Disclaimer: I am writing this message for me. To me, actually.
I am a hypocrite and I am going to call myself out.
So here goes…
Many of my relationships end badly. Really badly, actually.
Which is odd, because by and large I feel like, and hear very often, that I am a ‘nice guy.’ I’d like to think so as well.
So, what is happening?
First, to be clear, it is totally my fault that some of my relationships are ending like they do, regardless of anyone’s actions besides my own. I have owned that reality for a long time, and still do.
But there is one subtle, but very important, thing that I have been missing. Not only is it entirely my fault, it is being created by one single thing, that I am doing, which is entirely unfair to everyone in my life and flies in the face of everything I stand for!!
I am keeping score.
There, I said it. I am keeping score.
I literally talk about not keeping score regularly, and yet I am doing it. Even when I spoke at my brother’s wedding ceremony, one of my three pieces of advice for a happy marriage was, “don’t keep score.” And yet I am realizing that I am doing just that! I cannot believe I am writing these words, but it is 100% true.
So, how did it happen?
It started with “assuming.”
Good, old-fashioned assumptions have led me down a bad, bad path.
I still stand behind the fact that I am a pretty generous person. I have other people’s best interests at heart. I try hard to be fair and do the right things. And I am far from perfect, but the ‘nice guy’ feedback I often get reiterates to me it’s probably mostly true, but here comes the problem – and it’s a whopper.
Despite one of my core values being “deliver value with no expectation of return,” I have gotten in the habit of expecting a return!
I am expecting my actions to be reciprocated somehow, and more importantly I’ve realized I AM KEEPING SCORE WHEN MY ACTIONS ARE NOT RECIPROCATED!
I am such a hypocrite, which is painful to admit to myself (and to anyone reading this!).
Don’t take a stand for something, and then bail when it doesn’t go the way you want or think it should go.
If the value is ‘no expectation of return’ don’t expect a return. Period.
Don’t keep score based on getting a return, ever. Wow, shame on me!
Then, the plot thickens and it gets even worse. In the process of keeping score, and being disheartened and frustrated, I keep it to myself. I don’t ever share with anyone that I am disappointed.
Somehow that goes against my version of being generous and nice, so I bottle it up…right up until the point where I can’t anymore.
And then I explode – BOOM!
It is a vicious cycle too. I get secretly angry, often very angry, then get incensed when the person cannot read my mind and know that I am angry!!
Yes, I realize this is ridiculous, and it causes me great pain.
If that doesn’t spell relationship disaster, I don’t know what does.
And now, to describe how this looks to the other person, the relationships invariably explode in spectacular fashion. The other party is often in total shock that I am even upset in the first place, let alone seething mad.
Of course they are in shock! I sugar coat everything that has me seeing red, right up until I burst! How would they know if I don’t have the nerve to even confront them, or say anything at all?
And then, when the relationships get destroyed, and I leave people wondering “WTF,” I do one final (and utterly stupid) thing.
I say something like “I can’t believe that someone could be so ungrateful, so calloused,” followed by dumb stuff like “nice guys finish last,” and the ultimate martyr bullshit line, “no good deed goes unpunished.”
Again, shame on me!
So, what’s next?
As I said in the disclaimer, I wrote this for me and not anyone else. So now my advice to myself is:
- START sharing sooner when you are bothered by stuff.
- STOP saying ‘no expectation of return’ and not meaning it.
- STOP keeping score.
- STOP being surprised when you don’t get reciprocated, and then being shocked when relationships end poorly.
And, on the off chance anyone reading this has experienced this from me, I pledge to do better.
I am now, and will be, much more aware. And if you experience this in the future from me, feel free to call me out.
And for those of you still reading, thank you for allowing me to be vulnerable about this shortcoming.
While this was deeply painful to write, it was also very liberating