We've all done some crazy things in relationships, and some couples might even seem like they "keep score" when it comes to disagreements and who does what in the marriage, but one wife found out that her husband was literally keeping track of their marital disputes.
When she found the list, she reached out to Slate's Dear Prudence advice columnist for help.
I am married to a very smart, very calm man. We get along well, I’m a stay-at-home mom at the moment, and we have a lovely toddler. I, like a lot of moms, feel like a lot of my efforts are unseen, and it resulted in a fight the other night. It was nothing particularly toxic, but when he left for a meeting, he left his computer on.
It didn’t take much to find a list that he’s been keeping for a year of every quarrel that he has with me. He’s kept a list of things he feels I bullied him into, times when he felt like he was in the right…it’s all there. This whole time, I’ve asked him explicitly “are we okay?” and he says we’re fine, but…there’s a list!
Wow! I mean, what would you do? I actually have accused my husband of "keeping score" sometimes, but to my knowledge he hasn't been keeping an actual list. I would probably be a little freaked out if I ever found something like this.
Dear Prudence told the woman that she shouldn't be too alarmed by the list. She explained that it could just be the husband's way of releasing his feelings and writing to get them out. She suggested it might mean they need to communicate and check in with each other more often, but that it definitely isn't cause for drastic action.
Oh no. I’m sure that list was hard to see. But I don’t think this is a crisis, and it certainly isn’t divorce territory. You’re going through a difficult patch as a couple and as parents, and we now know that his response has been … to write things down. That’s not bad! He didn’t cheat, he didn’t talk horribly about you behind your back, and he didn’t remove you from his life insurance policy. In the same way you wrote this letter to me about what was bothering you, he wrote down things that were bothering him. Should he feel betrayed by this letter? I hope you don’t think so! What you saw was documentation of his thoughts—thoughts that are similar to the ones I’m sure you’ve had after you’ve bumped heads.
This does sound like an important sign that you need to be having more conversations—not just fights and disagreements, but check-ins about how you’re doing and feeling, and more than “Are we okay?” You don’t have to tell him you saw the list to initiate this (I think that would just open up another set of issues around trust; just promise yourself you won’t snoop again).
What would you do if you found something like this? Or have you been the one keeping score?
Also, side note, my husband and I have a podcast on iHeartRadio called Married on the Mic. We've been on hiatus for a while as we've worked through marriage counseling, but we'll be back with new episodes this month. You'll hear in the last couple of episodes exactly why we had to take a breather from the podcast and handle our issues privately... But we're in a much better place now and excited to get back to sharing what we've learned soon.