How to Avoid Holiday Scorekeeping

When the holidays roll back around, along with the surge of awkwardly early Christmas music and seasonal decorations, there often also appears a haunting and outsize specter – the ghost of holiday scorekeeping past.

In a haze of long-suppressed memories and better forgotten episodes, it reminds you that you’re behind in the count. You are suddenly seeing visions of interminable schleps to eastern Long Island to your guy’s extended family gathering, including yappy dogs and toddlers, precocious tweens and surly teens.

Although an imbalance may seem clear to you, if you were to start adding up the visits and comparing them to the number of visits to your own family, it does not mean he would see it the same way.

It’s rarely simple or straightforward math, when it comes to holiday habits, traditions and compromises.

Guess what? He has his own ghosts paying him a visit, whispering different versions of the same holiday story in his ear.

Here are some helpful tips to avoid scorekeeping and exorcising both unhelpful thoughts and dark spirits for good.


Suggest an equitable way for balancing the scales down the road. For instance, if there is another long drive out to Oyster Bay looming, perhaps it can be offset by that trip to Europe he’s been promising. It does not have to be tit-for-tat.

The important thing is for you both to feel heard, cared for, and accommodated in ways that feel meaningful.

Advocacy and support

What’s better than feeling supported? What’s better than knowing your partner has your back and you have theirs?

Displaying this by both words and deeds throughout the holidays, and beyond, will certainly go a long way toward dispelling any lingering resentments, potential misunderstandings, or a penchant for scorekeeping.

Remember how wonderful it feels to be an advocate and source of comfort and inspiration for your partner? This can be strengthened and cultivated by listening, encouraging and resisting any urge to keep score or antagonize. This will pay off in spades through the rest of the year and in years to come.

Fairness, patience and compromise

It really boils down to communication and setting realistic expectations. Communication failures and relationship pathologies take root over the course of years.

Course correction takes time. Proof of concept takes even longer.

But by communicating your needs and adjusting your expectations you are on the right course. You can then measure progress in each satisfying spoonful, rather than expecting miraculous shifts in behavior or an overnight epiphany.

That is the compromise you can make daily – to appreciate the little things, the small gestures, and any heartfelt words, uttered by him, that clearly show your man is listening and has been paying closer attention to things you may have been communicating to him.

These efforts show promise, however small or fleeting. It’s a positive sign and should be nurtured and encouraged.

Keeping score tears away at the fabric of any progress. It erodes potential.

Final thoughts

Scorekeeping is just a by-product of unresolved frustrations and poor communications, coming to haunt your relationship.

These should not be invited into your home and certainly given no chance to find a foothold there.

If someone in the relationship toys with scorekeeping, try to tamp it down or eradicate it with extreme prejudice, like a ghoulish relationship Whack-a-Mole. 

Looking forward to navigating a host of holiday minefields?
If not, join us at our upcoming webinars where we provide real answers for real women.

Lisa Ryan LPC

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