doing — and you appreciate it. No matter how mundane it might seem — unloading the dishwasher, picking up the dog from the vet — say thank you. Because, while it is a team effort, the best way to avoid resentment is to recognize and appreciate all the little things that you’re both doing each and every day.