Love Doesn’t Come With a Scorecard

couple holding hands
Photo: Getty

Have you ever had one of those friends who's more of a taker than a giver? The type who happily accepts drinks or dinner when someone else is buying, but who never stumps up on their own. Who never even offers? Usually, with this type of friend, you begin to keep score--"I've paid for dinner 'X' amount of times and they haven't paid once." And then, of course, what finally ends up happening is that you stop treating. Or maybe you just avoid that friend altogether.

While it's not a great idea to keep score in these situations--generosity, after all, isn't meant to be an even-handed contract--it's especially bad when you do it with your partner. And I don't mean keeping score over who treats for dinner, I mean keeping score in general. Because when you do, what will happen is you'll either feel like you are owed something, or that you're in debt, figuratively speaking. And nothing good will come of either of those.

Seriously, if you want to trace to the beginning of when a lot of relationships go off the rails, it's when at least one person in it begins to think that things haven't transpired fairly. He always gets what he wants, and I never get anything. She won't ever do what I want to do. These types of thoughts are the seeds of resentment, ones that will one day flower into outright hostility. The simple fact is, when you're in relationship, you have to give well past the point of being comfortable. And even more than that, you have to give without expecting anything in return.

Granted, there are times when selfishness from your partner needs to be addressed. But the truth is, in most instances you have to throw any thoughts of what you “deserve" right out the window. This is life, kid. And in life you don't deserve anything. Which is a pretty difficult concept to comprehend, especially here in America. All our lives we're pummeled with marketing, with anecdotal wisdom, that says we deserve the best. But it just isn't true. If it was, then no one on this planet would be starving. And sadly, a whole lot of good people are.

Ultimately we have to approach life, especially life in a relationship, with reckless generosity. Think about it this way: giving is the only thing you can control. You certainly can't control what other people will give you. And trying to do so will only mean anger, fear, and disappointment. But if all you care about is giving, and don't give two winks for receiving, then you'll always be in control. And hopefully you'll end up in a relationship where both parties are recklessly generous. Which sounds like a pretty solid situation to be in.

I'm not saying it will be easy. In fact, given that it goes against most of our programing, it's going to be pretty damn hard. But when it comes to your partner at least, never think about what you're owed. Only think about what you'll give.