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TL;DR: We've all heard that you shouldn't keep score in a relationship. It leads to misunderstandings and arguments. But here's the thing - we already have a lot of arguments. Could keeping score at least settle these arguments, given that we both agree to a process of score-keeping?

It all started when we had a baby and covid lockdown started shortly after. For the first six months, I was on maternity leave and my partner worked full time. So I did most of the work (baby and house) and he helped. Then, I went back to work full time (working at home) and he's taking a sabbatical from work to help care for our baby.

Here's the conflict: I think I'm still doing more than half of the domestic work on top of having office work. He disagrees. I won't go into the details of what each of us said and felt, but we never reach an agreement. Of course, there's no record or "time punching" for work done at home, so nobody wins arguments, everybody feels worse after arguments.

I'm thinking if we DID keep score, along the lines of :

  • Bathing baby
  • Number of diapers changed in a day
  • Number of times we put baby to sleep in a day
  • Rooms cleaned
  • Dishes washed

Then it's not personal. Check the board, and we immediately know who's lagging and the other person can catch up. I haven't yet discussed this with my partner. I know that will be a whole another argument. I at least want to know there's merit in this method before attempting to implement it.

Could keeping score like this be a method for resolving the conflicts about household tasks, and does it come with any pitfalls?

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    I'm voting to close as "is this a good system?" is completely opinion-based. Some people will like it, others won't and even if we were to all agree, we still won't be able to tell if it will work in your specific situation. "How to approach a talk about the division of chores" might be on topic, but I have a feeling that question has already been asked before. – AsheraH Nov 3 '20 at 13:23
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    @AsheraH You're totally right that 'is this a good system?' would be primarily opinion based, and should be closed. As someone that answered it I may be biased, but I read this as one of those questions that ask about a specific behavior and which consequences it may have, because nowhere in the question it is explicitly asked if it's a good system, it asks if it can be used for conflict resolution and what the possible pitfalls are. Do you think we could edit this (if insanity agrees this is the actual question) to reflect that better, and would this be less opinionated for you then? – Tinkeringbell Nov 3 '20 at 13:32
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    "can be used for conflict resolution and what the possible pitfalls are" Yes, this is the essence of the question. How can I make edit my question to reflect it better? – insanity Nov 3 '20 at 17:05
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    Hello network visitors! Please note that IPS is fairly strict about using comments as intended. Comments are only for clarifying and improving the question. Partial answers or general thoughts about the situation may be deleted without notice. If you'd like to write an answer, make sure to check out our posts on How do I write a good answer? and citation expectations first. Thanks! – Ael Nov 4 '20 at 8:28
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    Do you communicate about your day daily so each person knows what all the other person does? If that doesn't work, how about chore swaps weekly ("walk a mile in their shoes")? Also maybe approach this as a shared challenge rather than "me vs. them". Basically "having a baby is hard; COVID makes it much harder; I know this is stressful; how can we work to give each other grace, communicate when we feel overburdened and re-balance tasks?") – bob Nov 4 '20 at 19:23
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My partner and I have been using a scoring system for household tasks since we moved in together, because we both felt that we did more than the other and that the labor not was divided equally.

Our tasks are scored depending on how much time it takes to do them, for example the smallest task is emptying the dishwasher (1 point), the biggest is mopping the tiles (7 points). This system works very well for us (~2 years now), since it includes "gamification" elements and allows us to be flexible about the tasks we pick.

But there are a few requirements for implementing this successfully:

  1. You both have to agree on how much each task is "worth" in points.
  2. You need a visible place to track the score (we use a whiteboard).
  3. You have to have a common understanding of what steps are needed to complete a task. "Cleaning the room" is too vague.
  4. You agree on a punishment (for example, if you are more then 10 points behind your partner, you have to do a task of your partner's choice immediately).
  5. You both need to feel like the system is fair.

For other household chores we do a clean division (for example one is doing all the laundry and the other all the grocery shopping), which could also be an option for you.

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    Out of curiosity: Do you two recalibrate your points from time to time? For example, OP has a baby now, and 'putting the baby to sleep' can change into 'putting the toddler to sleep' which may require a lot more time/work... same for 'rooms cleaned', as soon as your baby starts making a mess with toys it might require a lot more work to clean a room... Or are these generally the kind of things that you keep under 'too vague' and are kept off of the list? – Tinkeringbell Nov 3 '20 at 14:05
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    @Tinkeringbell Yes we recalibrate them regularly and also add new tasks if needed, to make sure the system still fits our needs. As for the vague "cleaning the room": This could be split into "Put the toys away", "Wipe the surfaces", "Vacuum the floor". I think it helps to have smaller work packages that can be completed quickly and (mostly) independent from each other. – days_of_fun Nov 3 '20 at 16:06
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    Good answer! But beware, you need to also decide as a duo on what constitutes necessary tasks. Baby diaper change is self defining - but for other tasks: When is it dusty, and in need of vacuuming? How often should bed linens be changed? If I were to score this in my home situation, my girlfriend would still end up a high scorer, because it doesn't take a lot of dust for a total hosedown is necessary according to her... Discuss it in the open ;) – Stian Yttervik Nov 4 '20 at 8:26
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    What I'm reading is that your scoreboard is not a way for either of you to be the 'winner' in the relationship, but as a tool for communicating about the work that was done. Communication is the foundation of every relationship, and I'm glad that you found a good way to talk about chores! – aherocalledFrog Nov 4 '20 at 13:44
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    @StianYttervik We actually had that discussion because we have different levels of tidyness. For us, the conclusion was: whoever is first bothered by the mess should clean it. It may not be suitable for everyone, but cuts down on nagging ;) If one person always advances first on the scoreboard, it is important to create opportunities for the other person to catch up, like taking sole responsibility for a task which needs to be done regularly anyway (like doing the dishes, laundry). The goal is ultimately to have the work distributed equally and your efforts acknowledged, not to "win". – days_of_fun Nov 5 '20 at 13:57
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TL;DR: There is always some score-keeping happening in relationships, but to get the benefits of score-keeping you're going to depend hugely on how you keep the score and even more on how you communicate about it!


Plain score-keeping like you propose here probably won't work. Even if you both agree to this system initially, it will probably just escalate into other arguments. Just to illustrate: If your husband is spending quite some time getting a fussy baby to sleep, and you can do the dishes, a load of laundry, and wash the windows in that time, you will have three points against his one, but you'll both have spent the same amount of time. How many changed diapers is a cleaned room worth? And what if you do a thing that's not on the list? One of you will just use the list to start more arguments, in my experience.

I've heard the 'do not keep score' argument before. Mostly when my mom would tell us kids to do things, and I'd complain it wasn't fair. My arguments were usually that I'd already done X and thus a fair share of Y was actually unfair, or they were based on expectations that my much younger youngest brother (we differ 10 years) would have to take an equal share instead of a share that suited his age at the time.

For mature, adult relationships, the power dynamics are different. There is no longer a mom dealing out the chores, instead you have to come up with a fair way of sharing on your own. And this can be hard! I've discussed my parents way of dividing work with other people, and some would call it unfair, while others would call it fair enough. Just to show that many people will have many different views on what is fair. Keeping score like you propose will likely go badly, because... How many changed diapers is a load of washed, dried and put away dishes worth? Your partner and you are going to have different opinions on that, and that's why plain score-keeping doesn't work.


But there's always some sort of score keeping already happening in relationships, as they are seldom truly altruistic and rely on some kind or form of reciprocity to work. Reciprocity is defined differently by different disciplines within the social sciences and humanities, as can be seen in this overview of wiki pages on the topic. But all those forms have one thing in common: A human expectation to get something in return for something else.

In your system, you're expecting your husband to change just as many diapers as you do, and your husband will have the same expectation. Someone changes a diaper, and they expect to get out of changing a next diaper in return. This isn't necessary reciprocity though, as the 'return' can be something different from the original 'favor', and score-keeping like that will never work. This article mostly matches my experience and puts it in a good wording:

if you focus on what your partner is not doing, you will only see these limitations and not look for his or her positive contributions that can increase relationship satisfaction.

While I don't have a partner, I do have a few brothers that I've also had some trouble with in the past. Summarized, when my parents weren't home they would skip chores that they usually did, and not help out with the work that mom and dad usually did for us. Keeping a list of who did what never helped, because I would indeed focus on all the things I had done and all the things they hadn't done.


What helped me to improve the problem with my brothers was switching 'score-keeping' system I used and communicating differently. I suggest you may want to change yours too, and perhaps your husbands one as well.

Instead of keeping score of all the things my brothers hadn't done, or all the things I had done instead of them, or how I was doing way more things than them, I switched to noting the things they had done.

For example, these days my youngest brother has a quite physical job, so of course he doesn't feel like doing the very physical household chores when he comes home! But, he starts late so it's no problem to ask him to e.g. clear out the dishwasher in the morning and put in a load of laundry so I can hang it when he's working. He can also do grocery shopping, or take the car through the car wash. In return, I make sure I do the vacuum cleaning when he's at work, and hang/fold that laundry. I cook, and we share the cleaning of the kitchen afterwards, with him taking out the trash and wiping the counters, and me loading the dishwasher and handwashing any items that can't go in there. So, instead of tracking all the times he never hangs the laundry, I've started tracking the moments that he does help out with other things.

And if there's still stuff I think is missing, I switched the way I communicate about it. Instead of my communication noting something isn't done yet, I make it a request to do so in the future while I'm doing something else. An example can be found in the article I linked earlier:

or example, saying, "You never clean the kitchen!" is a lot different from saying, "Can you please help me with getting some things done around the house this weekend?" Being mindful of your urges to use negative words and tone, and then alternatively being kind, really makes relationships feel more positively connected.

I'm doing much the same with my brother now. Instead of telling him he hasn't cleaned the kitchen, I make remarks like "I'm going to fold the laundry now, would you mind wiping down the kitchen in the meantime?". These work well, because it shows I'm also doing something! They work a lot better than telling him he didn't clean the kitchen while I'm playing videogames, or asking him to do so while I am watching Netflix. It helps 'keeping the score' visibly, because after all we're both doing some chores at the same time and can't argue about 'I already did this so now you have to do that'.


So, my conclusion at this point is that the proposed way of score-keeping will most likely end with one of you tracking things that the other hasn't done, and starting arguments about the value of items on the list, and that as such it's not good to keep scores that way.

Instead, you have a better chance of resolving these conflicts if both of you stop noting the things that aren't done and focus on the things that are done, while asking each other to do help out if more help is needed. If you want to keep score a bit more visibly, ask your partner to do one thing while you do another, or let the partner pick one of two chores and do the other yourself.

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I've been in two different couples where we had this kind of problems and different ways to solve it. I never had to implement a score keeping system. My understanding is that as long as both partners agree there is no bad system to distribute chores, however I think your proposal is problematic for several reasons.

  • What would happen to the score "loser" ? Is there any punishment? Is the whole system there only to prove a point (that you do more chores)?
  • Playing the blame game. Someone will lose it and will not be doing as many chores and have to take the blame for it, which is divisive.
  • Possible loopholes in counting and weight given to each chore.
  • Not addressing the core issue. If you are having arguments about who does the most and who is doing the least, it's likely at least one of you is exhausted by chores and just trying to get the other to do more or at least more of some of the chores. Score keeping won't solve distribution.

In our context, which is quite different, we divided the chores by type and we both have our small area of responsibility which is quite nice if you can come to a similar agreement: no complex counting or time tracking, everyone gets to choose what they prefer, and when something isn't done we can just discuss it and try to work out a solution.

Even if you don't divide chores by type, this last part about finding solutions is probably what's missing there. You have arguments, instead of conversations to improve both of your lives, because you are trying to find someone faulty. There is some example of how to request for help in something non-violent (non blaming) in the NVC sense.

Last days I had to do (list of chores).

I feel exhausted and discouraged when I know we have to do (list of next chores)

You usually have free time at (this occasion). Would you agree to take some chores instead?

Notice how:

  • Who's doing most is completely irrelevant in that request
  • There is no blame on the person; it's simply stating that the situation isn't sustainable
  • The situation is still open to discussion and debates about counter-propositions

Using this kind of technique will enable you to find solutions peacefully with your partner, which I think is better than any made-up solution to chore distribution we could bring you.

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If you both were to agree to this system, it could help you at least on the short term. However, I expect that there is a bigger problem, and this solution would focus on the fixing the symptoms but not the underlying condition.

The problem seems to be that at least one of you does not see correctly how much work the other does. You give us only your perspective, and I have no reason to doubt this, but the question could be the same from his perspective. Keeping score would be a way to actually see an 'objective' truth to this. But what are you going to equate three diaper changes to? Four bathing sessions? They are more fun than a diaper change, but may take longer. This will continue to lead to arguments.

What I would do (and have done with my partner, without baby though) is to divide the cleaning/chores between each other. You agree beforehand who has how much time to spend on chores, and your husband has objectively 40 hours (ish) more time than you. Take that into the equation.

Make a list of everything that should be done, agree upon an estimate of the duration beforehand, and then make each other responisible for specific aspects, using the schedule. You can say "you didn't do X, while that is your responsibility" which is a fact, not a non-measurable feeling that one is doing more than the other. This way it is pro-active, you prevent finger-pointing and conflicts afterwards ("See, I told you that I did more last week").

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This answer does not exactly cover your case as what we put in place was for our children and the chores they needed to do. I went though the "me vs. my wife" stage when our children were small so I completely understand your pain (this is to say that you are not alone and that many people go through that)

We first tried the "you are old enough to manage" which was of course a disaster. We then forced them to use a piece of paper but it was never clear who did what.

I ended up writing an app(I bolded the parts that in our case made a difference)

  • that has an interface for each child and an administrative one for us
  • the interface is very simple, but we did an important thing as we found out afterward: we added "fractioned chores" where due. Typically loading the dishwasher brings in 0.2, 0.50, 0.75 and 1.0 points. They are surprisingly honest on the fractions.
  • the chores are independent, each of them has its own counter
  • what constitutes a chore was clearly defined ("cleaning the kitchen means this and that")

The results are available on their app and on the home dashboard

enter image description here

The fun part of that added value, as well as the fact that there is a current count and clear "whose time it is".

This may not be relevant to you as the fun part when having very small children can sometimes be microscopic (but this will improve!)

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We could never agree on this when we were freshly moved in together. His middle name is Procrastination. Taking turns did not work. And if I happened to mention that the washing had been in the machine for 5 days, he would get mad and suggest I do it myself and he'd do it when he felt like it.

So I went on strike. Then we sat down and made a system. The chores are split into two lists.

So I do the 40° washing and he does the 60° washing, which are about equal amounts and we have two laundry baskets.

In the garden I do the flowerbeds and he does the lawn.

And so on. For cleaning we have a lady who comes and does it, paid half each.

When the kids were little we split the getting up chores into days of the week, and the other one got breakfast while the first one dressed and washed them.

We really like fancy cooking, but have entirely different tastes, so that happens on alternate weekends. The one who is "on" plans, shops and cooks, while the other one makes aperitifs, sets the table, and acts as assistant as needed. This is huge fun for us, don't imagine two grumpy old folk shouting at each other!

But there will always be difficult points. I put out the bins, because if it's his turn he forgets and they smell bad for a week. And emptying the dishwasher is an odyssey, really. Last time it got bad I just put a mark on the calendar when I did it, and at some point he noticed this, and started emptying it more often without saying anything.

We are two very independent souls. Many people think our way of living is weird, but it works for us. We've been married more than 30 years.

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As a general rule, keeping score doesn't work unless both parties are starting from the same goal.

Keeping score is a well recognized way to end a relationship. It's also a well recognized tool for improvement, so dang-nabbit, it's complicated!

I have an analytical mind, so I like to analyze what does score keeping actually do? It takes a complex situation, like chores, and boils them down to a number with the intent of addressing difficult questions like "are we distributing work the correct way" using mathematical approaches like addition.

There's two key phrases in that last paragraph that I think matter a lot. "Boils them down" is one. The mathematical approach strips nuance, only capturing the most bare bones aspects of the task. Sometimes that's easy, sometimes that's hard. "Number of times one changes the baby" is easy. How well you change the baby isn't obvious until the baby develops a rash because you focused on the numbers. It's also hard to assign a single point value to each task. You may have very different opinions as to how many points a task should be worth. You also have to be okay with some tasks falling off the radar because you didn't assign enough points! All of these are risks that come with boiling a complex thing down to a number.

The other key phrase is "distributing work." It's really easy to call it "dividing the work up," and that phrasing can get one in trouble. "Distribution" is done within a team, while "dividing" is done between teams or individuals. Its a subtle word choice difference, but if you hammer that detail home, you'll be better for it. I'm a fan of gestalt theory. Famously it's been phrased as "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts," but that's a mistranslation. Its better translated as "the whole is different from the sum of its parts." This is very important when you start summing up points. You can find that you balanced the summation of points properly, but the gestalt whole of the relationship is dying over it.

I think the real key to using scorekeeping in a relationship is to use it in a well-tested framework. If you invent your own, the blame for anything being wrong falls on one party or the other. If your borrow an existing framework, you both can always blame the framework, and that keeps you on the same team.

Myself, I like to borrow from SCRUM, if for no other reason than that the SCRUM Guide focuses so hard on building up team unity. For example, it actually has no concept of assigning tasks to individuals. Tasks (called "stories" in SCRUM), are the responsibility of the team. You can track who did what, and assign point values to them if you like, but from day one the tasks are owned by the team.

SCRUM also has the concept of a "sprint" and a "sprint goal." A "sprint" is just a period of performance. SCRUM has a natural cadence of self-reflection which is essential for score-keeping in a relationship. Each sprint has a goal, and this is important because it assigns purpose to the score keeping. Completing each task is not about tallying points, but achieving a goal. The tallying of points is just a tool along the way. This goal is how your score-kept work fits into the rest of your life. You aren't cleaning a room to earn 3 points, you're cleaning a room because it fits into your lifestyle goals.

The framework within which you score-keep is essential. If you don't pay attention to it, you run the risk of the framework being your relationship as a whole. And given that you are stressed already, it's much less risky to carve out an independent entity to manage your score-keeping.

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  • Both of us work with scrum at our work place, so i understand where you're coming from. Thank you for this perspective – insanity Nov 5 '20 at 5:34

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