I heard a story the other day that was a great reminder about what not to do in relationships.
The story was about a husband and wife who frequently got into arguments about who changed the toilet paper more.
They were both convinced that they changed the toilet paper way more than the other.
The wife, in an effort to get to the bottom of things – and to prove herself right – started keeping track.
Every time she changed the toilet paper, she put the empty cardboard role in a garbage bag. Eventually, she had a bag full of cardboard roles.
One day, she got her chance to prove herself to her husband.
They started to get into their usual argument, with both of them asserting that they were the Superior Toilet Paper Changer.
But she had proof!
Victorious, she pulled out her garbage bag full of roles and emptied it onto the floor.
As her husband stared at all the empty cardboard roles, he was astonished.
From his state of astonishment, he uttered two words.
What were those words?
Granted, this probably wasn’t the nicest thing he’d ever said to his wife.
But he had a point.
Which brings me to the first thing not to do in relationships:
1. Don’t keep score
Keeping score is for sports events, not relationships.
When we’re keeping score, we’re watching to make sure the other person is giving their “fair share” before we give ours.
This kind of thinking blocks love. It blocks intimacy.
One great way to let go of the keeping-score mentality is to change your thinking about what you’re bringing into the relationship.
If you think each person is bringing 50%, you’re more likely to be constantly monitoring where you each stand on this percentage.
If you, instead, shift to the idea of each bringing 100%, then keeping score gets thrown out the window.
Bring all of yourself to the relationship.
To all of your relationships.
100% of your love.
100% of your attention.
100% of your compassion.
Now, you’re in a relationship that’s 1000% better than one where both partners are eyeing the other, waiting to give until they make sure they get their “fair share.”
Our toilet paper friends help illustrate another point, one that leads us to the second thing not to do in relationships.
2. Don’t lost sight of what you’re really arguing about
It’s never about the toilet paper.
Or the toothpaste cap. Or who takes out the garbage.
It’s always about deeper stuff.
Stuff like fear and vulnerability. Stuff that’s hard to talk about.
So toilet paper and toothpaste caps act as poor substitutes for the real issues that are getting in the way of true intimacy.
In order to discover what those issues are, you need two key factors:
Time and Honesty.
Time to talk it out. Time to figure out what’s underneath the anger and frustration about the “toilet paper” and “toothpaste caps.”
And honesty to be truthful about what all that hidden stuff is.
If you really want to use Time and Honesty to full effect, there’s nothing better than “I” statements.
“I” statements are trickier than they seem.
In the middle of a difficult discussion, “You” statements (“You should listen better,” “You should stop doing X, Y and Z,” “You should be better”) are often easier to access.
A true “I” statement – “I feel vulnerable,” “I feel frustrated,” “I feel scared,” – leaves no room for the other person to be defensive. It’s just a statement of what’s happening with you.
So there you have it!
No more keeping score. No more getting fooled by arguments about toilet paper.
Bust out the Time and Honesty and start changing the world, one relationship at a time.
Who’s with me?!
What’s your experience with conflicts and keeping score in relationships? Share your comments below!
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